A drizzly January day doesn't say "sidewalk food." But I minded little while munching a couple of warm bolani outside the Bolani Pazi. This second iteration of East Liberty's Conflict Kitchen -- a takeout window serving street food from countries the U.S. is at odds with -- offers the Hot Pocket-style item that's ubiquitous in Afghanistan.
Bolani are tasty -- the spicy red lentil one especially. (There's also potato-leek and spinach.) They're vegetarian. They're filling: Two were plenty for lunch. And at $4 each, or two for $7, they're priced right.
Conflict Kitchen spun off in May from The Waffle Shop, the Carnegie Mellon University art-school project with which it shares a kitchen. In December, Iran's kubideh sandwich yielded to bolani.
Preparation techniques were refined with help from members of Pittsburgh's tiny Afghan community, including Najiba Tursonzdah, of Shaler. "The way that they make it is really good," she affirms.
Conflict Kitchen seeks to educate as it feeds. Each bolani's wrapper is printed with short first-person accounts of life in Afghanistan, from dating and marriage to perceptions of the U.S. On Sat., Jan. 29, a live Skype event will even connect Pittsburgh to Kabul. (See below.)
While it's suffering a take-out window's winter doldrums, Conflict Kitchen remains open 11 a.m.-2 p.m. daily, and 11 p.m.-3 a.m. weekend nights. Bolani will be served at least until April. Baum Boulevard at Highland Avenue, East Liberty. www.conflictkitchen.com
- Learning video production in Kabul
Food, film and the struggle to rebuild Afghanistan come together Jan. 29 at Conflict Kitchen. The East Liberty take-out window serving foods from countries the U.S. is in conflict with hosts filmmaker Michael Sheridan, whose Community Supported Film project teaches Afghans how to make their own documentaries.
Conflict Kitchen (www.conflictkitchen.com) is currently serving bolani, the Afghan street food popular in cities like Kabul, where in 2009 Sheridan taught 10 trainees the video fundamentals. "Their commitment and energy and dedication was just fantastic," says Sheridan, by phone from Boston. The resulting films focused on non-war-related topics, especially Afghans' home-grown efforts to revitalize their country. Subjects ranged from a women's bakery and the building of a school to the construction of an irrigation system.
U.S. screenings of some of the films have hit New York and Washington, D.C. The Pittsburgh screening is at The Waffle Shop, Conflict Kitchen's sister eatery and fellow Carnegie Mellon University School of Art community project, located at Highland Avenue and Baum Boulevard. The event, held 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Sat., Jan. 29, includes not only bolani and free screenings, but also a live Skype feed from Kabul, allowing discussion with some of the Afghan filmmakers.
Sheridan also speaks and screens films at 4:30 p.m. Thu., Jan. 27, at Carnegie Mellon University (412-268-2084 or www.cmu.edu/uls).