A Visit to Afghanistan for Tasty Aushak!
Updated: Aug 9
I remember learning about Aushak for the first time years ago when Ruth Reichl, a former New York Times food critic, wrote about this dish. I was so excited because this dish contained all of my favorite things: dumplings, lamb, and yogurt. I recall working in the kitchen with my father, forming the dumplings, eager to try a dish so foreign to me. That night my parents and I joyfully ate this fabulous combination.
Aushak is a dish of scallion filled dumplings topped with a seasoned meat sauce and garlicky yogurt. It can be time-consuming to make all the dumplings, but this is a great activity to do with others and share the workload. You can also make these ahead and freeze them until you are ready to use. If you want authentic Aushak, then the labor of making your dumpling dough would add to prep time, but purchasing wonton wrappers from the store is a great substitution. Wonton wrappers are thin and delicate. When boiled, the dumplings drape over their sauce, giving a lovely texture and aesthetic.
For the meat sauce
2 TBSP butter
20 scallions, white parts only, sliced thin
2 clove garlic, minced
¼ inch ginger, minced
1 lb ground lamb or beef
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp paprika
¼ cup tomato paste
1 cup water
For the yogurt
1 cup plain yogurt
2 cloves garlic, grated on a microplane
1 TBSP mint, sliced thin
For the dumplings
1 package wonton wrappers, square or circular
20 scallions, green parts only, sliced thin
½ tsp red pepper flakes
For the meat sauce
Heat a wide-bottomed pan on medium heat. Add the butter. When the butter has melted, add the scallion whites, garlic, ginger, and a few pinches of salt. Saute for 3-4 minutes until tender and fragrant. Add the ground meat. Use the back of a wooden spoon to break up the meat then add the ground cumin, coriander, and paprika. Pour off any excess fat, if necessary. Stirring well to coat the meat with the spices, add the tomato paste. Cook the tomato paste for a few minutes, it will start to toast lightly. The color will change from a deep red to a rusty orange-like color. Pour in the water; use your spoon to scrape up any crusty bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Season with salt and fresh cracked pepper. Bring the mixture up to a boil then turn the heat down to simmer on medium-low for 15 minutes.
For the yogurt sauce
Combine ingredients well in a bowl.
For the dumplings
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Combine the scallion greens, red pepper flake, and salt in a bowl. Lay a wonton wrapper, oriented like a diamond, on a clean work surface. Place a spoonful of the scallions just off-center. Paint the outside edges of the wrapper with water then fold the wrapper in half to create a triangle shape. Be sure to seal the edges well. Set dumpling on a sheet tray and repeat until you have used all of your scallion mixture.
Lower the dumplings into the boiling water. Lower the heat under the pot a little, so the water is gently agitating the dumplings (a rolling boil could tear them). Cook for 2-3 minutes until the dumpling wrapper is soft and is cooked through.
While the dumplings are cooking, spread some meat sauce on the base of a large platter. Place the cooked dumplings on top of the sauce then add a little more meat sauce followed by the yogurt sauce. Enjoy!
Chef Liza Greifinger
Your Guide to Our Culinary Trip Around the World
Growing up in New York, surrounded by the flavors of the world, Liza developed a love for food and cooking. After a fulfilling career in outdoor education, she decided to explore her passion for food. Liza studied at The French Culinary Institute and then trained with some of the top chefs in New York City before being drawn to the mountains of Colorado. She joined the team at Food Lab, in Boulder, in the spring of 2016. There she teaches cooking skills and technique to all ages as well as curriculum development for the educational programs.