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Qabili Pilau – Afghanistan National Dish – Day 1

January 8, 2010

    Day One  Afghanistan

Afghanistan is a country with a population of approximately 28,150,000 people located in South Central Asia.  It is bordered by Iran in the west, Pakistan in the south and east, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the north, and China in the far northeast. The National Dish is Qabili Pilau which is essentially a Chicken and Rice recipe.



Appearance:  2 out of 5

Aroma:  4 out of 5

Taste:  4 out of 5

This dish is what I would describe as a sleeper hit.  The recipe is accurate on cook times and flavor levels although it is a mild dish whose savory flavors will creep up on you as you progress with eating it.  The aroma is pleasing and spiced but not as potent as Indian cuisine is.  The cardamom and the Garam Masala blend are great complementary flavors and balance each other nicely.  Never too exciting, this dish was still good to the last grain of rice and I ate a healthy second portion.  Served family style it is not terribly exciting visually either, as it has lots of very subtle colors and textures.  On the other hand it is not ugly at all and I would be pleased to serve it at a dinner party.  Overall I really enjoyed the national dish of Afghanistan on this first day of our journey.

Overall: 10 out of 15    

Qabili Pilau (Chicken and Rice) Difficulty 2 out of 5 = Tedious but not too technical.

Makes 8 servings


At least 4 hours before cooking, gently rinse rice several times in cold
water. Place rice in a bowl and cover generously with cold water; let soak
4 hours or overnight.

3 cups basmati rice (Makes alot of rice!!  Use at least a whole chicken)

1 cooked chicken, cut into serving-sized pieces (I used chicken breast and cut it into bite sized chunks.  I baked the chicken at 375 for 35-40 minutes till the skin turned crispy, then I deboned and chopped it)


2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 carrots, peeled and cut in julienne strips
2 tablespoons water
3/4 cup raisins, soaked for 5 minutes in warm water
1/3 cup shelled pistachio nuts, skinned (see note)
1/3 cup blanched slivered almonds
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

Note: To remove skin from pistachio nuts, cover nuts with boiling water
and let stand 15 minutes. Drain and skins will slough off. The clean green
nut is prettier than the skin-covered nut.

Caramel Sauce:
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon salt
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons garam masala
2 teaspoons ground cardamom

To make garnish:

In saucepan, heat oil. Add carrots and sautee 3 to 4
minutes. Add 2 tablespoons water, the raisins, pistachios, almonds, sugar
and cardamom. Cover and cook over low heat about 10 minutes or just until
carrots are soft but not soggy. Remove from heat and set aside.

To make caramel sauce:  (Do not expect it to be sweet!  It is really to season the rice)

Place sugar in small saucepan. Heat over
medium-high heat without stirring until sugar melts and begins to
caramelize. Watch carefully because sugar turns brown quickly and burns
easily. When color is medium-dark brown, remove from heat immediately and
cool slightly. Add salt, the water, oil, garam masala and cardamom. Sugar
will harden. Return pan to heat and cook, stirring over medium heat, until
sugar is melted again; simmer 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set

To make rice: Bring a large pot of water to a boil; exact amount is not
important, but be sure to use at least 12 cups. Add 1 tablespoon salt and
drained rice. Cook 8 to10 minutes or until rice is just cooked but not
soggy. Drain off water and reserve rice. In same pot, pour half of caramel
sauce. Carefully spoon cooked rice over mixture but do not stir. Pour
remaining mixture over rice; do not stir. With the handle of a long spoon,
make 4 or 5 deep holes in rice all the way to the bottom of the pan; do
not stir. Cover pan with dish towel and tight lid. Place over medium heat
and cook about 8 to 10 minutes or until the rice in the bottom sounds like
rain hitting a window. Turn off the heat but do not remove lid. Let rice
rest for up to 30 minutes.

When ready to serve, remove lid and towel and very gently mix rice, being
careful not to break the grains of rice. Place half of rice on large
serving platter. Cover with cooked chicken and spoon remaining rice over
chicken. Spoon carrot-raisin mixture over rice and serve.

 Country Facts Source:

Recipe: C/O contributed by Judy Bolton from the Oregonian Newspaper Food Section and notes/edits made by myself as I cooked it.

A special thanks to the really cool cashier that hooked me up with a major discount on my Cardamom powder which cost alot more than I anticipated and which he discounted to what I thought it cost originally.  You are a real human sir!

I am heading for my ship now. Next stop, Alabania!

6 Comments leave one →
  1. January 9, 2010 8:08 am

    this looks delicious.

    thanks for dropping by my site. i hope you get to feature Filipino food some time.

    • January 9, 2010 2:30 pm

      Thanks Ela!

      Hi Ela,

      I appreciate the comments very much! I will be cooking the Philippines for certain! I am going in alphabetical order so should be a month or two before I get to the Philippines. Would it be alright if I contact you when I do and get advice on the dish i choose? I am trying to work with a local whenever possible. I would appreciate the help…


  2. AHAMD permalink
    October 27, 2010 1:24 am


  3. January 29, 2012 10:56 pm

    This was a very wonderful meal! Being from the deep south my family (and I to a degree) found it rather spicy. A little too spicy for them, but just right for me. The prep. was a bit tedious, but well worth it. The caramel sauce was the best part in my humble opinion.


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