I don’t have the opportunity to travel as much as I would like, so the next best thing for me is to step out the door of my office in downtown Livermore, head a couple of blocks in any direction, and pop into the nearest eatery … traveling the globe vicariously through the victuals of our local restaurants! The dining scene has done a 360 since our youth; the only worldly choice growing up was Chinese food at the Yin Yin, owned by the Chin Family (40 something of our family just congregated there last week!). What really reminded me of this change was my latest expedition to Afghanistan by means of the new De Afghanan Kabob House (which unfortunately replaced La Papusa House, where I would venture to El Salvador by means their papusas). I had never eaten Afghani food before, so Rebecca and Ed, two of my foody workmates joined me for lunch, and it was indeed a memorable sojourn. We ordered at least eight items, the wide variety of flavors was amazing, and very healthy too.
We started with Kado Borani, which translated means roasted butternut squash topped with garlic sour cream and dried mint, healthy and cooked to perfection.
Kado Borani, aka Butternut Squash
We tried a half order of both zucchini and leek Bolani, little pastries (well, not so little, it was actually quite large for a half order!) filled with sautéed zucchini and leek with great homemade cilantro chutney, and more yogurt.
Afghani Bolani and Chutney
Feeling adventurous, we opted for a third appetizer, the Mantu, pasta filled with ground beef, onions, garlic and spices topped with a vegetable sauce, garlic sour cream and dried mint. An order of Afghan bread comes with almost every dish, it was light as a hotel pillow, and more than we could ever finish.
Mantu and Afghan Bread
We split the Triple Kabob, Murge, Teka and Chaplee – aka -chicken, beef and a grilled ground sirloin patty mixed with scallions, crushed red pepper and plenty of spices. The meats are soaked in homemade, full-o-flavor marinade, and were moist, tender and delicious. At this point along the journey, I decided that I would like to be adopted by the Afghani family that owns the restaurant, I want to eat like this every day!
Triple Kabob, Murge, Teka and Chaplee
All of the Kabobs are served with Afghan rice or potato salad, we tried both of course! The brown Afghan rice was actually a white basmati seasoned with a variety of spices and onions, and the Shornakhod, or in English, Afghan Potato Salad, was not your average American mayonnaisy potato salad, but an uncommonly light, vinegary, fresh potato salad with garbanzo beans and chili flakes.
Shornakhod, i.e. Afghan Potato Salad
At this point, there was absolutely no room left for dessert, we had a big box of leftovers to go, but according to the 5-star yelp reviews, next time, I’m leaving room for the Sheer Yakh Jhala (i.e. ice cream) and Baklava!
Once you’ve tasted your way through Afghanistan, now it’s time to dig out your passport and cross the border into Mexico. You can find a Mexican restaurant on almost every block of downtown Livermore: Casa Orozco for Shrimp Cocktail Veracruz, Anita’s Veggie Burrito is my favorite choice on the menu at Anita’s Mexican Restaurant, in my opinion El Charro has the best Sope in town, feast on Tequila’s Taqueria’s huge Burrito de Camarones, drop in on Los Caporales for breakfast with Chorizo and Eggs or a hot bowl of Pozole, or for an “uptown” flavor of Guadalajara visit El Sacromonte for their housemade Sangrita Tequila chaser (along with a laundry list of tequilas) and “Comala” Stuffed Avocado.
Book your passage to the Mediterranean by way of Casbah Mediterranean Kitchen for Baba Ganuch (I just like to say that!) or Shawarama, plus, they have belly dancers! Or imagine the blue waters and islands of Greece while dining at Demitri’s Taverna, where they launch your trip with Skordalia, onto Moussaka, and end with the family’s Baklava. Hop the gondola to Italy by way of Bruno’s Italian Cuisine with a plate of Linguini Frutti di Mare or their thin crust Pizza; or peddle over to the French Casse-Croûte Bakery for fresh baked crusty baguette or Croissants et Chocolatines, Merci beaucoup!
Since we can’t have a home-cooked tiffin lunch delivered to our office by a dabbawala, add some Indian spice to your life by visiting Sansar’s lunch buffet for their Chicken Tikka Masala with a cold bottle of Taj Indian beer or enjoy India Clay Oven’s warm Naan, Parantha or Tandoori. Trek to “The Land of the Rising Sun” at Kawa Sushi for their soul warming Miso, Spicy Spider or Unagi; other stops along the Japanese coastline include Yamota Hibachi Express for tender Hibachi, or steaming Udon at Roppongi Sushi. You can then head east on the Indochina Peninsula to the Saigon Café and enjoy a steaming bowl of Shrimp Pho or crunchy Clay Pot; get your Bibim Bab fix at Korea BBQ & Tofu; feast on the fresh herbs and teas from the Kingdom of Thailand at Lemon Grass with their Pad Thai and Kao-Pad-Goong or up the block to the modern Star Anise for Roti Paratha, where they will treat you like the King of Siam! Travel the Silk Road into China for Chow Mein at the Yin Yin, Lo’s China Bistro for a Sizzling Platter or Uncle Yu’s for Classic Peking Duck with Bao.
Happy trails to you, and Bon Voyage! Nancy