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Yum Afghan – flavour of a new culinary world

Rich in subtlety, this takeaway and restaurant in Finsbury Park has a growing reputation for quality

15 September, 2017 — By Tom Moggach

‘Every Afghan I know orders the Kabuli Pilau and Mantu’

Even in a global city like London, some cuisines are hard to find. Filipino food, which was the focus of last week’s review, is one example. Afghani cooking is another – until a trip to Seven Sisters Road.

A reader suggested Yum Afghan, a take-away and restaurant near Finsbury Park Station. Run by chef Gul and his extended family, it offers an intriguing journey to a part of the world new to me.

Afghani cuisine is rich in subtlety. Spices and herbs are used with restraint. Chilli is rarely added. The aim is to let the flavour of each ingredient sing.

“It’s the process – all the time in the process, step by step,” explains chef Gul, describing the elaborate stages involved in cooking rice for Kabuli Pilau. He only uses cinnamon, curry leaf and cumin in this signature dish – carefully chosen to add aroma and colour but not impair the flavour. Kebabs are seasoned simply with a sprinkle of sumac, the dried berry with a lovely tart tang.

From the street, Yum Afghan looks like your everyday kebab shop, with UberEATS delivery drivers flitting in and out. But look carefully and you’ll spot the tandoor oven – used to make the special Afghan flatbreads. We took a table at the back. To one side, a group of men sat cross-legged on a raised area of deep red carpet and cushions.

“Every Afghan I know orders the Kabuli Pilau and Mantu,” says Abdul, the charming young man who served us.

His family is from the Kandahar province, but he grew up here in north London.
We obediently ordered the same. Kabuli Pilau (pictured) is a handsome dish of aromatic rice, spiked with raisins and carrot ribbons, served with tender lamb shank.

Mantu are a type of steamed dumpling. They offer two versions: one filled with leeks and herbs, served with a garlicky yoghurt and tomato sauce; the other stars mince and onions and is slathered in lentils, more yoghurt and dried herbs.
We shared the latter – a real eye-opener. The dumplings have a lovely firm bite; the varied textures of the dish make it wildly moreish.

Other items on the Yum Afghan menu include starters of hummus, baba ghonoosh and a salads. Mains include kebabs from the charcoal grill, sea bass and salmon. They don’t serve alcohol. I tried the “Ayrna”, which is a refreshing drink of watered-down yoghurt with a pinch of salt.

Prices are highly reasonable. It is quite possible to eat well for less than a tenner.
You can see why this business – less than a year old – has a growing reputation.
As one online review states: “The level of ambition of this clean, stylish Afghan restaurant is a level above that of other kebab shops in the area.”

Abdul, who served us, offers a similar stamp of approval. Apparently a posse of local pizza delivery drivers pop in to refuel. “They just love the food.”

Yum Afghan
181 Seven Sisters Road, N4
020 7263 9062
www.yumafghangrill.co.uk

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