Bamiyan Review: Trying Afghan food for the first time at Bamiyan
In middle school I knew these two guys Oliver and Jacob. Oliver was Chinese and Jacob was white. And sometimes when we were joking about something, we’d say to Jacob, “Hey man, don’t forget. We built your damn railroads.” It was a fun joke when you’re a 1% minority in race and a 0.01% minority in religion. Gotta put ’em crackers in their place even as a youngster. The Chinese railroad workers helped introduce Americanized Chinese food to this country. Slavery has done a lot for the culinary landscape of the United States. I guess the cuisine type has to be brought over to the soil before Americans really open their minds to it. We’ve been at war with Afghanistan for how many years now? As a dumb American, I choose not to know that answer. It’s both an indictment on my world view, and attention span at a neverending war. Although I say that, I’m also guilty of building a bridge to nowhere. I’ve been trying to update the look and feel and functionality of this site for 9 months now. Nooooo progress. Awesome. Back to the food though. Even after Afghanistan has been in our eyes and ears in the news for so many years, I still had never tasted Afghan cuisine. I had high expectations and the food matched them.
I picked Bamiyan because I heard a friend liked the experience. The restaurant is decorated with what looked like an Afghan style. To an ignorant eye like mine, it looked Middle Eastern. They had some seats by the window that required one to remove one’s shoes. I settled into those seats because they looked more comfortable and because the light was better. Being a lazy American, I couldn’t be bothered to learn more about Afghan food except to ask my server on what to order. She suggested lamb and pointed to three options on the menu. The dish I ordered was called Quorma Baunjaun with Lamb. It’s “eggplant sautéed with onions, green peppers and tomatoes with tender pieces of lamb served with basmati rice.”
They started me off with some freshly toasted bread with a yogurty dipping sauce that contained dill. It’s a shame more restaurants don’t do it like this. Toasted bread taste so much better than regular untoasted bread. I don’t care what kind of bread it is. Toast that son of a bitch. It will taste better.
The Quorma Baunjaun was a heaping plate of lamb chunks, eggplants, tomatoes, and I noticed maybe some lentils sprinkled at the top. Fork-tender, the lamb was really a surprise. I had not expected it to be such a soulful bite. For a cold winter day, this really hit the spot. I’m not sure how authentic this dish is, or how many tomatoes you can grow in Afghanistan, but this was great. I could eat this as comfort food everyday.
With the Quorma Baunjaun, you get a plate of basmati rice. I know on Yelp, Bamiyan doesn’t have a super great rating, but I really don’t know why. Maybe service is more attentive at 3pm in the afternoon when you’re the only patron in the restaurant. Maybe it’s different some other time. There’s something to be said about enjoying Afthan food while sitting on some pillow with Afghan designs and looking out the window and seeing the real world. I wonder if that’s the only place in the world where I could have done that. Eat peacefully in Afghanistan? While seeing people on the street drive cars and use iphones like it’s any other Saturday?
Clearly the world exists beyond food. It’s interesting to note that our tax dollars go to fund this war, and we’re probably tearing up a country half a globe away… and most of us probably know nothing about Afghanistan. I feel like picking up a book or reading the history of it is probably a little taxing on the time. Yet you don’t see people doing something that takes no effort… such as eating the food. It’s a window into how privileged we are in the U.S. We can spend all our time, money, and energy on something we thought was the right move. And after all, still not really know what is going on at the end of the day. At the very least we could all eat a little Afghan food and realize those people we’re bombing back to the stone age? Well they make some really good lamb.
Non-food related note: if anyone’s looking for an room in Park Slope, I know of a good one. Ok, that’s all.
Bamiyan358 3rd Ave.New York, NY 10010212-481-3232
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