Beginning our Spice Journey, we visit Afghanistan. Afghanistan was an area where important trade routes between Europe, Middle East, India and China met. Many Afghani dishes will use the spices from India or Persia to create a more hearty and warming sensation vs a spicy heat, and makes use of dried fruits and nuts. They will often use yogurt as a dressing or topping to add a creamy tang to their dishes. 

Meals are eaten with with the right hand, using flat bread as a utensil [I'm down for anything that saves me from doing more dishes]. 

Kabuli (Qabili) Palau is considered the national dish of Afghanistan [so yes, this is the featured dish]. Kabuli Palau is slow-cooked meat, often lamb, in spiced rice with lentils, raisins, carrots, and nuts. Upon doing some research [also read as "Google deep dive"], this dish can effect the possibility of whether or not an Afghan woman will be able to find a spouse [I guess I have an opening for a new wife...sorry Aimee]. Kabuli Palau used to be reserved for the wealthier families of Kabul, but as people of Afghanistan became more wealthy the dish became more common. Due to the increased accessibility of the dish the name of the dish changed from Kabuli to Qabili Palau. Qabili stemming from the Dari word Qabil meaning well accomplished, thus only a skilled chef can balance all of the flavors of this dish. [Basically the Afghan equivalent of scrambled eggs. Everyone makes them, few make them correctly.]

One of the featured spices of this dish is cardamom. And I have seen recipes that use both the green and black cardamom pods. Black and green pods have a very different flavor profile due to the maturity of when the pods are harvested and the processing differences. [DO NOT interchange them in recipes]

For the purposes of the post, I will be highlighting the black cardamom.  The flavor of black cardamom is often described as pungent with a woodsy and smoky flavor.  The smoke comes from the drying of the spice traditionally over open flames. This variety is often used in savory meat braises or stews. And can help to increase the savoriness of a dish without having to spend time searing the meat [time is money...also searing is tedious and does not add to the overall flavor if a braised/stewed dish is spiced appropriately]. 

Qabili Palau [Adaptation]


  • 4 oz slivered almonds
  • 4 oz pistachios
  • 4 oz vegetable oil, divided
  • 8 carrots, julienne
  • 5 teaspoons sugar, divided
  • 1 1/2 tsp course ground black cardamom seeds, divided
  • 4 oz large raisins
  • 4 tsp ground garam masala, divided
  • 3 lb. boneless leg of lamb cut into large chunks, or beef chuck, or chicken thighs
  • 16 am lamb, beef, or chicken stock 
  • 16 oz onion, sliced
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt, divided
  • 7 cloves
  • 2 black cardamom pods
  • 7 whole green cardamom pods
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 3 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 2 lbs Basmati rice


  • Rinse Basmati rice until water runs clear, and soak for 4 hours
  • Toast slivered almonds and pistachios in a dry pan until they smell nutty, and appear toasted and brown, stir frequently
  • Heat up 0.5 oz of vegetable oil in a small saute pan over medium high heat and cook the carrots for 3-4 minutes and add the sugar and continue to cook for a few more minutes until the carrots caramelize, add in raisins and cook for an additional minute, add in 1/2 tsp course ground black cardamom seeds. 
  • Heat up 3 oz of oil in large pot or dutch oven and saute sliced onions until well caramelized on medium low heat. 
  • Season meat with salt and 2 tsp garam masala 
  • Add to same large pot, or dutch oven, garlic cloves, black cardamom, green cardamom, cinnamon and cumin seeds, saute till fragrant on medium heat.
  • Add meat and stock, braise on low heat till meat is tender, approximately 2 to 3 hours. Taste and reseason as necessary.
  • Remove meat from the broth and strain the broth and reserve.
  • Boil rice in a large pot of salted, boiling water until the rice is 75% done, about 7-10 minutes. Then strain rice and add back to the pot and set aside. 
  • In a saucepan over medium heat, caramelize 3 tsp of sugar until it is light brown in color and add in 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom powder and 2 tsp of garam masala powder
  • Add in 16 oz of the reserved broth and set aside.
  • Place the rice in a large pot with a tight fitting lid, add half the broth over the rice and mix. Taste and reseason as necessary.
  • Place meat over the rice in a single layer
  • Add the reserved carrots and raisins on top of the meat along with 0.5 oz of heated vegetable oil until it is smoking hot
  • Cover pot tightly with a kitchen towel and lid
  • Cook on medium for 15 minutes, medium for 5 minutes, low for 5 minutes, and then let sit for 5 minutes to steam.
  • Garnish with the toasted slivered almonds and pistachios.
Keilen Shigematsu