Saint Paul, Minnesota
Khyber Pass Cafe in Saint Paul stood as a testament to the rich culinary heritage and cultural diversity that has been growing in the Twin Cities for decades. Established in 1986, this beloved eatery played a significant role in introducing the flavors of Afghanistan to the local dining scene.
The restaurant’s history is deeply rooted in the immigrant experience. It was founded by a determined Afghan couple, Emel and Masooda Sherzad, who arrived in the United States searching for new opportunities and settling in Saint Paul. Drawing upon their culinary expertise and love for traditional Afghan cuisine, they embarked on a journey to share their culture through food.
In its early days, Khyber Pass was a modest establishment tucked away in a corner of the Mac Groveland neighborhood. Its menu reflected the Sherzad family’s commitment to authenticity, featuring a range of heirloom Afghani dishes prepared with care and dedication. The restaurant’s name pays homage to the historic Khyber Pass, a legendary mountain passageway along the border with Pakistan that has connected Afghanistan to the Indian subcontinent for centuries, symbolizing the fusion of diverse influences in Afghan cuisine.
Over the years, Khyber Pass garnered a devoted following among locals and visitors alike. The cafe moved to a more visible corner at the Grand and Snelling in 2002, and its warm, welcoming atmosphere provided a unique setting for diners to explore the flavors of Afghanistan. Signature dishes like aushak, vegetarian aush, murgh kebabs, sabzi korma, and bouranee baunjaun became instant favorites. They were celebrated for their intricate spices and bold flavors.
The restaurant’s success didn’t just end with its food; it also became a cultural hub. The Aminzai family’s commitment to community-building extended beyond their kitchen by hosting events and offering live music in the cafe to foster a sense of belonging for Afghan immigrants and the broader Saint Paul community.
Khyber Pass Cafe closed in 2022 after 37 years as one of the most beloved Afghan restaurants in the state. With each flavorful dish it served, the Khyber Pass told the story of Afghanistan while also contributing to the multicultural mosaic that makes up Saint Paul.
- 1 cup yogurt, drained
- 1 large onion, sliced
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 2 tomatoes, diced
- 6 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 jalapeño peppers, diced
- 4 cups water
- 1 teaspoon dried coriander
- 1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- salt and cayanne pepper to taste
- ½ cup green peas
- ½ cup garbanzo beans
- ½ cup kidney beans
- ½ cup mung beans
- 1 pound whole wheat noodles
- crushed fresh garlic and salt, to taste
- dried mint
- Drain yogurt through cheesecloth for one hour.
- Fry onions in oil in a large frying pan until slightly brown, then add tomatoes. Cook until the juice has evaporated.
- Add garlic and jalapeños; cook for 5 minutes. Add water, coriander, cilantro, salt and cayenne pepper to taste. Bring to a boil.
- Add peas. Cook for 10 minutes. Add garbanzo beans. Cook for 10 minutes. Add kidney and mung beans. Boil until soft.
- Boil noodles in water with salt and oil until soft; drain.
- Put drained yogurt in a bowl and add garlic and salt. Spread yogurt on a large plate. Add noodles and bean mixture; mix with the yogurt. Sprinkle with the dried mint.