On your right as you walk into Azeen’s Afghani Restaurant in Pasadena, a tapestry weaves a scene of Bushkazi, Afghanistan’s national sport, a sort of polo played with a decapitated goat carcass. On the wall on your left, a photograph shows players on their galloping mounts. (You can’t see the goat draped over a horse’s withers — a good thing for diners at the table beside the print.)
My dining companion on my first trip to Azeen’s had spent some time in war-time Afghanistan and had memories of a Bushkazi match, and of eating goat, though he assured me the goat on his plate was not the goat from the match. But on Azeen’s menu, we discovered a distinct lack of goat. What we found instead was a sophisticated sampling of Afghanistan’s cuisine, which shares many spices of Indian cooking — saffron, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and coriander — and meat-cooking methods of Persia.