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Little Kabul adventure, long

Windy | Mar 16, 200202:03 AM

I had to go to a friend's in Fremont tonight, so with thoughts of beating the Friday night rush hour traffic, I grabbed a friend and headed to Little Kabul. There's a blocklong stretch of Fremont Avenue in Fremont that has Afghan businesses including a halal butcher, a mini-mart, and two restaurants.

Bay Area Backroads did a feature on this area a month or two ago, and then I read a review of the De Afghanan Kabob House in the Express. Unfortunately when we got there, the De Afghanan seemed closed, so we went across the street to Salang Pass.

My entire previous experience with Afghan food is one delicious meal at Kabul in Sunnyvale (they have another in San Carlos).

We ordered two appetizers and one entree. This was an overwhelming amount of food for two people.

One appetizer (Boolawnee?) was described as an Afghan calzone. It was a huge serving of flat bread stuffed with onions and other delicious spices. Greasy, and accompanied by yogurt sauce for dipping. Completely addictive and for $6.50, enough to take home and nibble on all night.

The other appetizer (mantu) was described as a dumpling, stuffed with beef and onions. But what a dumpling. Tender wrapper, steamed, delicious filling, topped with a tomato sauce and a sour cream like cheese. Heavenly, for about $4. My favorite item by far.

The appetizers do include lamb brains, but my friend was clearly not a chowhound and declined.

For our entree, we chose a vegetarian sampler platter, which included a yellow dal, basmati rice, spinach, and an indescribably good stewed eggplant in a tomato sauce. For less than $10, this platter was accompanied by a lovely salad and Afghan nan. The bread, while a far cry from Naan & Curry, is more like a Turkish bread. We used it to sop up the spicy green and red sauces on the table. The green had a minty flavor, while the hotter red reminded me of harissa.

We also ordered dough, a yogurt drink, which was sour, salty, and filled with cucumbers and mint. Imagine raita with a straw. My friend enjoyed this more than I did.

The menu features curries and kabobs, which warrant a return visit. I'd love to try their lamb and get to the dessert list. Generally the food is milder than Pakistani food, with complex flavors and fine ingredients.

Salang Pass is a charming place, with modest prices and seating available on pillows under a tent. The owner was very friendly, even if our waiter seemed distracted.

As we left, it had gotten dark and I noticed the neon for the kabob house we were looking for originally, under the awning of an old movie theater. Save it for next time.

Salang Pass
37462 Fremont Blvd
Fremont $30 with tip for 2

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