This time my gastronomic sojourn took me to Denmark for Copenhagen Cooking & Food Festival. The festival is for everyone who loves food and presents more than 100 unique events during 10 days at the end of August. Copenhagen is recognized globally as an example of best practice urban planning. I chose an Airbnb apartment just in the middle of the town for my stay, so as to check off most of the things on my to do list with ease. This is a kind of place you don’t wish to move around in cars but on foot, inhaling every bit of freshness that the air has to offer.
I have explored most of the Mediterranean region and their cuisines but this experience was very much new and enthralling to me, being my first Scandinavian experience. I laid out the map to trace Sundby (District in Copenhagen), the place where my first culinary adventure was scheduled. I took a metro from my place to Sundby which was followed by a pleasant short walk.
Following the whiff of fresh spices, I reached the Kitchen which was turned into a War-field. Chef Willian Milsted and Chef Enayatullah Safi were all set for the battle with barrels full of authentic spices and secret recipes. Chef Safi is a Pashtun from Afghanistan who runs a chain of restaurants in Copenhagen. Interestingly, his restaurant is named as “Dhaba”. Being a Pashtun, Afghan cuisine run in his blood and his deep understanding of political science can befuddle you with amazement.
Chef William is a trained Nordic cuisine specialist who was born and brought up in Denmark itself. He owns a variety of pop-up restaurants in Copenhagen as well as abroad. Chef Safi plated three authentic Afghan dishes for us and Chef William prepared the modern-inspired versions of the same.
Here’s a laydown of all the dishes that I had a chance to savor on that day:
The first thing that made its way to our table was lamb dumplings served on a weaved cane plate topped with lentils, garlic sprouts, dried mint and placed over a bowl of dry ice. The dish gave quite a Smokey appeal.
Mantu, also known as Khameerbob, is a traditional Afghani lamb dumpling. Every family has their own way of preparing this delicacy. These steamed dumplings are usually filled with onion, ground lamb, etc. and topped with seasoned ingredients such as chickpeas, tomato sauce, yogurt, etc
Shawarma is a popular fast food, more of a roll-up sandwich kind of thing, stuffed with seasoned meat, herbs and veggies like cucumber, tomato, lettuce, onion, parsley etc. It is served with dressings such as tahini, hummus, mayonnaise, and many other sauces.
We were provided with a variety of stuffings like lamb shanks marinated with mint powder, cooked cinnamon flavored leeks, fresh arugula leaves, herbs, bread and a jar full of Ayran (a Turkish yogurt drink). We assembled our shawarma in a bread similar to Chinese bao and used Aryan as a drink alongside.
Classic Afghan Biryani
Any Afghan meal is incomplete without a rice dish. Rice dishes are an integral part of Afghan cuisine. They have a variety of rice preparations like Biryani, Pulao, Bata, Korma etc.
The biryani that we had was prepared with raisins, almonds and many other rich ingredients. It was served with fresh mint chutney and low-fat yogurt.
Chainaki is traditional Afghani Lamb Stew made with chopped onions, lamb on the bone, split peas and tomato sauce. It is eaten all over Afghanistan. It is a one-pot recipe which is slowly cooked with sauce and served with Afghan specialty, naan.
The naan that Afghans make is slightly different from the ones that we have here in India. Their bread is thicker and softer. It was the first time ever in my life that I had an authentic naan made by an Afghan. Naan was torn into small chunks in a bowl and piping hot Chainaki was drizzled over it. This one was my personal favorite from that day’s menu.
For desserts, we were served mango sorbet which is basically a frozen dessert prepared with fresh mangoes and mint leaves. Roasted cinnamon bread was served alongside this dish. This wonderful dessert was a perfect example of molecular gastronomy.
It was a pleasure to my eyes and taste buds to witness these two talented chefs compete. The battle came to end with both the chefs emerging as winners. This marks the beginning of my Nordic food experience. More stories coming up super soon, stay tuned!