Chainaki refers to a traditional Afghan stew that is cooked in clay teapots. A story published by Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Tuesday goes into the details of this much-loved dish.
Made with cubes of lamb, tomatoes, lentils and spiced with turmeric, the stew is put on the flame for at least five hours, allowing the meat to cook till tender. For years, the dish has been a comfort food due to its hearty nature and warm flavours.
An article published by the Los Angeles Times in 2022 narrates the history of the chainak, a teapot made from clay, which has been the perfect vessel to cook the dish for centuries. The thickness of the pot is just right for the slow cooking that the meat requires, and also adds to the consistency of the curry. The dish also needs time and patience to achieve perfection, and a precise amount of lamb fat is a must. The chef must pay close attention to the stew and add water where needed to make sure it does not burn.
Waheed Merzazadah runs one of the only restaurants in Kabul that specialises in the dish, which only has chainaki and green tea on the menu. The recipe, which has remained unchanged for over 60 years, has been passed down through generations, Merzazadah told AFP. The price of the dish is 200 afghanis, which is around ₹190. The stew is much loved by Afghan celebrities, politicians, and foreigners that visit Merzazadah’s restaurant.
The restaurant may have to shut down in the coming years as none of Merzazadah’s children want to pursue the family business, the chef told AFP. “I’ll keep doing this as long as I am strong enough,” he said.
Learn how to make chainaki at home by following this recipe. While sour prunes are used, they can be easily substituted with dried figs or apricots.
With inputs from AFP.