Traditional dish nourishes hope in Kabul

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The soft snap of customers breaking bread punctuates the silence in Waheed’s Restaurant in the heart of Kabul. (AN Photo/Sayed Salahuddin)
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The soft snap of customers breaking bread punctuates the silence in Waheed’s Restaurant in the heart of Kabul. (AN Photo/Sayed Salahuddin)
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The soft snap of customers breaking bread punctuates the silence in Waheed’s Restaurant in the heart of Kabul. (AN Photo/Sayed Salahuddin)
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As the diners dunk pieces of hot and crispy naan into bowls of freshly cooked chinaki, or mutton stew, waiters can be seen craning their necks, looking for empty tables to accommodate those queuing outside the entrance. (AN Photo/Sayed Salahuddin)
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As the diners dunk pieces of hot and crispy naan into bowls of freshly cooked chinaki, or mutton stew, waiters can be seen craning their necks, looking for empty tables to accommodate those queuing outside the entrance. (AN Photo/Sayed Salahuddin)
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Updated 25 January 2020

Traditional dish nourishes hope in Kabul

  • Expats and Afghans queue together for taste of local eatery’s authentic stew

KABUL: The soft snap of customers breaking bread punctuates the silence in Waheed’s Restaurant in the heart of Kabul.

As the diners dunk pieces of hot and crispy naan into bowls of freshly cooked chinaki, or mutton stew, waiters can be seen craning their necks, looking for empty tables to accommodate those queuing outside the entrance.

The aroma of the traditional Afghan dish — made with lamb chops, lentils, onions, tomatoes, herbs, and spices — draws people to the restaurant every day, Abdul Waheed, the owner, told Arab News, adding that it is the least he can do to keep an authentic “Afghan tradition alive.”

“Other dishes like pizza, kabab and rice are much easier and take less time to cook,” the 43-year-old Waheed said. “But we are taking the trouble to keep the tradition alive despite getting the low returns on the dish compared with other meals.”

Chinaki is also known as teapot soup because of the vessel it was once cooked in — a teapot.

With a recipe dating back 150 years, the local dish is served by only a handful of Kabul restaurants and is one of the few remaining on menu lists as cafes and restaurants offering foreign cuisines take over.

Typical chinaki is cooked in small chinaware teapots, rarely available in markets and hard to mend after repeated use. Since the taste of the dish varies if cooked in a metal pot, customers are always on the hunt for restaurants that prepare the dish in the traditional style.

Depending on the number of pots, one or two cooks stand for hours to constantly stir the soup with a wooden spoon, adding a small amount of water at regular intervals to keep it from burning.

The arduous cooking process means the dish is cooked only once a day and served at lunchtime. Regular customers, however, know exactly what time to walk in.

“I come here at least four times a month,” Sher Ahmad said. “I like chinaki, it is my favorite food. I know people who have heard of this restaurant in other parts of the country and come to try it when they visit Kabul.”

Waheed said he hopes to keep his familiy tradition alive for as long as possible.

“I inherited the restaurant from my grandfather and father. We have been serving people for nearly 70 years,” he said.

The eatery is located on the second floor of a ramshackle building in an old and bustling part of a bazaar which was demolished by the British forces in the 19th century and destroyed again during fighting in the 1990s.

Waheed’s customers include MPs and government officials accompanied by armed guards for protection.

A former interior minister, Amruallah Saleh, who often travels in an armored vehicle, has been to Waheed’s restaurant twice, according to Feraidoon, one of the cooks.

“He liked it a lot and on one occasion ate twice in one day,” Feraidoon said.

Women wishing to eat rely on takeaways since there is no section for them in the restaurant — another sign of a male-dominated society.

In upmarket parts of Kabul, expensive restaurants have increased in the past 20 years, especially with the arrival of foreign troops and aid workers who brought along dishes from their countries of origin.

Abdullah Ansar, a manager for the Cafeteria, a leading restaurant in the city, said that although his menu features more than 300 foreign-style meals, local dishes were still a favorite for both Afghans and expatriates.

With more than four decades’ experience in the industry, Ansar has been host to regional and world leaders, including former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

Ansar said he relies on local products, but also imports ingredients such as cheese, fish, prawns, olive oil and canned fruit from the UAE.

“Afghanistan has delicious local dishes. If peace comes, tourists will come here, and the restaurant and hotel industry will further flourish,” he said.

But like many Afghans, Ansar does not know when the fighting will end and stability will return to the country.


Top trends for next spring from global fashion weeks

Updated 28 min 31 sec ago

Top trends for next spring from global fashion weeks

  • Six of the hottest tips from the catwalks (virtual or otherwise) of fashion month

MILAN: Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the international fashion weeks in New York, Paris, London and Milan recently were a mix of physical shows and digital presentations. And it wasn’t just the events themselves that were affected by the coronavirus — many designers from around the world showed collections that were clearly influenced by social-distancing and lockdown, in often-contradictory ways. Whether that was the somber color palette of Simone Rocha in London, the face coverings and gloves that dominated several shows, or the more subtle nods to our ‘interesting times’ through the DIY vibe of crochet (Alberta Ferretti, for instance), the unexpected return of the sweatsuit (particularly predominant in New York Fashion Week), and the aspirational glamour of flamboyance and glitter. Tom Ford, who presented his Spring ’21 lookbook via video, provided plenty of the latter and suggested it was because he wanted to present clothes that “make us feel good” and hold out “hope of a happier time.” A sentiment that — regardless how you felt about his sequin-usage — was hard to find fault with.

MAKE IT MONOCHROME

Some designers — Molly Goddard in London, Salvatore Ferragamo in Milan — went bright, others were more muted — Max Mara’s sand and beige, say — and some were both — Boss in Milan, with shocking pink, cream, and sand examples. But they all seemed to agree that single-color clothing will be en vogue in spring next year. It’s bold and confident, certainly, and hopefully reflects how consumers might be feeling by the end of the winter.

CLASH CULTURE

If monochrome isn’t your thing, maybe you’ll feel more at home with another major — almost opposite — trend that saw many designers stamping all over conventional fashion wisdom. Cardinal sins were everywhere: Mixing colors that ‘shouldn’t’ be mixed (Pucci’s multi-colored tights), pairing patterns that shouldn’t be paired (stripes and squares!), throwing in animal prints willy-nilly, or, like Sunnei, constructing a shirt dress from four different plaid patterns. It was chaos, and all the better for it

GO BIG

Oversized clothing was everywhere in fashion month. Boss (again) had large sporty jackets in its Tik-Tok-streamed show; Louis Vuitton’s Paris show displayed a largely asexual collection — plenty of oversized jackets and blazers, along with ‘roomy’ pants; and Chloé paired voluminous blouses with high-waisted shorts and trousers. And mammoth handbags were ubiquitous throughout the month. Some observers suggested the super-sized clothes encouraged/forced those around to grant the wearer more personal space in these socially distanced times, others saw them as a throwback to Eighties power dressing. Either way, big is in.

ENCOURAGING ESCAPISM 

From Tom Ford’s aforementioned sparkly sequins in New York to Molly Goddard’s dazzling A-line dresses in London via the floral prints beloved by Loewe in Paris and Valentino and Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini in Milan (the latter put on an open-air show, whether because of COVID or because flowers were such a dominant motif we’re not sure), many designers were clearly aiming to lift our collective spirits with a healthy dose of bright, bright beauty. And who could blame them?

HOT HISTORY 

For the last couple of years, retro fashion has been dominated by Eighties and Nineties throwbacks. If Simone Rocha and Erdem, to name but two, are to be believed, we’ll be looking a little further back for spring 2021 — almost 100 years further back. Rocha’s understated collection showed clear Victorian and Edwardian influences with its puffy sleeves, voluminous skirts and high necklines, while Erdem’s dramatic collection also pulled from Ye Olde Worlde, but somehow managed to seem more up-to-date than anyone.

PIMP YOUR PPE

Whether the non-medical-grade facemasks (see Oak & Acorn, Rick Owens) or other face coverings (Chanel’s veils or Paco Rabanne’s sequined hoods) and gloves (Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini’s rubber gardening gloves or Fendi’s bodysuits with attached gloves) are really what designers believe we’ll want to be wearing in the spring or simply a recognition of the current global situation it’s hard to say. But they were certainly impossible to ignore.