• Brianna Deveraux-Allen

Here we go!! Meal number 1, Afghanistan

Updated: Mar 21, 2019

Original meal date 12/05/17

When I set out to cook my meal from Afghanistan I had absolutely no idea how it would turn out, or if it would turn out at all. It really felt like a stab in the dark because I was making things I had never made before and using ingredients I had never used. This is the reason that, in hindsight, this meal seems like the perfect way for me to have started this adventure. It was new, exotic (to me), outside my comfort zone, a little scary and..... really really freaking good.

Afghanistan food, mantu, kabuli pulao
Getting everything ready for my first international meal. Ingredients that were new to me were rose water, cardamom, powdered milk and ground lamb.

It is fun to think about now. When I started this adventure I didn't know if I would actually follow through with it. It seemed like an ambitious idea. While I was excited about it I also didn't know if I would get a few months into it and decide it wasn't as much fun as I thought it would be, it was too much work, too much hassle, etc. But I'm happy to say that over a year later and with 44 countries and 44 meals under my belt, I am even more excited about it now.

I know what you're thinking - over a year, 52 weeks in a year, only 44 countries. Spoiler alert - I found out I was pregnant a few weeks after I started this little cooking adventure. Along the way there was pregnancy fatigue, morning sickness, food aversions, crankiness, pushing a human out of my body, healing and adjusting to life with a new baby. So I didn't quite hit the one meal a week goal. In fact, there was a span of a few months that it just didn't happen. Parents will understand.

Because I am starting the blog over a year after I started the actual process, I am going to do my best to get 2 blog posts up a week until I'm caught up. However, I do have a three year old and an infant so I'm going to forgive myself if this doesn't happen every week.

Ok, enough jibber jabber! Let's talk about the food!

Meal #1 Afghanistan

Mantu - Lamb and onion dumplings with tomato sauce and yogurt

Kabuli Pulao (vegetarian version) - rice dish with carrots, raisins and almonds

Sheer Payra - milk fudge with rose water, cardamom and pistachio


I made a very conscious effort to choose dishes that were a little intimidating for me. If I'm not challenging myself along the way what's the point? I had never made dumplings before so I thought the Mantu would be a perfect way for me to hit the ground running. Now most recipes I saw for Mantu called for making your own dough, I didn't do this. I'm ambitious, not crazy. When I saw a recipe that used pre made wonton wrappers I knew that was for me! Maybe someday when I don't have young children I can go full on chef mode and make my own dough. For now, it is much more feasible and realistic for me to use the packaged stuff.

I was really surprised at just how much I enjoyed this dish. It was fun to make and was very flavorful. And I am so glad I decided to make dumplings. I was surprised at how easily they were to make and I was shocked that they actually turned out well. Recently my son has shown a lot of interest in helping me in the kitchen and now I know that dumplings are a fun and easy way for him to help make dinner. See my recipe below for these savory little morsels.

mantu, dumplings
Wonton wrappers filled with the lamb and onion mixture before they steamed. My first attempt at dumplings!


My recipe for Mantu was inspired by a few different recipes I saw for the dish. It is literally the first recipe I have ever written which includes amounts and instructions. Yikes!

Kabuli Pulao

This rice dish is the national dish of Afghanistan. It is typically made with meat, I saw several recipes that called for chicken and a few lamb. My recipe below is for a vegetarian version. Because I was making the meat dumplings I wasn't planning on making the Kabuli Pulao with meat but I had a good amount of the meat mixture left over from the dumplings so I just decided to add it to the pulao and it was delicious. I really enjoyed this dish and would love to make it again with chicken.

kabuli pulao

mantu, kabuli pulao
The two dishes went really well together. Warm, comforting flavors.

Sheer Payra

I don't have a huge sweet tooth so I almost never make desserts. And while I love to cook, I am not a baker! I can only remember two times previous to this that I actually made a proper dessert from scratch. I will be attempting to make desserts on this journey but they are definitely the wild card for me. That being said, I was delighted with this dish. It was unlike anything I'd ever had before but I really enjoyed it!

sheer payra, milk fudge

Afghanistan, watercolor, sketchbook, recipe sketchbook, mantu, kabuli pulao, sheer payra, milk fudge
My first sketchbook entry!

All in all I was incredibly happy with the way this meal turned out! It was the perfect way to start out the journey and it energized me to start researching and planning more international meals. The only problem I had was that there were other dishes from Afghanistan that I wish I could have made! Who knows, maybe there will be a round two (four years from now).

Next week is Albania!

Please check out these links to some of the recipes I was inspired by


I used Humaira's recipe for Milk Fudge and my recipe for Kabuli Pulao for heavily inspired by her version with chicken.


This was the recipe for Mantu that I found to be the most helpful.

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