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Sahar – meaning sunrise – is indeed a place where the breadth and depth of Afghan cuisine dawns upon you. Afghan cuisine comprises a set of lesser-known Central Asian culinary traditions, possessed of as much diversity as the forty languages and 200 dialects spoken in this crossroads of a country. And right here at Sahar, in Leicester’s West End, you can get an idea of what Afghan food is all about, tasting influences from neighbouring Iran, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan to the north. Even hints of Indo-Chinese influences can be detected. A must for any adventurous foodie, find Sahar’s Afghan restaurant along Narborough Road in Westcotes.
It’s a shame that the Afghan social ritual of laying out the dastarkhan, a large tablecloth laid out on the floor when guests come to visit for a meal, wouldn’t go down well with the Leicester authorities. Sahar has done its best, however, to craft a warm and welcoming space down Westcotes Narborough Road for guests to kick back in and enjoy some relatively unique Central Asian cuisine. The centrepiece of Shar is undoubtedly the charcoal grill, upon which kofte, kebab, lamb and fish are cooked to perfection. Yet there are less obvious winners at this Afghan restaurant.
Unmissable when you dine at Sahar is the Afghan national dish of Kabuli palow, a mountain of brown rice mixed through with carrots, raisins and slow-cooked lamb – something like a biryani. Another culinary curiosity are the mantu, wheat flour dumplings stuffed with minced lamb and onion and served with a yoghurt and mint sauce for dipping. These delicious morsels resemble the Nepalese and Indo-Chinese momo, and are a feature of most Turkic cuisines and Chinese Islamic cookery. Filling in the gaps in Leicester’s international restaurant scene, Sahar’s Westcotes restaurant deserves exploration.