Okazu 85 Downie 85 Downie Street Stratford, Ontario N5A 7V8…
The origin and success of Chopan Kabob on Highland Road West near Belmont Avenue is, to my thinking, something that makes Canada great.
Tucked into the small food-hub of a plaza with McMullan’s Canadian Pub and Grill House and the ever-popular Highland Halal Shawarma, Chopan Kabob opened for business about five years ago.
I have to say that the story of owner Wali Jamali and his family is, frankly, a moving and inspiring one.
Jamali arrived in Canada from Afghanistan in 1989 having fled a country torn by the awful Soviet-Afghan guerilla war–and a mostly rural one–that started a decade earlier when Brezhnev invaded the country, killed the Afghani president and put in place a puppet Soviet government. The war killed hundreds of thousands of people.
Soon after he arrived in Ontario, Jamali enrolled in computer systems at Conestoga College and worked at various jobs in the industry and others—but he wanted more satisfaction in what he was doing.
So, he and the family bought an existing restaurant and re-branded it Chopan Kabob; they’ve never looked back. Their success has been such that they renovated the restaurant just a few months ago to give it a bright and new interior.
“I decided it was better to have your own business, so we opened the restaurant,” Jamali says. “Since we opened Chopan Kabob, I’ve been so happy that we’re all together. My children go to university now, but they come back here, so it is like a home.”
The venue, sitting right beside Kishki World Foods, is often hopping busy with take-away orders from the nearby neighbourhoods. It makes it apparent that the restaurant is very popular.
The family and the food they cook adds an important—and delicious—layer of flavour to the neighbourhood and the city. That’s what makes this country great.
Afghani dishes include a delicious fried pumpkin and masala sauce, beef chaplee, bolani (a very good stuffed dough) and kabulee palao, a delicious version of pilaf that includes grilled carrots and raisins. Firnee pudding is an Afghani dessert with cardamom and pistachio.
Prices at Chopan Kabob range from $6-$22.
“The food is mostly Afghani,” says Jamali, “but we have a few Indian dishes. We advertise that because people recognize Indian food.”
The Afghani mantoo dumpling dish is currently my favourite. The dish’s origin is uncertain, but it is popular in central and western Asia and the Caucasus.
When Mongolians conquered Afghanistan centuries ago, this dish came with them, according to Jamali. “It’s not traditionally Afghani, but the Afghanis changed it a little bit.”
Virtually every nation has a dumpling or some sort of thin pasta envelope containing a meat or vegetable stuffing which is boiled, steamed or panfried.
Mantoo is a light and simple dough, gently fried onions, ground beef with black pepper and coriander seed that is steamed dumpling-style. A meat and tomato sauce and split yellow peas top the dish, and it’s served with a mild garlic-yogurt sauce.
The dish makes me happy—at same time Jamali enjoys sharing the cuisine of his heritage to his guests.
“We have good customers,” he says. “They know us and we know them. I’m just so happy. Business is good.”
200 Highland Road West
Kitchener, ON N2M 3C2
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