Sunday, October 28, 2012

[Afghani Chicken Pulao] National rice dish of Afghanistan (Kabuli palao)

I should admit that I didn't recall much more than Taliban when Afghanistan was metioned, until I read the Kite runner a few years ago.
Have you read The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini? If you didn't yet, you should absolutely read this novel! Yes, it's true that the novel is sad and may make you cry as it did to me. It is a very very well written book that cannot be stopped once start reading it. The novel was criticized because of its offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group.
For me, even though the story was a bit too cruel, I find it a great story. And I think Khalid Hosseini described the details so well and I appreciate it since, thanks to his novel, I could learn lots of things and cuisines that belonged to Afghanistan.
Nonetheless, the novel taught me there was peaceful and normal days in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, before Taliban occupied the country.
That is how I got to interested in Afghan cuisine, and got to know that the rice was "king" of all foods in Afghanistan.
The Chicken palao recipe I learned is one of the national dishes in Afghanistan.
Qabili Palao is the Afghanistan's national dish made with meat and stock added, topped with fried raisins, carrots and pistachios.
(As I love the flavor, I try to keep the original recipe as it is. However, I omit pistachio only becase my yougner son is allergic to peanuts and all the treenuts)
 There are a few dishes introduced at the Kite Runner. However, as palao becomes one of my favorite job, I imagine and think of the book.
Anyway, the dish of the Afghan pulao is called the "the king" of all foods in Afghanistan.
You'd better use long grain rice to make an authentic rice dish of Afghanistan.
This pulao is just so good that I can't describe the taste properly.  But the combination of the spices with basmati and onion is heavenly.
You should try this authentic Afghani recipe!
I got this recipe from an Afghan woman's blog, but I can't find the link now :(
Here goes the recipe:
2 Cups Basmati rice
3-4 chicken legs
3-4 chicken thighs.
1 + 1/2 Cups onions, diced
1/3 Cup olive oil
1/2 -1C Chicken broth
1+1/2 ts cumin
1+1/2 ts cardamom
pepper 1/2 ts
8 Cups water

1.  Wash and dry chicken legs and thighs with kitchen towel. Remove skins
if there is any. 

Mix cardamom, cumin, and pepper, and set aside.

2.  Place onion in the food processor and pulse if for a few times. Don't make it too mashed.
3. Heat olive oil over medium high heat and fry onion until golden-brown. It will take 7-10 minutes.
4. Add chicken legs and thighs containing bones.
5. It will take 10-12 minutes to cook chickens.
Add 1/4 Cup chicken broth, or a bit more, depending on how fast the broth disappears, and continue to cook.
6. Once the liquid is all absorbed, add another 1/4 cup chicken broth.
7. Add cumin, cardamom, and salt.
Mix well and let it simmer for another 10 minutes.

8. By this time, the entire house smell
Set the cooked chicken aside.
9. Boil a large amount of water with sea salt and cook the rice in as in the instruction.
  Drain the lidquid and set aside in the same pot until ready to assemble.

10.  Preheat oven to 375°F (190 °c)

 11. Add onion+spice sauce to the cooked rice in the pot, and combine well.

12. Place cooked chickens on top of the rice & sauce.

13. Cover the post with an aluminium foil and place the skillet in the oven. Leave in the oven for 15 minutes.
Believe me. This rice is the best of all the rice dishes I have had.
It's heavenly! You should try this!
It also very good to have pulao with greek yogurt! They get along very well.
Afghan Pulao (Palao)


  1. i am a little confused here. You have used nutmeg powder and cardamom powder in the first step?? so just mix those spices and leave them on the side? In step 4 what 2 teaspoons are you adding? What ingredient? in step 7 is it cardamom powder along with cumin? step 10 and 11 is very confusing... you had it covered and then in step 11 you are adding onion and spice?? What onion and spice mixture is this? I am sorry i am asking so many questions, but i couldn't understand the procedure.Please let me know!!

    1. Hi GURLEEN,
      spice mix is to be prepared at the first step, but only to be used in step 7.
      There is nothing to add in step 4. I corrected the error.
      Step 10, you mix rice with the fried onion+sauce from step 7.
      Step 11, you cover the cast iron pot before placing it in the oven.
      Hope my reiteration answered your questions.
      Sorry for the confusion caused!

  2. Ok I looked high and low, but for how long are you suppose to put the aluminum pot in the oven for?? I am confused!

    1. Hi George, thanks for question! I must have missed that part. You leave the pot covered with aluminium foil in the oven, for 15 minutes~ This is a great rice recipe. Hope you like it as much as I do.

  3. I love afghani food and can't wait to try this at home.

  4. A couple of questions. In the first part of the recipe, you mention nutmeg as one of the spices but there is no amount given. Is there nutmeg along with the cumin and cardamom? Also, you call for a full cup of chicken broth, but it seems as though you only use 1/2 cup. Is the rest of the broth to be added at some point? Thanks for clarifying.

    1. Hi Robin.
      As you might have noticed, nutmeg was not on the ingredients list. It should be read "cumin" instead of nutmeg. I fixed the error. My apologies.
      How much chicken broth you need will be varied. You could be okay only with 1/2 cup or you may need up to 1 cup depending on how quickly it is absorbed. Be ready to use up to a cup. Hope this answers your question.

  5. Step 11 what onion are you adding? Isnt that already put in when cooking the chicken in step 3. And doesnt it mix up and stick with the chicken?
    Confused about step 11

  6. Thank you for this recipe! Smells great. I got to the last step, the oven, but what temperature should I set it for?

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  8. No, you should NOT read "Kite Runner". These days nobody can write a book without putting a molested child in it. God, how pathetic!

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