The very first Afghan restaurant in Canada is The Afghan Horsemen. The Afghan Horsemen originally located on West Broadway and Cambie in 1974, moved to its current location almost eight years ago.
This is truly a Vancouver landmark that proudly displays the same sign since its inception. Afghanistan has been central to our news since 9/11, but you might not think of its cuisine. For a taste of Afghanistan, head to The Afghan Horsemen as you will not be disappointed. In addition to the authentic Afghan cuisine you can further your experience by sitting on the floor on comfortable pillows and cushions.
Given this restaurant and cuisine have been in business for forty consecutive years, they must be doing something right. The manager, Seyer Najiv, confirmed their chef is from Afghanistan and the restaurant has the same owners who originated from the old country.
The recipes are Afghani and many of the dishes are authentic to this cuisine. Given the challenges of interesting potential customers in Afghani food, they have managed to provide a menu that offers some fusion with western tastes. Seyer describes Afghani food as being similar to Greek, Turkish, Persian and Indian cuisines. That covers a lot of territory, but the food is not spicy.
This cuisine and menu offers many choices for meat eaters and vegetarians alike. A number of the dishes are seasoned with cardamom, cinnamon, saffron and garlic. Their extensive menu can be described as gourmet Afghani cuisine as the dishes are not typical street food. All the necessary seasonings, herbs and ingredients are imported to ensure an authentic experience.
Try their non-alcoholic drink Dough. A yogurt drink with mint flakes and salt. You can request a sampler to ensure you will like the very unique taste. The mint provides a refreshing flavour and there is some saltiness. This is not a sweet drink. Definitely complements the dishes.
For an appetizer, it was recommended to try the Potato Boulany. Whole wheat crust stuffed with a mixture of potatoes, sautéed onions, green onions, cilantro and pan fried. Served with Chaka (homemade yogurt dip). Given it is very thin and creamy in the middle, could be described as a quesadilla. Tastes like all the ingredients with a mash potato like consistency. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Savoury and light. The chaka works very well with the food.
To ensure covering as much of the cuisine as possible, we ordered the Horsemen’s Special Platter. Great way to explore as much of their food as possible with two to three people. On the outside of the dish is the Pakawra (batter fried potatoes). Our host said these are “Afghani french fries.” Tasty and no need for ketchup. Another choice was the Dolmah (cabbage roll with rice in the middle and some beef on top). If you like cabbage rolls, you will enjoy the Dolmah as it offers the same textures and flavours, although uniquely Afghani. There was a hint of mint and the taste was savoury and not dry.
Baked Eggplant was another offering. Tomato sauce type flavours and kind of like eggplant parmesan without the parmesan. The middle of the dish was the Lamb Shoulder. Wow! Tender, juicy and flavourful with each bite. Seasoned perfectly. Slightly crispy on the outside and everyone loved the lamb shoulder. I used to think the Greeks perfected lamb, but the Afghanis are right there with them. Two different Shish Kebabs with a Lamb and Chicken skewer. Keeping on the lamb focus, the kebab was tender and not overcooked with minimal fat. Healthy size portions. The chicken breast kebab was perfectly cooked. Again, tasty and tender meat very flavourful. Both skewers had grilled peppers and more than enough meat. Under the meat was the Basmati Rice which was equal to everything on the plate in terms of taste and quality.
Before leaving we had to try one of their authentic desserts. The Firni is a special Afghan milk pudding with cardamom, cashews and crushed pistachios. This dessert did not last very long. Compares to Indian rice pudding minus the rice. It is very light and not very sweet. The cardamom flavour is the after taste. A very good palate cleanser and great way to finish an incredible meal.
The menu is very thorough; salads, soups, side dishes, veggie and meat platters, grilled dishes, traditional specialities, mains and desserts. Good choices among the alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Overall, the meats were cooked to perfection and seasoned for maximum taste. The entire meal did not feel heavy so you leave feeling just right. The interior is decorated to make you feel at home and in Afghanistan. The music is definitely true to the country.
There are two seatings. First seating is from 5 pm to 8 pm. Second seating from 8:15 pm to closing time. On Friday and Saturday nights in the second seating you will be entertained by belly dancers. If you are not comfortable with the floor seating, they have a larger section with regular tables and chairs. The ambience is casual and fun. Prices are moderate and the portions are more than enough.
The Afghan Horsemen
1833 Anderson Street (2nd Floor)
Phone Number: 604-873-5923
Monday to Thursday 5 to 10 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 5 to 11 p.m.
Sunday 5 to 10 p.m.