If you were a guest in my house looking in my kitchen for a snack you would probably be very disappointed. There are no chips or cookies or much to snack on period. After all, I usually cook, bake, or go out. You would probably end up only with some microwave popcorn. The same holds true for meals. You won't find any frozen dinners or even cans of soup. But like everyone else, I sometimes come home and want something quick and easy to prepare. Lately my go-to grab has been Bolanis.
Bolanis are made in Concord by the East and West Gourmet Afghan Food company. They are flatbreads filled with either spinach, lentils, pumpkin, or potato. You then add a variety of toppings so that there are endless combinations of flavors to enjoy.
For instance, I currently make lentil bolani with the Garlic Mint Cheese spread and Sweet Jalapeno jelly. I also like spinach bolani with Lentil Curry and Cilantro Pesto spreads.
I buy my bolanis at the Davis farmers market. You will find one of the Sidiq family eagerly passing out samples of these different combinations. You can eat a meal just off of their generous samples alone. It's a wonderful marketing ploy because you realize you can't just get one bread and one spread, you need multiples! They also offer buy four, get one free. After all, you've now realized you need each type of bread and at least three spreads!
You can also buy from their website where I noticed that the prices were slightly lower. Another great marketing strategy. They know that there is going to be shipping added, so they mark down the product price to better entice the sale.
I talked to Navid about the family owned business. His mother came to the United States almost thirty years ago. It's only about seven years ago that the company started. The family had decided that they wanted to spread some Afghani goodwill to show Americans a little Afghani culture, especially with the Afghan war going on.
They make their products all by hand and started by selling them in farmers markets around the Bay area. They are soon going to be including Southern California farmers markets as well. Navid said that he just got back from New York City because they signed a new contract with Whole Foods, who also sell their products. In Sacramento you will only find them at Whole Foods and Corti Brothers because Sacramento does not allow non-farm produced foods at our farmers markets. That's why I have to venture to Davis.
There are about thirty employees in their Concord commercial kitchen hand making and packaging everything. All of the products are vegan except for the Garlic Mint Cheese. The most popular bolani is the spinach and the most popular toppings are the Garlic Mint Cheese, Cilantro Pesto, and Sweet Jalapeno. I asked if there were going to be any new products and Navid said that in the next month or so they will be introducing four flavored bottled Afghani teas.
East and West Gourmet Afghan Food is also very involved in community services. They donate a lot of food to different organizations such as Feeding America and the Osher Marin Jewish Community Center. I asked if they send funds back to Afghanistan and was told that they do so by helping in fundraising activities here by supplying food and support. The money gets sent to Afghanistan by the supported charities to help build schools and other necessities.
So back to the product. What I do is I buy a variety of bolanis. They come two to a package. One would be a meal for me and so when I get home I actually cut them in half and then freeze them. When I want a snack I pull one out, nuke it for a minute, and then toast it on a skillet like you would do with a tortilla. This will give it a nice crispness to the bread. Then put your combination of spreads on and enjoy!