Helmand - Chicago
One of the big advantages of living in, or visiting, Chicago, is that the diverse population means there will be restaurants that serve food many of us have never had before: Helmand serves the food of Afghanistan, which is not well-known in the U.S. Though many of us are not familiar with the food of Afghanistan, you will recognize many favorites of Mediterranean cuisine on the menu.
Some of the more familiar menu items include hummus (the ever-popular mashed chickpeas), baba ganouj (mashed and spiced eggplant), and tabouli (chopped parsley, tomato, scallions and fresh mint, olive oil and lemon). You will find something you know and like on the menu, but there are some other dishes that will intrigue the more adventurous eater.
Many of the lesser known foods are vegetarian and reflect Mediterranean influence in preparations like sabzee (spinach sauteed with garlic and onion, seasoned with a special spice blend), kadu (sweet baby pumpkin cooked with honey and onions, topped with yogurt-mint sauce) and aash soup (red kidney berans, chickpeas, noodles cilantro, yogurt and garlic).
Meat eaters need not despair: there are many carnivore-pleasing options on the menu, including the familiar chicken wings but also barg (filet kabob, grilled and seasoned with signature herbs and spices, served with rice, grilled tomato and onions); jouieh koubideh (ground chicken with herbs and spices) and Afghan seekh kabob (six skewers of minced lamb, shaped into juicy kabobs and served with naan).
The dessert menu offers some tantalizing after-dinner treats, like the ever-popular baklava, as well as firnee (cardamon-infused Afghan pudding); jalebi (a crisp and juicy spiral of baked dough, drizzled with syrup), and Afghan cream roll (light and crisp, cream-filled pastry horns).
No alcohol is served at Helmand, but with your meal you can sip the usual sodas, but also pomegranate juice, a traditional yogurt drink, chai (a blend of tea and milk) and a range of teas.
You're not going to find the food of Afghanistan in many places in the U.S., so while in Chicago, check out this traditional cuisine that will offer new flavors, new preparations, and an adventure in eating.