Afghan Kebab House (25-89 Steinway, Astoria)
I'm not going to lie. When I first walked into the Afghan Kebab House, I had absolutely no idea what on earth constituted Afghan cuisine. After spending entirely too much of my earnings on high-priced meals for the purpose of blogging about some of the up-and-coming stars of the NYC food scene, my wallet was extremely light. So when I saw the take-out menu posted on the fence bragging a salad, entree, rice, and Afghan bread for $8.95 I decided it was probably a good time to learn about this culinary corner of the Middle East.
Long story short, I have returned on several occasions, and happily even order it for delivery from time to time. With some obvious similarities to Indian cuisine, their food is good. No, it's actually great.
On every visit, the owner has also been our server. A young and strikingly handsome man, he has always been eager to guide us in our choices, as well as adjust various dishes according to our spice preferences. True to the Middle Eastern culture of Steinway in Astoria, their food is halal. And as the owner explains, they make absolutely everything fresh on the premises, with the exception of raising their own chickens.
The $8.95 lunch special is offered daily from 12 - 4 p.m. and offers a choice of nine different entrees, ranging from chicken quorma (tender boneless pieces tossed with mixed vegetables in a spiced tomato cream sauce) to chicken and kofta kebabs (minced beef), to even eggplant or okra for the herbivores.
Appetizers range from $3.50 to $5.50 and include authentic Afghan dishes such as the Aushak Goushti (above), boiled scallion dumplings topped with mint yogurt and seasoned ground beef.
One of my personal favorites is the savory bolani kadu for $3.50 (fried turnovers filled with pureed pumpkin and spices). You can add the samboza, fried dumplings filled with seasoned ground lamb (pictured at the top of the post), or any combination of four appetizers for $12.95.
Though I am not usually easily impressed by grains, the seasoned long grain basmati rice is exceptionally moist and flavorsome, almost like tiny grains of delicious pasta.
For the heartier appetite, I highly recommend the chef's combo kebab, including skewers of chicken, lamb tikka, kofta, and a lamb chop, all accompanied with Qabuli Palau (brown seasoned rice with shaved carrots and raisins).
The Afghan tea (very similar to a chai latte) is a perfect way to calm the nerves and end the meal on a relaxed note.
For $3, you'd be negligent not to treat yourself to a heaping bowl of firni with crushed pistachios (a silky, delicious Afghan rice pudding... almost like a pistachio pana cotta)
The food is fresh and delicious. The service is casual and friendly. The price is right. Absolutely one of the best meals under $10 anywhere. If you haven't been, it's definitely worth a visit... or five...