Our take on Aushak (Afghan dumplings) makes for an impressive starter or main meal that will satisfy vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. These Afghan vegetarian dumplings are filled with sauteed leeks and spring onions then topped with a more-ish garlic yogurt sauce and a tomato-y mince (which in our version, we make from lentils and walnuts)!
First of all, welcome to our culinary journey! Over the course of the next year, we are undertaking the challenge of cooking a dish inspired by every country in the world, in alphabetical order.
That’s 196 dishes in 365 days. Someone. Send. Help.
Although we are not the first to undertake a country-by-country cooking challenge, we believe that we may just be the first to do this whilst cooking everything entirely vegetarian. We are on a mission to (hopefully) prove that it is possible to enjoy cuisines from around the world, whether or not you eat meat.
Hopefully, our blog can act as a useful resource for discovering the best vegetarian dishes from every country around the world. We will also be giving a ranking out of 5 on how vegetarian-friendly each cuisine is, with a 0 meaning that you’ll probably starve if you don’t eat meat, and 5 meaning that you’ll be eating like a king.
Country Number 1: Afghanistan
The first country up was… Afghanistan! Thankfully, Afghan cuisine is something we are marginally familiar with. And by marginally, we mean we’ve tried it once before.
Our first encounter with Afghani food happened to be just down the road from where we used to live. Although we had been to our local shops a million times, it took us about a year before we noticed the unassuming Afghani restaurant situated out the front. After a quick search to see this place got raving reviews, we kicked ourselves for not noticing this place sooner. As such, we headed there for dinner and were pleasantly surprised by the delicious food we were presented with.
Popular Afghan Vegetarian Dishes
Whilst a lot of traditional Afghan dishes are meat-focused, there are still more than enough delicious Afghan vegetarian options to satisfy. What we noticed during our first experience with Afghan food was that almost everything comes topped with more-ish garlic yogurt and a lightly-spiced tomato sauce. It is interesting to see the same flavours repeated across so many dishes, but as we have come to learn, this repetition makes preparing a Afghan feast a lot simpler!
Here are a few of Afghanistan’s popular vegetarian dishes, all of which we cooked up for the first feast of our cooking challenge!
- Kadoo– sauteed pumpkin with tomato and yogurt sauce
- Borani Banjan– grilled eggplant with tomato and yogurt sauce
- Aushak– vegetarian dumplings stuffed with leeks or chives, topped with, you guessed it, tomato and yogurt sauce
- Afghan Naan Bread– traditional flatbread served with most meals
- Kabuli Pulao- a spiced pilaf mixed with carrot, dried fruit and nuts (traditionally served with lamb but we made a vegetarian version)
Vegetarian rating of Afghan Cuisine:
Making Afghan Vegetarian Dumplings (Aushak)
Of all the dishes we cooked in our Afghan feast, the Aushak definitely came out on top. The leek and spring onion filling of these vegetarian dumplings may be simple, but it is perfectly complemented by the fragrant and hearty tomato-based mince combined with a refreshing yogurt sauce spiked with garlic and fresh mint.
Generally, Aushak comes filled with either chives or leeks, and are traditionally topped with lamb mince. We decided to make our vegetarian version with mince made from lentils and walnuts in order to maintain a hearty texture.
What you’ll need to make dumplings
There are three different elements to this recipe- the dumplings filled with a leek and spring onion mixture, a tomato-based mince made with lentils and walnuts, and a garlic mint yogurt sauce. Start by gathering together the ingredients for each element:
- Fresh produce– 3 leeks, a bunch of spring onions, 8 garlic cloves, coriander (optional), and fresh mint (sub for dried mint)
- Pantry staples– a tin of lentils, a tin of tomatoes, and some walnuts
- Refrigerated items– plain unsweetened yogurt and pre-made dumpling wrappers (feel free to make from scratch if you are so inclined!)
Making the dumplings vegan
Everything in this dumpling recipe is already vegan, the only thing you need to substitute is plain yogurt for unsweetened coconut yogurt in the sauce!
Steps to making the dumplings
Although these Afghan vegetarian dumplings have a few different elements to them, they are actually really simple to make! Following these steps in order will ensure you have all the elements of the dish ready to serve at the right time.
- Sautee leek and spring onion mixture
- Assemble the dumplings and put in the fridge
- Mix together yogurt sauce and put in the fridge
- Pulse up toasted walnuts and lentils
- Sauteed mince mixture, add in tomatoes and simmer
- Cook the dumplings
- Top dumplings with mince mixture + yogurt sauce and serve!
Servings Suggestions for Aushak
These Afghan vegetarian dumplings work great as a standalone meal! Otherwise, you can serve them as part of an Afghan feast like we did, with other dishes such as kadoo (sauteed pumpkin), borani banjan (grilled eggplant), Afghan naan bread and pilaf.
Afghan Vegetarian Dumplings (Aushak)
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 3 leeks
- 5 spring onions (save green parts for garnish)
- 2 garlic cloves (minced)
- 1/2 cup vegetable stock
- salt & pepper (to taste)
- 1/4 cup coriander (chopped)
- 1 pack dumpling wrappers (50-60)
- 1 cup plain yogurt (sub for coconut yogurt if vegan)
- 1 garlic clove (minced)
- 1 tbsp fresh mint (chopped)
- Salt & pepper (to taste )
Lentil Walnut Mince
- 1 cup walnuts
- 1 tin brown lentils
- 2 tsp oil
- 1 onion (finely diced)
- 4 garlic cloves (minced)
- 1 tsp coriander seeds (sub for ground)
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (omit if spice-sensitive)
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tin crushed tomatoes
- 1/4 water to thin
- salt & pepper (to taste)
- Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add chopped leeks, spring onions and garlic and sauté for about 7 minutes or until leeks are turning soft.
- Add in vegetable stock and simmer for another 7 minutes, stirring often. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.
- Prepare a lined baking tray and a small bowl of water on bench.
- Spoon 1/2 tablespoon leek mixture into dumpling wrapper.
- Dip finger in bowl of water and wet edges of wrapper, then fold in half to form a semi-circle.Pinch edges to seal dumpling, removing all air. If you like, you can perforate the edges of the dumpling wrapper with a fork.
- Put onto baking tray and continue until you've made all the dumplings. Cover and refrigerate until you are ready to cook.
Make Yogurt Sauce
- Mix together yoghurt, mint, garlic and season with salt and pepper. Set aside in the fridge until serving.
Make Lentil Walnut Mince
- Pre-heat oven to 175˚C (350˚F). Toast walnuts in oven for 10 minutes or until brown.
- Put toasted walnuts and lentils in food processor and pulse until combined (you still want to retain texture so don’t over-pulse the mixture).
- Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat.
- Add onion and sauté for 5 minutes or until translucent. Add garlic, coriander seeds, cayenne pepper (if using), salt and pepper. Fry for a few more minutes, until fragrant.
- Add lentil-walnut mixture and saute for another 5 minutes, until browned.
- Finally, add in tin of tomatoes and 1/4 cup of water cook for 10 minutes or until juices have been absorbed.
Cook Dumplings & Serve
- Bring a large pot of water to salted boil then lower to a simmer.
- Carefully lower dumplings in batches into water, making sure not to overcrowd pot. Simmer for 4 minutes or until wrappers turn translucent.
- To serve, top dumplings with lentil walnut mince, yogurt sauce, chopped spring onions, coriander and sprinkle of paprika.
Did you make this recipe? We’d love to know! Tell us how it went in the comments below or tag us (@gourmetvegetarians) in your photos on Instagram.
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