If you have read my posts about the mess halls in Afghanistan, you will know that the food is horrible, penitentiary inmates get better food and would be suing and winning if they got the swill they serve here. Some FOBs (Forward Operating Bases) actually have restaurants. On FOB Ghazni, we have the Oasis Restaurant, run by an Indian. It is damn good and a place to go when you (often) just can’t bear to subject yourself to the mess hall.
Four Maudies – recommended
The only way you will ever eat here is if you have some reason to be on FOB Ghazni. Afghanistan is not quite the tourist destination of choice for Americans unless you want to be on Al Jezerra TV getting your head cut off. I have to admit that I was disappointed that this is not an Afghan restaurant, but the food makes up for that. Owned by an Indian, Afghan food often has similar spices like curries, so maybe there are some minor similarities. Since the main customer base is American and Polish troops and civilians, they have a varied menu.
There is pizza, Indian curries, some Chinese type dishes, wraps with and without meat, a couple types of nan bread, rice, Tandoor chicken and a huge sizzling dish of meat and veggies similar to fajitas that a lot of people liked, but I never tried. My only real complaint was the meat choices were chicken, chicken, chicken, chicken, and beef in a couple of things. No frigging lamb, mutton or goat in a province with thousands of sheep and goats. Or even any substantial beef dishes. I asked the owner about that and he said no one would buy it. I beg to differ, he did say they sometimes cook those meats for themselves, but they never had any when I was there. I think they were probably getting the meat from the mess hall, in any case, at least they cooked it properly.
The interior was spartan and reminded me of the mom and pop small strip mall Chinese restaurants back home. Plastic table clothes and chairs, very simple, but I wasn’t there for the ambiance, I was there to escape the disgusting mess hall food and savor something actually edible.
The first dish I tried was crispy Thai chicken. It was fried chicken chunks with a coating sprinkled with sesame seeds and a thin vinegar sauce with cilantro on the side. This was my least favorite dish, the meat was tasty but a bit bland and dry (I have never been a chicken fan, anyway) and the sauce did little to help it. I had this with cheese nan, which was excellent. I tried the wraps, which were chicken, a sauce and some lettuce and perhaps other veggies wrapped in a nan bread. Reminded me of a gyro and they were very good and inexpensive. I never ordered the fries, I always had the garlic and butter nan or butter and cheese nan. The mess hall never had real butter, must be too expensive or against one of the Army’s millions of stupid rules, and a total affront to anyone who loves food, but the Oasis used real butter and ghee. The Oasis fries were way better than the mess hall, but not that good. Plus fries don’t go with anything on the menu. Yet Americans will eat fries with anything, so they were a big seller. Sure, I’ll have fries and ketchup with my curry. I think not.
Next I tried Butter curry. Strange name to me, but the description said it was a traditional Indian curry. OK, I love curry, let’s give it a try. I ordered garlic and butter nan instead of rice to go with it. I asked for spicy. Due to American tastes they always ask how spicy you want it. I wanted mine how it is supposed to be made. It was not overly impressive when it arrived, a dark brown sauce, lots of it, with small chunks of chicken. That was it. The garlic and butter nan was fresh and piping hot and was delicious. The sauce was unbelievable. Yes, it was spicy, but oh, oh so good. I would have been perfectly happy with a bowl of sauce and nan only. The chicken was good, moist and tasty and it added some texture. This became my mainstay when I came here. I’d eat this simple dish anywhere.
Once, a friend ordered the pizza and gave me some. You could get a variety of non-pork toppings, including pineapple, salami, mushrooms, corn, extra cheese, etc. I’m not sure why, but Europeans and others put corn on pizza – not me. I first had corn on a pizza was at a Turkish place in Frankfurt, Germany and it wasn’t very good. It is only recently that Europeans have even started eating corn. When I lived in Germany years ago, corn was animal feed, period. Actually, the donner kabob at that Frankfurt restaurant was terrible, too. I hare wasting a meal when traveling, there is so much good food to try.
In any case, he didn’t get corn on his, he had a tomato based sauce, cheese and pepperoni. I expected the pizza to be nan with pizza ingredients, No so. It was pizza type dough that was rather thin, as I like it, and cooked nicely. The sauce and toppings were good. While not a New York pizza, it was very good. The cheese was unusual and I’ve seen it before, but can’t remember what it is called. It is coarser than mozzarella and has more flavor. I actually prefer it to mozzarella.
I also tried their “regular” Chicken curry and it was in a light sauce with more garlic. It was quite good, but I still like the butter curry better. Let’s see, what else? I think that is about it, I liked the butter curry so much. They had some Chinese dishes, such as sesame chicken, but I wasn’t sure they would get those right. All in all, a good restaurant and a great one considering where it is. I just wish they had had lamb or goat curries.
And to all those afraid to eat there because it might not have been sanitary, I never got sick. I also had no desire to see the kitchen of the mess hall, how they freeze and refreeze stuff, or find out how long the frying oil gets used. If you were going to get sick from the food, it would be at the mess hall and I did a few times. Not exactly an A+ Health Department rating (assuming the inspector isn’t on the take), but people happy to eat at the mess hall were afraid to go near the restaurant. Some people can’t be helped.