A dinner from Herat, via Beirut

While in Beirut recently, I went to Makan - a lovely space that does global cuisine events - for its three-night western Afghan set menu [apparently prepared by a Sri Lankan chef!]

Herat is beautiful, but I visited in 2013 in the dead of the winter and don't recall much of the food, other than eating a massive heap of rice and chicken one afternoon that I could barely make a dent in. Though I consumed enough bolani and mantu in Kabul to last a lifetime. [Also, people: "Kabuli pullau" is not what we think it is]

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All the things.

Everything was delicious, though the kheer turned out to be more firni-like - and sans carrots - which was great because I don't like gajar ki kheer or halwa, and I was actually rather surprised to see it on the menu since I didn't know gajar ki kheer was an Afghan dish [though I know fairly little about Afghan cuisine] The salads reminded me of how great kachoomar tastes and I really should make it more often. I didn't eat the lamb stew because I can only eat red meat if it's minced/spiced and cooked to death. The khichri was like all good khichris should be: comfort food at its very best - generous.

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oh, hello.

The highlight of this meal was the bichak.

Why did I never know bichak existed? I could have eaten half a dozen of in a single sitting. It's one of the things I like best about discovering a new cuisine: a single item that makes you slightly obsessed and searching for places to have it again.

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City of Gold

I watched City of Gold recently. It’s a great profile of Jonathan Gold, which shows how the easy descriptor ‘LA Times food critic’ doesn’t quite fit, because Gold isn’t just critiquing food. He uses food to tell the stories of LA, the stories in the shacks and strip malls, the places where no one goes to look for food or cant quite believe good food exists.

City of Gold didn’t just help me think about food in terms of writing, but also about the impact of where we choose – and choose not to eat – has on the lives of people. Jonathan Gold, essentially, tells the stories of Los Angeles through chronicling the city, inch by inch, food truck by stall, but what I thought was incredibly compelling was how Gold’s work has changed the lives of restaurateurs across generations. That is obviously not the role of the critic, but a part of the culinary-immigrant experience that Gold chronicles so well that I really enjoyed. It also cuts at this inherent snobbery people have about food; this idea that good food can only be found in authentic, hole-in-the-wall places, or in high-end dining concepts, never the places in between.