A Sunshine Star

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Afghan Star Restaurant, 251 Hampshire Road, Sunshine. Phone 0431 970 348

There are – I believe – three places serving the food of Afghanistan in Sunshine.

Amid the (mostly) Vietnamese hubub around Sunshine central and Hampshire Road, they are easy to miss – and Afghan Star is perhaps the most anonymous of them.

It looks, from the outside and inside both, like a humdrum takeaway joint of non-specific origins.

You can get a pizza here – with pineapple, if that’s your kind of thing.

The decor is utilitarian.

But after sporadic visits over the recent couple of years, I reckon it’s time for a CTS story.

Because I really do like this place.

And if the review visit – with Bennie Weir and Nat Stockley in tow – doesn’t quite reach the heights of my previous (solo) visits, I nevertheless remain enamoured of Afghan Star.

Here is less proper restaurant routine and more a place to grab some quick and very cheap Afghan food.

There’s a range of stews/curries called qorma. I’ve tried a couple of them; they’re good.

But really, the top action here is all about grilled meats.

 

 

But first let me note a couple of happy details – the sort of thing that tickles the CTS soul and makes us love places beyond the main gist of the food.

One is the wonderful fruit salad tablecloth with which we are blessed.

And, no, I am not being facetious.

 

 

The second is the stupendously wonderful flatbread – it’s hot, freshly made and enormous.

On each and every visit I have made to Afghan Star, I have taken at least half one of these home with me.

So good!

 

 

And if I order charcoal chicken, I end up taking some of that home, too.

Because a whole, excellent chook – with flatbread, some salady bits/pieces and a minty dipping sauce with a subtle yet important chilli kick – costs $14.99.

That’s a for-sure bargain!

The chicken is very, very good, best and most juicy/succulent on the bone, though inevitably a bit dry in the heart of the breast.

That’s what the minty sauce is for.

 

 

It’s a fine thing that there’s plenty of my chicken to go around, because Bennie is disappointed with his doner mix kebab platter ($10).

For starters, he doesn’t believe it accurately reflects the colour photo at the serving counter upon which he’s based his selection.

It’s OK – but amounts to HSP on a plate.

 

 

Much better – and returning to the heart of the Afghan Star matter – is Nat’s mix kebab platter, another $14.99 steal served on rice and with the same flatbread, salad and sauce.

The tikka/shish lamb meat is very tasty, though a tad on the dry/tough side. Just a tad …

The kobida/kofta minced lamb meat is much better – chewy and nicely (mildly) seasoned.

But really, these are minor quibbles – this kind of food/meat usually sells for more, and sometimes way more, than here.

Afghan Star gets the job done nicely and with smiling, efficient service – and all with a comprehensive lack of on-trend or hipster angles.

For that alone, I love it.

 

Food on sticks – Afghan Master Kebab for Footscray

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Afghan Master Kebab, 131 Nicholson Street, Footscray. Phone: 9396 0201

Team CTS bowls up for the opening party of BigWest an hour after advertised start time and find the whole shebang and everyone involved is pretty much just getting over the rain.

What to do?

Eat!

So we adjourn to nearby Nicholson Street and the recently opened Afghan Master Kebab, a sister restaurant to the popular eatery of the same name in Sunshine.

 

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Sister Restaurant?

More like identical twins.

The menu line-up (see below) appears to be the same, save for the addition of such stuff as fish and chips.

Mind you, the Footscray edition is done out in perfectly fine and plain cafe style that in no way matches the flamboyant interior found up in Sunshine!

 

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Three of us choose the mix kebab ($13.99) and a delight it is.

Four skewers – two of superbly juicy chicken and one each of the minced kebab kobida lamb and the diced lamb cubes of tikka kebab.

They’re all wonderful.

Elsewhere around town, in restaurants that vary from Greek and Turkish to barbecue, it’s easily possible to pay significantly more for meat that is not so fabulous.

As in Sunshine, acceptable yet largely superfluous salad bits and two dipping sauces accompany.

The chilli and mint number is a doozy while, here, the yogurt dip seems a bit more tangy and has a richer dairy flavour.

 

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Our meals come with heaps of the wonderful Afghan Master Kebab bread – a bit like naan but chewier and just right slathered in the sauces.

 

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After a slightly underwhelming experience with chargrilled chook earlier in the week, it’s a giddy pleasure to inhale the Master Kebab half chicken ($14.99).

A bit pricier … but THIS is charcoal grilled chicken.

 

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On an earlier visit, I’d tried the chicken qorma ($12), one of a handful on non-grill offerings on the menu.

It’s nice enough, mildly seasoned and of generous serve.

But if anything, it serves only to reinforce the notion that food on sticks is the way to go here.

 

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New Afghani in Sunshine

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Afghan Shaheen, 231 Hampshire Road, Sunshine.

The success of Afghan Master Kebab in Sunshine has seemingly inspired others to try their luck with likeminded eateries.

Further afield, in Fooscray, Kebab Surra has made its mark.

In Sunshine, it appears there will be three new kids on the block.

One, already open, is situated in the food court at Sunshine Plaza and yet to be investigated.

Another, on the wider bit of Hampshire Road, still has newspapered windows.

Afghan Shaheen is up and running on the narrower part of Hampshire, heading towards the station.

 

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It’s done out in cheerful cafe style with ornate and shiny furniture.

It’s an Afghani eatery with a few twists thrown in.

You’ll find the chargrilled meats that are the principal reason of the much-love for the already established places.

As well, though, the menu (see below) features a longish list of straight-up Indian dishes and even an Indo-Chinese section.

Additionally, Afghan Shaheen is big on baking.

 

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One display contains a glistening range of Indian-style sweet treats that go for $18 a kilogram.

 

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Another cabinet displays many biscuits that look just like Italian-style biscotti.

I’m told, however, that they really are Afghani!

Rest assured, though, they contain heaps of butter.

They sell for a terrific $16 a kilogram – I’m surprised how many I get for $7.

A bowl namakpura (top photograph) – cumin-seasoned strips of deep-fried pastry – are brought without being ordered.

Playing the same sort of teasing role as papadums, they’re yummy.

 

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Lamb kebab ($13.99) has superb chargrilled meat of high quality – the de-skewered chunks shown here are only half of what is served.

The bread is good but unlike either regular naan or the more chewy, crusty bread delivered at Afghan Master Kebab or Kebab Surra.

 

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What I first mistakenly take to be some kind of soup turns out to be an excellent mint dipping sauce – a vinegary version of the pale green version often served.

It’s piquant and delicious.

 

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Curry and rice for $13.99 doesn’t sound like such a crash-hot deal but qabuli palaw is excellent.

The same, good bread.

The same salad bits

Fluffy white rice studded with moist currants and festooned with cooked, tender and sweet carrot strands.

The lamb “qorma” itself is mildly spiced but as deep in flavour as it is deep in brown.

The lamb is of the same high quality and tenderness as found in the kebab serving.

With its many bits and pieces, this $15 dish could easily suffice as a meal for two.

 

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Meal of the week No.7: Kebab Surra

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There are three – THREE! – new restaurants of the Afghani/Iranian/Persian persuasion CTS is keen to get cracking on …

In the meantime, Footscray’s own, Kebab Surra, has become a regular since our initial write-up.

I’ve become used to getting a most welcome bowls of lamb/barley soup with my meals here.

That isn’t forthcoming when I order chela kebab ($14) – but that’s OK because what I do get is terrific.

Nice rice.

Two sublimely juicy, meaty skewers of marinated chicken; no such thing as too-dry chook breast meat here!

Tangy yogurt with cucumber and dried mint.

Most excellent fresh bread – like a cross between Turkish bread and naan.

Chewy and excellent.

And – instead of the usual mixed salad – a much more finely diced effort in the Indian style.

No wonder Kebab Surra has become a very firm favourite of Joe.

 

Yes! It IS Afghan kebabs for Footscray!

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The fit-out at 241 Barkly Street, Footscray, is coming along – and there’s a menu up!

The fluorescent lights constituted a photographic nightmare when I stuck my nose in, but you can get the drift …

As you can see, Footscray really is soon to get its first Afghani eating house.

I note with excitement the presence of not only skewered meats but also …

… pulaos, including one with red beans and another with lamb shanks and broad beans, and …

… also the marvellous Afghani dumplings callled mantoo.

Oh boy!

 

 

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Afghan kebabs for Footscray?

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Consider The Sauce pal Juz has alerted us to something interesting happening on Barkly Street – at number 241 to be precise.

My first thought on looking at the pic he sent me was: “Afghanistan!”

As in the sort of kebabs found at Master Afghan Kebab in Sunshine and Rezah Afghan Kebab in Brunswick.

The best I can do with some sleuthing is to discover that Surra is a residential area of Kuwait – which appears to be, perhaps coincidentally, the home of the Afghanistan embassy.

A lunchtime Saturday visit by myself fails to reveal much more – just a couple of blokes working on the windows.

So … not a lot go on.

Yet.

 

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A sharing thing

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Cooking Connections at Yarraville Community Centre, part of the Care To Share Project

CTS missed the first, Vietnamese outing of the Care To Share Project’s Cooking Connections program, but was very happy to make the weekend pairing as host.

Thanks to the Care To Share crew for granting me the opportunity (see link below for more information).

Thanks, too, to the punters – many from the west but more than a few from all over Melbourne.

But most of all, warm thanks to the families and individuals who shared their cooking and food with us.

There will be photos and comments about the food in this post, but really they’re only part of the story …

First up on the Saturday were Jamshid from Afghanistan, Sara from Iran and the family of Ebi, Roya and Maryam, also from Iran.

All these folks are on bridging visas.

 

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Maryam did a fine job of splitting the dates and inserting walnuts in them for the Persian sweet rangenak.

 

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But in the digital age, some things are universal with young folks.

 

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The guests lost no time in leaving their chosen seats to talk to the asylum-seeking cooks.

Jamshid was busy making korme koftas, chicken biryani and Afghan pulao.

 

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Along with a stack of finely chopped greens – spinach, coriander, dill – dried limes went into the ghormeh sabzi prepared by Roya and Ebi.

 

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Jamshid’s lamb meatballs and Afghan pulao were fab …

 

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The ghormeh sabzi – with its greens, potato, lamb and red beans – was piquantly amazing.

 

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Everyone thought so!

 

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The walnut-stuffed dates were drizzled with pan-roasted flour mixed with oil and, finally, coconut for a suave “grown-up” post-meal sweet treat.

 

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On the Sunday, it was time for Rosa, her mum Nigest and niece Betty to present their Ethiopian cuisine.

The guests were split about 50/50 between those who had tried Ethiopian food and injera and those who had not.

The dishes cooked were lamb dishes key wat and tibs, and the cabbage, potato and carrot of key wat.

 

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Having long admired and respected the fresh zing with which our African cooks imbue their salads-on-the-side, I was tickled to discover how one family at least does it – marinating sliced green chillies in lemon juice and using it as a dressing.

 

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Once again, the guests lost no time in getting up close and personal with the cooks and the dishes they were cooking.

 

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For more information on the Care To Share Project, check out their website here and “like” their Facebook page here.

 

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