Northern Virginia has long been the DMV’s go-to region for eating around the globe. There’s Uyghur and Northern Thai and South Indian and Eritrean and Ghanian. We are no stranger to trying foods from countries on any continent, but what we’re still getting used to is finding every cuisine inside of a bowl.
The bowl-ification of the food world has been gaining traction for years now, and what started as Mexican-ish food over rice and then seasonal vegetables over ancient grains, shifted to Calletana’s Peruvian Fast Food for lomo saltado and Koobala Borderless Chicken Bistro for Hawaiian huli chicken—all in a bowl.
Now, it’s Afghanistan’s turn.
Setara Royan’s family owns The Helmand in Baltimore, a fine-dining Afghan restaurant opened in the 1980s. Five years ago, right on trend, the family opened a fast-casual version dubbed Kabobi by The Helmand.
Royan and her husband, Khaleeq Ahmad, opened Kabobi in Herndon last month. Ahmad is a fierce protector of Afghan cuisine, saying many of the casual kabob restaurants in the region “don’t have any authenticity. They go more toward Pakistani food.” He cites usage of curry powders and masala garam, instead of the Afghan usage of cardamom and cinnamon in spice profiles.
Bowls here, says Ahmad, are filled with the same stews cooked for special occasions, like the dwopiaza, lamb with yellow split peas, and shalgum, turnips in a sweet-spicy sauce.
The menu will feed the meatless well. Okra, says Ahmad, is a staple lunch in Afghanistan, and is a favorite here, too. Naan is made in-house from a tandoor oven.
From a hospitality industry family, the husband-and-wife team are already scouting locations for another Kabobi. Bowls aren’t going anywhere. // Kabobi by The Helmand: 2321-A Dulles Station Blvd., Herndon
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