So, how good is a restaurant that has none other than the Crown Prince of Dubai, among others, as a patron-in-chief? Well, we knew the answer but had to check it out ourselves firsthand to tell the story of Gudee Pizza & Café at The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC).
From artisan wood-fired oven pizzas to tikkas to truffle mac n’ cheese, there’s nothing that this exquisite all-day fine diner can’t do or has left out of its huge menu that runs into several pages. But if you are there, then it must really be for its classics from Afghanistan, brought to life in the kitchens by the very owner of this homegrown, family-run business, named after her youngest daughter and inspired by her ancestral roots in Kabul.
So, a nice way to start your journey is to dig into authentic Afghani starters, including Bolani, their version of the samosa as we know it; Mantu, the quintessential dumpling; and Afghan Banjan (eggplant) with yoghurt, a favourite of the Crown Prince we were told and one that you could wrap along with Gudee’s freshly baked classics.
There’s chicken biryani and a rich and delightfully garnished butter chicken to consider for the mains but if you are enamoured by the legacy of the Kabuli Pulao, then this is the place to come experience it, in one of its finest forms. Finish it all off with a platter of assorted sweets, including the halwa and the cheesecake, each proudly Afghan in its roots and style. And each so sinful and decadent that nothing less than a warm cup of light fragrant Afghan green tea would help to wash it all down.
The three things to look out for
Mantu is a type of dumpling popular in most Turkic cuisines, as well as in the cuisines of Central Asia, Afghanistan and Balkans. The dumplings typically consist of a spiced meat mixture, usually lamb or ground beef, in a thin dough wrapper and either boiled or steamed.
Bolani, also called Periki, is a stuffed flat-bread from Afghanistan, baked or fried with a filling. It has a thin crust and can be stuffed with a variety of ingredients, such as potatoes or leeks but also grated pumpkin, chives, red lentils or as is the case mostly, with minced meat. It can be served with plain yoghurt or mint yoghurt and is usually served with a doogh drink.
Kabuli Pulao, also called variously as Qâbili palaw or Qâbili pulao, is Kabul’s biggest icon, made throughout Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries using steamed rice mixed with raisins, carrots, and beef or lamb. There exists different variations depending on the region but each platter of Kabuli Pulao stands out for it distinct yellowish colour and taste.
Kabul, the melting pot…
Kabul is one of the highest capitals in the world, located high up in a narrow valley between the Hindu Kush mountains, with an elevation of 1,790 metres. At the crossroads in Asia, it is roughly halfway between Istanbul in the West and Hanoi in the East and is in a strategic location along the trade routes of South and Central Asia, making it a key stopover in the ancient Silk Route and a melting pot of global cultures and cuisines. The capital of Afghanistan since 1776, during the reign of Timur Shah Durrani, Kabul has, at various stages in history, been ruled by various dynasties and empires. The Kabuli Pulao, also called variously as Qâbili palaw or Qâbili pulao, is Kabul’s biggest icon.
What’s so special about Afghan Cuisine
The national dish of Afghanistan is also the country’s cultural flagbearer — the Kabuli pulao, their best known version of the pulao and the biggest culinary export to the world. This is also because Afghan cuisine is largely based on the country’s main crops like wheat, maize, barley and rice, that form the staple. They are accompanied by plenty of dairy products including milk, yoghurt, and whey and vegetables and fruits. Afghanistan is known for its high-quality pomegranates, grapes, and sweet, rugby-football shaped melons that invariably find a way into most Afghan kitchens almost every day.