There are a few things you should know about Afghanistan. First of all, geographically (and in many ways culturally) speaking, Afghanistan is not part of the Middle East. It is in Central Asia. As such, its cuisine is most similar to that of its northern neighbors, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan (also known as Uzbeki-beki-beki-stan-stan).
With that in mind, on Sunday I grabbed my Afghan friend, Javed, and embarked on an epic journey to NYC’s sole Afghan grocery store — Kouchi Supermarket in Flushing, Queens.
Kouchi is stacked sky-high with sweets, spices, canned goods, and also retro video cassettes, if you’re into that sort of thing. Most intriguing, however, were the store’s bulk goods. These included items such as sugary blocks called gurr (pictured below), dried rolled up apricots, knobby mulberries and something called kurut — savory dried yogurt balls.
Javed was like a kid in a jujube store. Or maybe a “sinjit” store. Javed wants me to tell you that he calls them sinjit.
Here is what my husband and I ended up with:
So, first off, let’s talk about the kurut. As soon as I opened the container, my nose was greeted by the familiar odor of pecorino cheese.
In spite of Javed’s enthusiasm, let’s just say… we were not fans. If you’re a lover of pungent and possibly ancient cheese, though, you might give them a go.
Luckily, the dried fruits did not disappoint. My favorite were the apricots, which were flattened and then rolled up into rock-hard joints. The dried jujubes were indeed quite a surprise, producing a powdery explosion when chewed. The barberry fruit leather was tasty, but extremely salty — not unlike Mexican tamarind candy. The mulberries were chewy and not too sweet. The other items (spices and tea) will be profiled in later posts!
Overall, a rather enlightening trip. I am grateful to Javed for guiding me through the aisles, and also to this dude for putting up with my photographs: