Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Conflict Kitchen (East Liberty)

On a sunny Monday I took my sister to Conflict Kitchen in East Liberty for lunch (the only time they are open).  I had always been intrigued by the concept and thought my very socially conscious sister would be just as equally intrigued.  I'm not sure if she really was, but she went along with the idea anyway.  (Thanks, sis!)  In case you are not familiar with Conflict Kitchen, it is a window-front takeout-only restaurant that shares a kitchen with The Waffle Shop next door (both are projects by the Carnegie Mellon University).  It serves one item and one item only at one time, from a country with which the United States is in conflict.  Hence the name, Conflict Kitchen.  The idea is to spark conversations about countries that people likely know little about but yet perceive negatively.

When Conflict Kitchen first started about a year ago (before my time in Pittsburgh), the feature cuisine was from Iran.   By the time I discovered this place, they had moved on to Afghanistan, which is the feature country currently until the end of June, when they will switch to Venezuela.  The work-study student who served us mentioned that North Korea would be next.

I've mentioned before that I'm a culture nerd; naturally, then, the first thing that piqued my interest about Conflict Kitchen is its goal of bringing awareness to the countries and cultures that we know little about.  Secondly, I love sampling food from different countries, and food from such cuisines as Afghan and Venezuelan is definitely something worth checking out.  And third, being a nerd in general, I love supporting University-initiated projects that involve students and enhance their college experiences, and this one is certainly a worthwhile cause.

For its Afghan iteration, Conflict Kitchen is serving Bolani, which is a turnover with a crispy crust and a savory vegetarian filling.  I had hoped to try the pumpkin, but alas, they were out of it.  Instead, I settled on the spinach while Lil Sis got one with the potato and leek filling.  Each was served with a little container of Greek yogurt for dipping, which admittedly was actually a bit tough to do as the bolani was wider than the opening of the dipping cup.  Regardless, for $4 per bolani ($7 for two), it was pretty inexpensive.  I'm thinking Conflict Kitchen may not be breaking even here, so I certainly wouldn't complain about the price even if it were a bit higher.

The Bolani Pazi Afghan Takeout

Bolani at Conflict Kitchen

The taste of the filling was on the subtle side but the yogurt was a nice complement.  I'll admit it is hard to assess a food for which you have had no prior experience or knowledge whatsoever, and something prepared by students (not paid chefs) at that, but overall I enjoyed my bolani and the concept of Conflict Kitchen.

One thing I regret is that we were in such a hurry to finish our bolani that I had forgotten all about reading the wrapper!  The wrappers are especially designed with interviews and other information about Afghanistan.  Luckily, a picture of the wrapper is shown on their website, and I was able to read most of it by squinting really hard.  Next time I go to Conflict Kitchen (which I plan on doing as I'm definitely curious about Venezuela and Venezuelan cuisine!) I will have to remember the wrapper!

Restaurant info:
Conflict Kitchen
124 S. Highland Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15206
On the web:

Conflict Kitchen - (Bolani Pazi) on Urbanspoon