"What about the kala pocha?" asks someone at our table at Khybar Afghan restaurant in Reseda. Our waiter, dressed in black track pants and a Nike soccer shirt, shakes his head. "You don't want that," he assures us. "It's for breakfast."
The soup, made with boiled lamb's head and feet and a few innards, would undeniably be an eye-opener.
But we decide instead on qabili palau, which our waiter says is "Afghanistan's most fabulous rice dish."
What else to get? The menu lists but doesn't describe the dishes offered (the regulars probably already know their favorites), but fortunately our waiter -- who we later discover is Khybar's owner, Mohammad Safdari -- gives detailed answers to even the most arcane cooking questions.
Which is a good thing, because, despite Afghanistan's present poverty, the country's cuisine is richly layered and complex, interweaving elements from its Persian, Indian and Chinese neighbors, who contributed centuries of culinary innovation via the Silk Road.
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Photo: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times