Jeshyn-Afghan Day (Independence Day of Afghanistan) is the commemoration of the Anglo-Afghan treaty of 1919 (also referred to as The Treaty of Rawalpindi), which granted Afghanistan independence from British control after three wars with them.
Today, we celebrate Afghanistan’s Independence Day by enjoying their delicious cuisine at a new Afghan restaurant located just minutes walk from Auburn station. It is said that Afghans are descendants from Turkish and Mongolian ancestors, and their cuisine shows influences from both cultures. With land that can get covered in a few metres of snow in the winter, their food is very rich, and robust in its use of spices.
Serving authentic, home-style Afghan food, Khaybar Restaurant has been open just 8 months, but has been steadily getting a base of regular local customers.
Mantu Dumplings ($15.95) – lamb, herbs, and onion in a silky pastry – are steamed and topped with garlic yoghurt and mint. Contrary to the more delicate dumplings that I’m used to, these are gutsy robust and quite hearty, full of spices and flavour.
When asked about the one dish that they are particularly proud of, owner Mustafa recommended this plate of Buranee-Badenjan ($5.95). Slices of eggplant are first browned in a pan, then layered with capsicum, tomatoes and spices, and cooked till tender. The result is this gorgeous, rich dish that is also finished with dried mint and garlic yoghurt, and was just heaven with the freshly baked house made Naan.
I was never a bread fiend, but if there was something in this world that could drive me to obsession, this would. Available fresh daily from 12-3pm, this bread came to my table piping hot and fluffy, having being baked in a tandoor oven. It had a fantastic pull as I tore into it, and didn’t leave an oily feeling on my fingers after handling it.
Oh, and did I mention that it was larger than my face?
This massive serving of bread would only set you back $1.50, and owner Mustafa told me that he loves fresh Naan so much that he would often have it for lunch with a glass of Dogh.
If you’re a fan of savoury drinks – Bloody Mary, anyone? – then you have to try Dogh ($2.50). Natural yoghurt is slightly salted, and mixed in with a little water, cucumber, and mint. There are variations throughout the Middle East, and Mustafa recounts a traditional Dogh that his mother made for afternoon meals when he was a child, where the massive pot of dogh also had sultanas and other dried fruits mixed through it, and shared amongst three families – his uncles’ families all lived under the same roof as his.
Besides Mantu, they also served another type of dumpling called Ashak ($4.95), filled with garlic chives and spring onion. These ones reminded me of dumplings from my childhood, which speaks to the historical Mongolian influence. Like the Mantu, these were gutsy and flavourful, and I absolutely loved the savoury kick from the garlic chives.
I had the lamb Qaboli Pallaw ($14.95) – slow cooked lamb shanks, served alongside buttered brown rice topped with carrots, sultanas, slivered almonds, slivered pistachios and a sprinkle of cardamom. And before you go “oh, brown rice?” let me just say that this brown rice was immaculate. I staunchly stand by white rice just about all of the time, but this was enough to make me a convert. There was a fantastic lamb flavour throughout each grain of tender rice, which was balanced by the sweetness of the carrot and the plump sultanas. The lamb was tender but firm, and very well trimmed to leave just the right amount of fat, but without drowning it.
And to finish, a plate of Sherpera ($2.50) – a sweetened milk dessert flavoured with rosewater, cardamon and pistachios. Saccharinely sweet, this would be the perfect dessert to have with a strong cup of black tea, on a rainy day.
This family owned and run restaurant shows a very fundamental passion for sharing home-style Afghan food. Even the name, Khaybar, is inspired by a town located not far from Medina, where everyone is welcome. And that is the vibe that I get in the restaurant as well – there was a sense of eagerness to share delicious food and a vibrant culture, and it’s definitely a restaurant that I’ll bring my family and friends back to.
64 Auburn Road
Phone: (02) 8084 7805
I Ate My Way Through dined as guests of Khaybar Restaurant.