A Taste of Afghanistan

Photo by Hamdi Ahmed

Photo by Hamdi Ahmed

I recently asked one of my students from Iraq about her favourite restaurant in Ottawa. Without hesitation, she told me about the Salang Kabob House. All right, I thought. I have to go.

If you are familiar with Ottawa’s profusion of fast-food kabob dealers, you might be forgiven for having overlooked Salang. It seems every street corner has its own dealer pushing sticks of grilled meat. On the surface Salang looks much like the rest; it is in a little plaza next to a Pharma Plus. What’s special about this place is what is going on behind the counter.

Nisar Abbasi, the general manager, opened Salang almost four years ago.

“Look,” he confides. “To be honest, the recipes aren’t all that complicated. It’s meat or vegetables grilled over a flame with a few spices.”

What makes the difference is the attention he gives to those simple ingredients. There are no microwaves or freezers on the premises. Everything is prepared that day, so if he runs out, you will just have to come back.

The restaurant is popular with families and ex-pats from the Mid-East. The cuisine is a mixture of Afghani, Pakistani and Iranian.

We ordered the Combo Platter: A shami kabob, chicken kabob and beef tika kabob served over a bed of basmati rice and accompanied by a side salad, spicy dipping sauce, Afghani naan and a bowl of qorma (soup).

The meat was moist and delicately seasoned, each with its own unique flavour. Nothing flashy going on here, just simple, quality meat; grilled and seasoned – just enough to let the natural flavour come through. The side salad is nothing special but good, and the dressing is tasty. A spicy side salsa is light on heat but high on flavour. The one disappointment was the qorma (I had the chicken), which was bland and a bit oily for my liking. I came for the kabobs though and they didn’t let me down. I didn’t know kabobs could taste that good. We finished up with firnee, a delicious dessert (custard topped with cardamom, cracked pepper and pistachios). It's an unexpected combination, but it works and I recommend it.

Have you been to Salang? If not, check it out. I’d love to hear what you think.


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Bryan Dowkes

Bryan has taught English in Spain, the Dominican Republic, Toronto and Ottawa. In his travels, Bryan has eaten: bull’s tail, sheep’s brains, horse, kangaroo, black bear, alligator and numerous spicy dishes ranging from mild to volcanic. He has sampled dishes from every continent except Antarctica (although he recently discovered a recipe for penguin ragout). Bryan is not a picky eater.

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