Book Size: 7.5” x 9.5”

Pages: 256

Format: Hardback

ISBN: 9781623718756

Imprint: Interlink Books

Edition: 1

Illustrations: full-color photography

Release date: September 2020

Categories: ,


Recipes and Stories from an Afghan Kitchen


$ 35

“Luscious … and quite irresistible … When you have your country taken away from you, home has to reside in family and food … But Parwana is more than an elegy, it is a celebration: the recipes in it bulge with color and flavor and life. It’s as rewarding to cook from as to read ….” — Nigella Lawson, Nigella’s Cookbook Corner

About this book

Authentic Afghan recipes with family narratives and stunning photography

Parwana tells one family’s story of a region long afflicted by war, but with much more at its heart. Author Durkhanai Ayubi’s parents, Zelmai and Farida Ayubi, fled Afghanistan with their young family in 1987, at the height of the Cold War. When their family-run restaurant Parwana opened its doors in Adelaide, Australia in 2009, their vision was to share an authentic piece of the Afghanistan the family had left behind—a country rich in culture, family memories infused with Afghanistan’s traditions of generosity and hospitality.

These recipes have been in the family for generations and include rice dishes, curries, meats, dumplings, Afghan pastas, sweets, drinks, chutneys and pickles, soups and breads. Some are celebratory special dishes while most are day to day dishes. Each has a story to tell.

With beautiful food and location photography, this compilation offers valuable insights into the origins and heritage of Afghan cuisine and a fresh perspective to one of the oldest civilizations.

• Authentic recipes from an Afghan kitchen.

• Inspiration and ideas for special and everyday dishes, combined with stories about the ritual and significance of Afghan ingredients and recipes.

• A vivid and enriching story about how food connects people and communities, showing how food anchors us to our ancestry and can also be a bridge that connects us to people with very different experiences of life.

• With more than 65 million refugees, asylum seekers or displaced people worldwide, there is a poignant universality in this story, regardless of where in the world the story starts and ends.

• Approximately 100 recipes that have been in the family for generations, especially adapted for the home cook.

• Breathtakingly beautiful food photography and family photos.


About the author

Durkhanai Ayubi is a freelance food writer and restaurateur involved with the day-to-day responsibilities of two family-run eating places: Parwana and Kutchi Deli Parwana. She has written for a number of international newspapers and websites and is currently undertaking a Fellowship for Social Equity funded by the Atlantic Institute in New York. She is the daughter of Afghani refugees Zelmai and Farida Ayubi who settled in Australia to raise their family. She tells the family story from her perspective, channeling her mother and father’s memories and recipes. Parwana is her first book.


“I’ve been longing to visit Parwana Afghan Kitchen in Adelaide, Australia, since ex-L.A. Weekly restaurant critic Besha Rodell wrote about it for her Australian Fare column in the New York Times in March 2018. The restaurant’s cookbook — written by Durkhanai Ayubi, who runs the restaurant with her mother, Farida Ayubi, father, Zelmai Ayubi, and four sisters — conveys far more than escapist fantasies during a pandemic. Narratives between recipes and evocative photos detail centuries of Afghan customs and, more urgently, the modern political crises that led the Ayubi family to flee Afghanistan to Pakistan and ultimately to migrate to Australia. Farida Ayubi’s recipes for jeweled rice dishes, herbed kabobs, mantu (dumplings bathed in yogurt and tomato sauces) and gently spiced sweets exist as remembrances and acts of preservation. ‘Parwana [the word is Farsi for ‘butterfly’] is underpinned by my mother’s vision — her belief that through her knowledge of the art of Afghan food, gifted to her from her mother and her foremothers, she had been entrusted with a treasure of old, a symbol of Afghanistan’s monumental and culturally interwoven past.’” — Los Angeles Times, The 11 Best New Food Books to Add to Your Collection

“I believe fervently that cookbooks have to be more than just compilations of recipes. (But then, I also believe that a recipe in itself tells a story, so I’m certainly not meaning to disparage the notion of the recipe, but there’s no need to get into that now!) Social history is conveyed vitally through food, as is, so crucially, emotional resonance. Parwana tells many stories: of the flight of a family from Afghanistan to Australia; the setting up of a restaurant in Adelaide; of the troubled history of the Afghani people; of the flavors and dishes that give a vital sense of belonging. When you have your country taken away from you, home has to reside in family and food. This is the refugee experience, but it is—though less painfully, of course—to a certain extent true of all of us, I think. But Parwana is more than an elegy, it is a celebration: the recipes in it bulge with color and flavor and life. It’s as rewarding to cook from as to read, and there is so much I do want to cook: the luscious dumplings, Mantu; chicken kebab on flatbread (Kebabeh Degee Morgh); sticky rice with lamb (Sholeh Gosht), Cream Rolls and all the flatbreads. Indeed, it’s a flatbread recipe I bring you now, the Bolani, hand-rolled and stuffed, and quite irresistible.” — Nigella Lawson, Nigella’s Cookbook Corner

“Afghan cookbooks are scarce in the United States and, despite two decades of U.S. military engagement in Afghanistan, Americans know little about the country’s food or proud history. Ayubi fled Afghanistan as a child and re-settled in Australia, where her family opened two successful restaurants. Food anchored her to the traditions and rich history of her homeland. Now, she writes to help others see Afghanistan as more than a war-torn country. As in Kochai Farhad’s Simply Afghan, there are family stories here. But uniquely, each chapter begins with an eye-opening history lesson followed by clear recipes built around a theme. Farhad explains why ingredients and techniques will seem familiar and gives insight into the generous spirit of the people. Aesthetically pleasing, the book includes bits of poetry, charming, Farsi handwriting, and vibrant photos of food and family. It is indexed, but browsers will appreciate the descriptive English recipe titles in the page corners. VERDICT This book is recommended for anyone interested in delicious recipes as well as those curious about Afghanistan’s history.” —Library Journal

“Parwana stole my heart.” — Diana Henry, The Daily Telegraph (20 best cookbooks to buy this Autumn, chosen by Diana Henry)

“A fragrant feast from an Afghan kitchen Durkhanai Ayubi’s new cookbook shares recipes from her family’s traditional Afghan restaurant … Its pages are an antidote to such images, picturing rice dishes studded with jewel-like fruit, rich meat curries and golden dahl, and sweets dusted with sugar so delicate they could float off the paper … [Parwana] will bring beauty to any kitchen around the world.” — The Sunday Telegraph

“Interspersed between recipes are stories of the Silk Road, the Mughal Empire, and the Great Game, which illustrate how because of trade, plunder, and cultural exchange, Afghan cuisine is both beloved and recognizable. The book walks through classics like kabuli palaw, shaami kebab, and falooda (all of which, unlike so many restaurant dishes adapted to cookbooks, are incredibly achievable for the home cook) and demonstrate how Afghan cuisine both influenced and was influenced by nearly all of Asia. No matter what cuisine you’re most used to cooking, you’ll find a recipe, or even just a flavor, that feels familiar here.” —Eater (Best New Cookbooks of Fall 2020)

Parwana the cookbook, written by Durkhanai Ayubi, the daughter of the two restaurant founders, shares some of the restaurant’s most beloved recipes as well as the story of Afghanistan’s layered cultural identity, throughout. ‘Our world today is held captive by the firmly ingrained idea of an irreconcilable schism between East and West, but somewhere beyond this reduced narrative lies a rich and intertwined history,’ explains Ayubi. My eye went to the lamb kofta dumplings glossed with garlicky yogurt sauce, and half a dozen or so preparations of rice, including a simple white challaw perfumed by cardamom pods and cumin, and an elaborate kabuli palaw studded with carrots, plump golden raisins, and slivered nuts. Throughout, indicators of well-traversed trade routes and immigration pop up, as in the recipe for jalebi, the crystalline, syrup-filled sweets that many South Asian kids will remember from their childhoods, too. Each recipe includes clear-eyed instructions and notes on the dish’s origins—and some of the most enticing and colorful food photography of the season.” — (Best New Cookbooks Fall 2020)   

“Restaurateur Ayubi’s Afghani relatives fled their native country to settle in Adelaide, Australia, supporting themselves via their restaurant Parwana (“butterfly”) and, later, a deli. Ayubi begins the book with a narrative of the Afghan nation, its domination by the Brits, Russians, and others; the violence there; and the peoples displaced. Into these skillfully told stories, Ayubi weaves the cross-pollinating of foods, culture, and recipes there. Many of the 90-plus dishes here will be recognized by global eaters: kebabs, naan flatbread, curry, halwah, and other foods. Other dishes will intrigue: a chutney without traditional sweetness, three different categories of rice, and street-wise traditions like stuffed flatbreads and dumplings. Elegant and personal color photographs expand each recipe’s presentation, with occasional step-by-step directions accompanying more difficult items like breads. This is an homage to the strength and spirit of refugees, as well as a delicious reminder of what adventurous U.S. cooks can create.” — Booklist, Starred Review

“Daughter-mother duo Durkhanai and Farida Ayubi intertwine history and food, and the personal and political, in this rich collection of Afghan recipes. “Of the millions of families displaced, mine was one,” she says of their flight in 1985 from Afghanistan, when “the aura of the nation had been scrambled.” Tying together the threads of their journey (they now own two restaurants in Australia) are family photos and an enticing array of dishes pictured in bold colors, with their recipes. Ayubi’s maternal grandfather cooked spicy coriander-scented lamb kebabs “over hot coals in the garden” to celebrate Eid, the end of Ramadan; intricate steamed dumplings (mantu) filled with cabbage and carrots and topped with tomato and lamb sauce capture “cross-cultural pollination” along the Silk Road. Recipes are loosely organized by theme; for example, the final chapter covers the author’s return to Afghanistan in 2012 and features foods said to represent the “bridging” of influences. Overall, the dishes, which include sweets such as semolina halwah with nuts, are traditional in flavor, but Ayubi doesn’t shy from modernity: many, such as one for the Afghan national dish Kabuli palaw, a platter of rice with chunks of lamb “buried beneath,” suggest using a pressure cooker for convenience. Parwana—the name of the family’s first restaurant—is Parsi for “butterfly,” and Ayubi’s family’s story is one of metamorphosis, elegantly told and deliciously accompanied.” — Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“Parwana is a multigenerational affair, and dining there mimics the boisterous energy of visiting a large family’s home … Rice is central … and it may be Farida Ayubi’s greatest gift to the universe. It is not often that a dish as common as rice will knock me off my dinner chair, but the aged, long-grain narej palaw at Parwana left me agog. Shot through with slivered almonds, pistachios and a restrained amount of candied orange zest, its main attribute was the toasty fragrance of the rice itself—the other ingredients acted only as brilliant supporting characters. I couldn’t keep myself from repeatedly bending over to inhale the steam rising from the platter, so much so that I started to make my table mates anxious. To hell with decorum: If someone made a perfume that accurately evoked the rice at Parwana, I would bathe in the stuff.” —Besha Rodell, The New York Times


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