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Houston’s First Afghan Restaurant Was Opened by a Former US Military Recruiter — Cooking in America

September 27, 2019 No Comments

Hospitality is the core of Afghan culture. When you go to any Afghan
home, you are the king. The guest is the king. You make the rules. (Sheldon) Omer, a former
US military recruiter, from Afghanistan, moved to the US, 20 years ago. He decided to open up Houston’s
first Afghani restaurant, in 2012, bringing the
flavors of the Middle East, right to Texas. (Middle Eastern music) We have the community here, in this area, we have India, Pakistan,
Iran, Georgia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan. They started coming in,
and they like the food. Afghan cuisine is very famous. You grew up cooking? No. (Sheldon) No? I’m a lawyer. You’re a lawyer?! I went to Afghanistan
with the US military. Oh. We were not allowed to
eat from the outside. We were eating food in
the dining facility, a lot of frozen food would
come, and every once in a while, we would just give money to some locals, and they would bring
food from the outside. No matter what race, they love the food. I said, if they love it,
why not open one over here? And since day one, I’ve
never seen a bad day. This is called karahi. Karahi is the pot. Any meat that you put
inside the, cook it inside, a karahi, they call it, if it is chicken, it’s chicken karahi. This is serrano pepper,
salt, this is cilantro seeds, this is our cumin seeds. (Sheldon) It’s gonna be delicious. All of this cuisine is all new to me, and I see halal, what is halal? (Omer) Halal is a certain
way that we slaughter animal, in our faith, in Islam. It’s similar to kosher in Judaism. It’s basically we slaughter animal, for the blood to flow the right way, and do not hurt animal too much. That’s the main thing. And we say prayer. After that, it becomes halal. So these are marinated kabobs. Saffron is very important
in Afghan cuisine. (Sheldon) Just the color of it! And we have the best saffron in the world. Hello. Hi, I’m Sheldon. Nice to meet you. This is my father. Proud of your son? (responds in foreign language) Very much. This is called sella rice. Cumin seeds, and the lamb
broth that we put in there, so we basically pour
this in, the quabili rice We add a little bit of carrots,
a little bit of raisins. (Sheldon) This is gonna
add sweetness to rice. (Omer) Exactly. Mainly, the steam cooks
it, it has to slow cook. (Sheldon) What is the Ramadan? (Omer) Well it’s a fasting month, and I’m sure a lot of
religions have a fasting month. Ours is the toughest one. We’re not allowed to drink
water from sunrise to suns down. We are not allowed to eat or drink. It’s a exercise, it basically teaches us, to care for poor. If you don’t have food,
this is how you feel. So, what do you think about the guy, who’s sitting across the street from you, with no food? So you just care for them, and you give. Do you get plumped up before then? Yeah, we have to eat a little more. (laughter) (Omer) What we do, is
basically, with our fingers, try to, smoothen it up. We make holes in it for
the bread not to just pop. We pick it up like this,
put a little water to it, so it sticks. (Sheldon) And it just sticks
right on top like that. Okay, I’m gonna try myself one. Then I take it from here. Save your arms, okay,
if you hit this place, this is like hell. I’m gonna get a, scar for life? Yes. Alright. (Omer) Cool. That’s a good
job. Good job. You did it. (Sheldon) Ut oh. And that’s
why I cook Filipino food. We’ll leave the cooking up to
the professionals over here. (Middle Eastern music) Yeah, please. (Sheldon) Okay. Let’s eat. Is there a word that
we say, before we eat? We say, “in the name of God.” In the name of God? Yes. We’ve prepared rice,
it’s called qabili rice, and on top of it is kabob. A famous expression, from the neighbors, that Afghans will eat
meat three times a day. Breakfast, lunch and
dinner. And that’s true. The next one is the goat karahi. This is very typical of
the Eastern portions, of the country. This is bouranee baunjan. It’s eggplant, with home made yogurt, and that’s our qabuli palau, it’s lamb shank, with rice, and this is our national dish. We’re geographically
located in the middle of, Pakistan, which used to
be India, and Persia. If you ate Persian food,
not a lot of spices, or anything like that. But if you go to India,
it’s another extreme. They have spices, your hand
will smell curry for three days. Yeah. (laughs) Even if you wash it three times. So we are in the middle, a
little bit from both sides. In recent times, immigration
has been a huge topic. And it has affected a
lot of people around, and just the way of life. My community is very peaceful. Whatever we see on Fox, is different. And I studied Quran very well. And it’s nothing but peace. I’m sure in bible, it’s the same way, you can interpret the same
thing, different ways. People are manipulating,
misusing, some of the verses. God says, “You have your own way of life, and I have my own way.”
(explains in foreign language) This is the exact verse of Quran. But no, Isis nowadays, they would just bring people,
and make them convert. No, but the Quran says, let
them have their own way of life. And the of Marmora, peace be upon him. One of his neighbor was Jews, the other one Christian,
and he was in the middle. How come, he lived with these two guys, and I cannot live with these people? You turn on, any channel,
you go to the Middle East, you will see negative
stuff, about the west. You come to west, and you will see negative
stuff about the east. That’s the manipulation and the religion, and it’s just political. Everyone that we’ve met, is all about, giving back to their community, and you guys are living
right next to each other. The next exit, it’s right into Chinatown, the next exit is right
into Little Nigeria. And you guys are all living
here together in Houston. That’s true. Houston, I won’t trade it
for any city in the US. Sorry New Yorkers. (laughter) I was a recruiter for the military, and I traveled all across the US. I’ve seen probably over 40 states. And no matter where I go, this place, you know, attracts me. That is, this is your home. This is my home. (speaks in foreign language) Consider this your home, if you are in the area, and
sometimes you wanted to come, feel comfortable, come here, stop by, and pay a visit and be my guest he says. Thank you so much. How do you say? Manana. Manana. Manana. (speaks in foreign language) (Mexican music) (boy) Lettuce, tomatoes,
avocado, grilled onions, cilantro, jalapenos, and a lime to it. That’s the famous gordita.

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