I’m fortunate to be surrounded by daring friends who are just as into ethnic foods and going on culinary adventures as I am. And I’m equally fortunate that Houston is truly a cultural melting pot when it comes to food. The most recent restaurant that I’ve gotten to explore with friends is called Afghan Village, a family styled place serving authentic Afghan cuisine. The restaurant was situated in an inauspicious corner of a no-name plaza, and as we walked in, we were greeted by a Afghan lady dressed in a vibrant bronze colored traditional dress, asking us in a thick accent “where would you like to sit”? And as I looked around, I quickly realized that we were the only non-Afghan group. Plastic covers on tables? Check! Colorful plastic plates? Check! Couldn’t spot any other white people? Check! This was looking promising in terms of authenticity.
The lady sat us down on an off the ground platform area lined with oriental rugs and padded cushions for seating and a straw mat in the center of the platform for serving food. No tables? Check!
We ordered a bunch of dishes with names we couldn’t pronounce and loved every single one. The most memorable one was this eggplant dip with yogurt mixed in, served with naan, called Bourani Banjan. It was creamy, bursting with flavors and slightly spicy, and it was gone within minutes, devoured by four hungry girls with voracious appetites. So I knew I had to remake this in my own kitchen and relive the experience. If you can’t tell by now, I derive a LOT of inspiration for my recipes from restaurant experiences I’ve had.
So one might ask, how do you remake something you’ve only had once? Usually I grab their menu and record down the few ingredients they have listed and fill in the rest. Actually this dish is very similar to baba ganoush plus or minus a few ingredients, so I had a few basic recipes to go off of. And the rest is trial and error and lots of improvising based on my foodie intuition. Here it is- Afghan Bourani Banjan!
Afghan Eggplant Dip
- 2 large eggplants
- olive oil
- 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 2 Tbsp Tahini paste
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1 tomato, diced
- 2 Tbsp tomato sauce or pasta sauce
- 1 tbsp chili pepper flakes
- pinch of turmeric
- pinch of paprika
Preheat your own to broil. Slice eggplant into 1 inch rounds and drizzle with olive oil and salt. Place on a baking sheet lined with foil and broil for 5 minutes. Then bake at 400F for 20 minutes, until eggplant is thoroughly soft.
Meanwhile, cook diced tomatoes, tomato sauce on a small pan over medium heat. Add chili flakes, turmeric and paprika. Simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove eggplant and allow to cool. Peel away most of the skin (it should come off easily) and place the eggplant in a blender. Add lemon juice, Tahini, garlic, and the tomato mix into the blender. Blend well.
Chop fresh cilantro and mix by hand into the eggplant dip. Drizzle top with olive oil and serve with warm naan or pita bread.