If you've been to a place that serves this cuisine, you will probably know. (Hint: It's not Mexican.) The jar on the left holds a fragrant cilantro-chili-garlic-vinegar sauce that's just captivating, and the jar on the right is a potent chili sauce that I didn't run through the human-tongue detector device.
Yeah, those are Afghan condiments.
In a weird coincidence, I found myself in Tracy, CA, on 9/11. I'll tell you why I was there in a later post. Anyway, there I was on this day, wearing my black shirt with the image of the NYC skyline, Twin Towers still intact. It was meant to be an homage to the victims. I happened to be at a very public event, but nobody seemed to notice it. Fine.
Then, afterward, we wandered into a brand-new Afghan restaurant in a strip mall. Too late, I remembered what I was wearing. Would I offend my Afghan hosts?
Nope. The charming young waitress, a med student-to-be, pointed to my left boob and said, "I used to live right there."
(Here's a self portrait of "right there.") Her name was Shahira (meaning "renowned") and she was quite gracious in telling us about her experience on that horrendous day, scrambling for safety across the Brooklyn Bridge. She and her family eventually left New York, where they still have three restaurants, because they were made to feel no longer welcome.
Well, New York's loss; Tracy's gain. The meal was just superb. (I've had good Afghan food, and I've had so-so. This was good.) Aushack, essentially "ravioli" filled with minced leek and scallions, were topped with a tomatoey meat sauce, drizzled with yogurt and sprinkled with mint. I could barely get to the Italianesque tomatoey eggplant dish. ("Our cuisine is very similar to Mediterranean," Shahira told us.) Cranky co-cook husband (he never did like being called "beloved") had a combo plate of three kinds of kebabs with a seasoned rice that was redolent of ginger snaps.
My mouth couldn't stop cavorting with all the tastes. I wouldn't have said I've missed highly seasoned food during Eat Local August -- but today's food was just a joy. I just wish Tracy wasn't an hour and a half away.
Afghan Shish Kebab House, 2521 N. Tracy Blvd., Tracy, CA. (209) 834-2070