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.
Ash (Afghan Noodle Soup)
Qeema (Ground Beef)
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 ½ medium yellow onion cut in half rings
- Salt to taste
- 1 tsp red chili powder I use Kashmiri
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 4 roma tomatoes
- ½ lb ground beef
- ½ cup 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 or from a can
- 2 cup red garbanzo beans boiled or from a can
- 2 spring onion sliced crosswise
- 1 bushel of spinach chopped
- 2 green chiles chopped
- 1 tbsp ginger powder
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 3 cups sour yogurt
- 1 tsp crushed garlic optional
- ½ cup canola vegetable or sunflower oil
- 1 tbsp crushed garlic
- 1 tsp red chili powder
- Begin by preparing the qeema. Heat oil and brown onions on medium-low heat for 10 minutes. Add spices listed under qeema (red chili powder, turmeric powder, cumin and coriander powder and stir for a few seconds. Add a splash of water to deglaze the pan if needed.
- Add tomatoes and fry on high heat till they soften, about 7 minutes.
- Add ground beef, salt, approximately ½ cup of water and let it cook on medium to low heat for 45 minutes.
- To prepare the soup, 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 qeema (ground beef) prepared earlier, and ginger and garlic powder, and let it simmer on low heat for a couple of minutes.
- While the beef cooks in the broth, whisk 3 cups of sour yogurt and add a tsp of garlic (if using) in a deep serving dish.
- Once the noodles are done, strain them with a slotted spoon and begin to add them to the yogurt. Top with broth and set aside.
- Begin to 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.