There is a certain method to having the chainaki, a wholesome meat soup made in a teapot, called “chainak” in the Afghan language of Dari.
First, you take the large naan that comes with every serving and break into tiny pieces; fill your bowl with as many as you like. Then, you open your teapot filled with a deep red-orange lamb soup made with tomatoes, onions, fat, and spices, cooked over a slow fire, and pour it over the bread.
“You cannot just dip your bread into the bowl of soup; that’s not how it’s done,” I was told the very first time I sat down to have this traditional delicacy of Afghanistan, a country unfortunately known more for its conflicts than its diverse cuisine. As the soup soaks into your bowl of naan, you dig in before the bread goes soggy, an unlikely scenario — few people can resist leaving the soup in the bowl long enough.
For centuries, chainaki has been the ultimate comfort food for Afghans during harsh winters, and in recent decades, a culinary escape to simpler, happier times amid violence.
While variations of this soup can be found all over the region, including in the neighboring country of Iran, residents of Kabul proudly claim it as a dish native to their province. However, little is known about the origin of this soup that is served in what is perhaps the oldest surviving restaurant in the capital city, Bacha Broot, which in Dari means “boy with a mustache.” It was named after its founder, who perhaps had facial hair as a young boy. “Our family has been running this place for 70 years; my grandfather started it and we have kept the business going, even during the worst of times,” Bacha Broot’s lead chef, Ustad Waheed, said.
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