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Bite of the Week: Qabili Palau at Ariana’s of West Columbia

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$16.95. 1720 Sunset Blvd. 803-796-4430.

Eating qabili palau, Afghanistan’s national dish, while watching the series finale of Homeland seemed fitting. South Central Asian geopolitical intrigue and Kabul chow kind of go together, no?

The sweet and savory interplay and hints of cumin and cardamom in the pilaf seemed a fitting accompaniment to Carrie Mathison and Saul Berenson’s final round of clandestine cat-and-mouse.

Ariana’s somehow crams a pitcher’s mound worth of browned basmati rice goodness into a Styrofoam takeout container. The pilaf is enlivened with tender morsels of lamb, plump raisins, long strands of peeled carrots, and chopped almonds. I pecked away at it all the way through to the pulse-pounding final salvo, when saxophonist Kamasi Washington plays out the show in a Moscow theater and Saul makes a doozy of a revelation.

“That’s a secret,” chef and owner Moe Sarwary jokes to me later when I quiz him on the phone about the spices in his qabili palau. I correctly intuited two of the biggies in cumin and cardamom, but Moe says there are seven spices in the rice that are pivotal to the dish. He allows that he would reveal some of the others if he knew their English names. Layering is another key to making a proper qabili pilau, Sarwary adds: “We put the rice, then the lamb and then the rice again.”

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