Kabuli Palau is the national dish of Afghanistan. This vegan rice recipe is made of rice, carrots, sultanas and almonds, which all combine to a very unique flavor. Kabuli is an easy rice dish and you definitely have to try it, when you like middle eastern food recipes.
I do exactly remember when I heard about Kabuli Palau for the first time. You have to know, that here, in Germany, Afghan cuisine is not really popular. But when I met my Persian Prince, he told me about the rice dish with carrots, sultanas, and almonds – called Kabuli Palau, the national dish of Afghanistan.
While the combination of flavors reflects the diversity of the country, I was very skeptical… Sultanas and carrots mixed up with rice? I could not imagine this as a delicious dinner. But with the first family visit, I had to try homemade Kabuli cooked by my mother-in-law. And I was so surprised! I loved the soft carrots, the sweet sultanas and the crunchy almonds. There is something very special about this combination of flavors and since then, the recipe is cooked by myself on a regular basis.
How to cook rice & why to soak rice overnight?
In Afghan cuisine (and also other Asian countries) it is common, to soak the rice overnight before cooking it. In the beginning, I did not really understand what the difference between this procedure would be. I usually cook my rice when I need it without soaking it.
In a cooking class in Bali, where it’s also usual to soak the rice in advance, I have been told, that only with soaking, the rice grain can become fully soft. When cooking the rice without soaking, the grain does not fully soften on the inside, but only the outer layer gets cooked. Soaking the rice overnight makes the whole grain become tender.
I also read in many articles, that soaking the rice overnight, reduces the risk of arsenic poisoning. Arsenic is a chemical element, which is absorbed by plants through dirty groundwater. By soaking the rice for several hours, rinse the rice until the water gets clear, and then cook the rice in fresh water until soft, the level of arsenic can be reduced.
How to eat Kabuli Palau?
Well, an authentic dish would probably include Kabuli Palau, Kofta, which are afghan meatballs, and a yogurt dressing. In my interpretation, I veganized the dish. When cooking Kabuli, I love to serve it with a leek and capsicum stew, topped with vegan yogurt sauce. You could eat Kabuli also as a main dish or with any other veggies.
To make it a real afghan menu, I can recommend Firni as dessert. Firni is an almond cardamom custard and it’s just the perfect sweet recipe to round off Kabuli.
- 250g rice (soaked overnight)
- 250g carrots (grated)
- 250g sultanas
- 100g almonds (slivered)
- 1 onion (chopped)
- 1 tsp cardamom
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 5 tbsp oil
- 200g soy yogurt
- 1/2 tbsp fresh parsley
- 1/2 tbsp fresh mint
- salt & pepper for seasoning
Leek Capsicum Stew:
- 1 leek
- 2 capsicum/ red bell pepper
- 1 can tomatoes
- 50 ml water
- 1/2 tsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp fresh parsley
- salt & pepper for seasoning
- Mix the yogurt with parsley and season with salt and pepper. Put in the fridge until the dish can be served.
- Wash and slice the leek and capsicum into small slices.
- Add some oil to a large saucepan and fry leek and capsicum for 4-5min.
- Now add tomatoes, water and sugar and let simmer for about 10 min.
- Stir in herbs and season with salt and pepper.
- Rinse and drain the soaked rice. Put in a big pot with 500ml water and 1/2 tsp of salt. Cook for 15-20 min on medium heat.
- In a pan, heat 1 tbsp of oil and add onions and cumin. Fry until soft for about 3-5min. Put aside. They will be mixed with rice when ready.
- In a saucepan, add remaining oil and fry carrots for 3-5 min or until they get soft. Then add sultanas and fry for another 5 min. Now spoon out carrots and sultanas and put on a plate.
- In the same saucepan, add almonds and fry them in the oil left in the pan. Add cardamon and brown sugar to caramelize the almonds. Once ready, put almonds on top of the carrots and sultanas. Cover to keep it warm.
- When the rice is soft and the water is soaked, stir in the onions and season with salt and pepper. If you like cumin, you can also add some more to the rice.
- Serve rice with carrot mixture, yogurt sauce, and leek stew.