Now We Know Why Famous Kabab In Westfield Is Famous

A foray into Afghan cuisine: What we liked and what we loved.

The chickpea-potato salad looks more like a soup with a green-tinted broth than anything remotely salad like. But it’s so good, we stop being startled and ask for spoons so we can dispatch with the haste our suddenly energized taste buds are demanding. That cilantro-vinegar broth—it’s the cool side of room temp, like the rest of the ingredients—is invigorating, refreshing and embraces the potatoes and chickpeas. This “salad”—shor nakhod—is my new food love.

Chickpea-potato salad

We’re at Famous Kabab Cuisine, an Afghan restaurant in Westfield that seems a bit disorganized on this day: There’s going to be a delay in cooking, we’re told, since key kitchen folks are out delivering a major catering order. OK, we say; we can kick back and survey the menu for a spell.

This turns out to be a good idea, for we spy scallion bolani, which we later learn from a member of that kitchen crew, are scallions that are grilled, then split and stuffed with spiced chopped scallions.

We also discover mantoo, dumplings crammed with beef. These dumplings are pillowy and remarkably light. Dreamy, I think, as I eat the pockets served in a pool of mint-flecked yogurt sauce, topped with a curious combo of carrots, corn and green beans that look and taste like frozen-food vegetables. You remember the vegetable medleys from your childhood? Like that.

Mantoo

No matter; the dumplings are so homey and comforting, I want to cuddle up with them for hours. But on deck is a spinach dish called sabzi, billed to be made with fresh spinach, though the taste doesn’t reflect fresh at all. It’s tinny, despite a riff of tomatoes and onions throughout.

The lamb tikka kababs are another disappointment. There’s little pure lamb taste to the tough nuggets we get paired with zamaarud palow, a rice cooked with spinach. Once we spoon yogurt sauce—one of the sassy condiments offered—over both the lamb and the rice, we’re happier. It’s especially companionable with the pale-green rice.

Lamb tika kabab

But the chicken kofta kabab? Divine. The ground poultry is ripe with minced vegetables and curry spices that charm. Kabuli palow, the rice we choose as its side, is topped with thick batons of cooked carrots and juicy raisins. Straight, or with more of that magical yogurt, or its playful partner in condiment-land, the cilantro pureed with tart vinegar, it’s a dish that haunts.

Chicken kabab

And it just might bring you back to this small storefront restaurant that does not permit alcoholic beverages.

I’ll come back for it, I think to myself as I drive home. As well as for the chickpea-potato soup of a salad, the dumplings—and to try that stuffed scallion dish, which, I realize only when on the road, we never were served.

Oh well. Reason for a next time at Famous Kabab.

Famous Kabab Cuisine, 231 South Avenue East, Westfield. Open daily for lunch and dinner. 908-228-5980. famouskababcuisinewestfieldnj.com

Photos: Andrea Clurfeld

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