Sunday, 13 April 2008


20 Cricklewood Lane
020 8450 0400

So, the plan is to eat every cuisine in the world without leaving London. Due to a seemingly impassable obstacle called Andorra, I've decided against doing this alphabetically, but I'm starting with Afghan food and, perhaps around 2044, I'll end with dovi, the national dish of Zimbabwe. At the start of a great global adventure, I thought it apt to eat my first meal at the end of my road, at a fast-food joint opposite Cricklewood rail station.

Most people visit Khorasan for the pizza. We went for the pasta. Pizza is not an Afghan dish. But pasta, quite unexpectedly, is. OK, so the aashak (ravioli dumplings stuffed with chopped leeks) may not have been perfectly al dente, but it was still delicious; fresh and zesty, covered in yoghurt, garlic and lentil sauce. It's believed Marco Polo introduced pasta to the Afghans as he returned along the Silk Road from China to Italy. Good on him.

My friend and I tried to think of other countries in the region that eat pasta. The Iranians and Pakistanis eat quite different versions of falooda, although that's made with rice vermicelli, while in several of the Stans they love a bit of dumpling with their dinner. The other Afghan pasta dish on the menu, mantoo, sounds a lot like mandoo, a Chinese stuffed steamed bun and the Korean word for pasta dumplings. I'd love to get more etymological, but all I could find of Wikipedia was a dubious claim that mantoo is originally an Uzbek dish.

The other Afghan cuisine at Khorasan is the sort that makes the Taliban such a resilient enemy, a mishmash of Pakistani, Indian, Arabic and Persian food; hearty, calorific sustenance for mountain people and guerrilla fighters. Our qabeli pilau, saffron rice with carrots, raisins and a leg of lamb, was delicious.

Two-thirds of Khorasan's menu is taken up by pizzas, burgers and kebabs, so the Afghan staff perhaps get few opportunities to prepare their own food. They looked flustered when we tried to order borani banjan (baby aubergine and yoghurt dip); it seems they didn't have the ingredients.

Decor is limited to a few Qu'ranic inscriptions on the walls, and the TV is often set to the Islam Channel, which delighted my devout Muslim friend but irritated the woman sitting next to us waiting for EastEnders to start. The atmosphere is not exactly electric, but Khorasan's a good bet for authentic, straightforward Afghan food.