Back in March when I was writing the story on Afghan cuisine in Islamabad for TASTE, I interviewed Ehsan, an Afghan university student who talked about how much he missed Ash, “Afghan spaghetti” as he called it. I had never heard about this dish before and so was excited when Nur offered to make it as part of the lavish Afghan lunch she prepared for me (see first post here).
Even though Ehsan referred to the dish as ‘spaghetti’, Ash also spelled ‘Aush’, is a thick soup that features special flat wheat noodles. While the recipe below is Afghan, Ash is part Iranian, Azerbaijani, Caucasian and Turkish. In Iran, it’s referred to as “Asheh Reshteh”, and is prepared on the eve of Nowruz, the Persian new year.
Ash can be prepared with or without meat, and is typically served with whey or in Iran, kashk. The recipe below uses sour yogurt flavored with crushed garlic . Nur also used regular spaghetti to make it but throughout the afternoon, her mother, Riffat kept shaking her head, reminding us that the entire flavor of ash is supposed to come from hand made wheat noodles. I have heard that you can find them in the US at specialty stores. When I made it at home, I grabbed a packet of whole wheat noodles from Whole Foods and hoped that it would come close, well somewhat anyway.
The recipes for ash vary in sequencing to ingredients to the tempering. Broadly however, it appears that ash nearly always comprises of wheat noodles, beans, some greens and served alongside yogurt or whey. It’s a filling, heartwarming dish that is best enjoyed when the weather begins to cool. Hope you’ll give it a try.
Serves 8 - 10
Qeema (Ground Beef)
1/2 cup of olive oil
1 ½ medium yellow onion, cut in half rings
Salt to taste
1 tbsp red chili powder (I use Kashmiri)
½ tbsp turmeric powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
4-5 roma tomatoes
½ lb. ground beef
½ cup of olive oil
Salt to taste
½ lb whole wheat noodles or spaghetti
2 tsp dried dill
1 ½ tsp dried mint
2 cup red kidney beans, boiled
2 cup of red garbanzo beans, boiled
2 big spring onion, sliced crosswise
1 bushel of spinach, chopped
2 Thai green chiles, chopped
1 tbsp ginger powder
1 tbsp garlic powder
3 cups of sour yogurt or whey
½ cup of oil
1 tbsp of crushed garlic
1 tsp of red chili powder
Heat oil and brown onions on medium low heat for 7 – 10 minutes. Add spices and stir for a few seconds. Add a splash of water to deglaze the pan if needed. Add tomatoes and fry till they soften. Add ground beef, approximately ½ cup of water and let it cook on medium to low heat for 45 minutes.
Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Add salt, oil, noodles, mint, dill, chopped spring onion and spinach. Once the broth begins to simmer, add green chilies, red beans and garbanzo beans. After 5 minutes, add the ground beef, and ginger and garlic powder.
While the beef cooks in the broth, whisk 3 cups of sour yogurt and add a tsp of garlic in a deep serving dish.
Strain the noodles with a slotted spoon and begin to add them to the yogurt. Top with the broth.
Once done, get the tempering ready. Heat ½ cup of oil and fry crushed garlic and red chili powder for a few seconds. Pour it over the soup. Sprinkle with dried mint.
Cooking Notes: Check for salt as you go along!
If you can't find sour yogurt, just use whole milk yogurt. If not, Andy Baraghani from Bon Appetit recommends using thinned Greek yogurt with buttermilk.