All of Afghanistan’s ‘good stuff’ at Kabul House
General manager Clint Warda (left), and owner Akmal Qazi at the Kabul House in Skokie. | Lee Litas~Sun-Times Media
4949 Oakton Street, Skokie
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; 4-9 p.m. Sundays. Closed Monday
(847) 674-3830 or see kabulhouse.com
Updated: July 2, 2012 12:41PM
Afghan culture has been under scrutiny throughout the decade of America’s conflict in that region. And one thing that Americans may have learned by now is that for thousands of years the people of Afghanistan have been known for their hospitality.
“It is just in our nature. If someone says something smells good, then you are going to sit down and have a meal with us,” explained Akmal Qazi, owner of the popular Afghan restaurant, the Kabul House in Skokie.
What started as a babysitting gig — Qazi’s father cooked homemade Afghan food for him and his brother at their family Italian restaurant on the weekends — grew into a sought-after dining destination when customers coming in for Italian began asking to try what Chef Abdul was cooking for his kids.
Eventually, visitors came to know that weekends meant Afghan delicacies and they would come in specifically for those, offering to pay for take-away.
After a year of this, the Qazis were poised to create a stand-alone Afghan restaurant when the tragic events of 2001 took place.
“At the time, we were one of the only Afghan families in Chicago that people knew, and naturally newsgroups were looking for Afghan people to get their perspectives (on the events of 9/11),” said Qazi.
Eventually all the television and radio news affiliates would interview Chef Abdul Qazi to get his perspective, and the answers of the unassuming Qazi, espousing his love for his adopted land, inspired much good will.
“People came for the moral support and ended up liking the food,” said Qazi.
Today, with traditional music and the aromas that had enticed so many customers to come back again and again, Kabul House offers a glimpse of old-world Afghanistan.
“According to the silk routes, all the emperors would meet in Afghanistan because it was the middle ground,” explained Qazi. “That is where the fusion of Greek, Persian Indian, Middle Eastern and even Chinese food took place. That is why I think Afghan is the best cuisine — you get a little bit of all the good stuff.”
There is a wide variety of meat and vegetarian delicacies to sample at Kabul House, and even Asian-style dumplings, a bow to the influence of the Orient on Afghan cuisine.
Standouts include the Kadu, a tender and sweet baby pumpkin ($6), popular not just with vegetarians. The Koubideh skewers made of a combination of ground beef and aromatic Afghan seasonings ($11.95) are rich and satisfying. And the Aushak, succulent Afghan ravioli, is filled with leeks and scallions before being topped with ground beef and mint ($12.95).
“This is comfort food that people from all cultures and ethnicities can truly accept and like because it has all the different elements from all the different cultures,” said Qazi.
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