Kabul restaurant preserving the tradition of teapot stew

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At Bacha Broot, the day begins well before sunrise. “We start the meat cutting process at 03:00 and distribute it to all the teapots,” Wahidullah said. “We put in 200g of lamb meat, tomatoes, onions, split peas and a pinch of our secret spice blend,” he said, referring to the special spice blend that is a well-kept family recipe for over seven decades. He then places the teapots in a tandoor oven where the individual slowly cooks for five hours, then keeps them warm on the charcoal-heated counter. “I work from 03:00 to 21:00, it’s very tiring work,” he said.

The restaurant serves up to 100 diners daily in a cramped space neatly divided into two rooms, one for men and one for women. When I visited in March 2021, the men’s room echoed loud conversations covering everything from daily life to politics, and a small TV played news and traditional Afghan songs. The women’s section was at the end of the restaurant, separated by the kitchen and a purdah, a thin veil. In this quieter, emptier area, a few women sat cross-legged on a raised platform covered in worn carpet, absorbed in intimate conversation.

In accordance with the sharia established by the Taliban regime, Bacha Broot now plays nashed (a permitted form of vocal music) instead of short stories and songs, and is always directed at women, provided they are accompanied by their mahrams (male companions).

My chainaki was served in a hot teapot alongside a bowl and naan. To eat it the traditional way, I tore off pieces of naan and put them in the bottom of the bowl then poured the chainaki on top. The aroma of long-cooked spices and the rich scent of lamb rose, prompting me to eat so quickly that the naan didn’t have a chance to get soggy. Saberi notes that the naan, which soaks up all the flavors of the stew, can be picked up by hand or with a spoon.

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