Aush (Afghan Noodle Soup)
This is a recipe that I’ve had on the blog for a while, but decided to pull it out of the archives. It’s a soup I learned from my friend Humaira, who learned it from her mom, Jeja. This post is in memory of Jeja, who recently lost her battle to COVID. She lives on through her children and grandchildren, and through her wonderful recipes. This Wednesday, I will be doing a demo of how to make this wonderful soup on Instagram. Follow me there.
When I get a taste of something delicious, I need to know how to make it and can be dogged in my pursuit of a recipe. Such was the case with this soup. I first tried it at a school potluck where it was drawing raves at the buffet line. Two bowls in and I was smitten. I’d never eaten anything quite like it before and had to know how to make it in my own kitchen.
A Soup Called Aush
After a few inquiries, I was introduced to Humaira, the cook behind the soup. Humaira told me that aush is a traditional dish from her native Afghanistan. She said the soup is as common in her home country as chicken noodle is in mine. A few days later, she emailed me the recipe. I’ve been making aush and swapping recipes with Humaira ever since. We’ve been good friends now for 15 years and counting. Now that’s some soup!
What’s special about aush is how it brings together fairly humble ingredients in an unusual way. It starts with a brothy base punctuated by noodles, chickpeas, and kidney beans. Each bowl is topped with a savory, nearly caramelized spoonful of ground beef or lamb, the rich flavors bleeding into the broth. The final touch is a generous dollop of yogurt. The various components marry into a creamy, tangy, “want to lick the bowl clean” sort of soup.
Seasoned Ground Beef or Lamb
I prefer ground lamb in aush, although beef is more traditional. Whatever you choose, it’s essential to cook the meat long enough for the flavors to develop and the color to reach a deep, dark brown.
As for the addition of dark leafy greens in the soup, that’s not exactly traditional. But it is tasty and makes the soup a complete meal in my book.
Although aush was a foreign concept to my crew before I started making it, everyone gives it a thumbs up. It also fills the bill for some pretty conventional American occasions: It makes a superb one-pot supper when feeding a crowd, is a good alternative to lasagna when delivering a meal to a friend with a new baby, and of course, it’s perfect for a class pot luck. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself a new friend with this recipe. It’s just that sort of soup.
For more Afghan recipes you might like
Any of the recipes on Afghan Cooking Unveiled
Aush: Savory Afghan Noodle Soup
- 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 pound ground lamb or beef
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to season the broth if needed
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons water
- 7 ounces uncooked spaghetti (doesn't need to be exact)
- 10 cups chicken broth (low-sodium if store-bought)
- One 15-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and strained
- One 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and strained
- 1 large bunch swiss chard or kale, stems removed, roughly chopped or a few big handfuls baby spinach
- 1 pint plain Greek yogurt
Sauté the onion in olive oil in a medium skillet on medium-low heat until tender and golden. Add the garlic and sauté another 2 minutes. Add the ground lamb and use a spoon to break it up as it cooks so it is small, loose, and separated (like taco meat). If the cooked lamb produces a lot of oil, drain it off.
Once the meat is browned add the coriander, paprika, salt, pepper, tomato paste, and water. Mix everything well, drop heat to low, and continue to cook for 15 to 20 minutes until it is a deep, reddish brown and infused with flavor.
While the meat is cooking, pour the chicken broth into a large pot and bring to a boil. Add the spaghetti and boil for 5 minutes. Add the beans and chard/kale to the broth and continue to cook until the pasta is done. Taste and add salt to taste, as needed
To assemble, put two ladles of noodles and broth into each serving bowl. Top with 2 spoonfuls of lamb. Finish with 1 or 2 spoonfuls of yogurt.
To eat, give each bowl a stir and enjoy.