64 Auburn Road Auburn, New South Wales 2144
|Opening hours||Daily noon-10pm|
|Features||Accepts bookings, Family friendly, Cheap Eats|
|Prices||Cheap (mains under $20)|
|Phone||02 8084 7805|
Given Sydney's insatiable appetite for dumplings, it's a wonder no one runs tours taking in our city's array of delectable offerings. It could start with the familiar Shanghainese xiao long bao, to the pierogi of Poland, Japan's gyoza, and on to the lesser known ashak of Afghanistan.
You can try the latter - along with mantu, plumper meat-filled dumplings - at Khaybar, a family-run Afghan restaurant that opened in December. Here, the slippery, frilly edged house-made parcels are filled with chives and spring onion, steamed, then topped with garlic yoghurt, dried mint and a drizzle of tomato-based sauce with ground beef and lentils.
As delicious as the ashak are, this is where the flaw in the dumpling-tour idea emerges: who'd want to stop at just one dish when there's so much else on offer?
Our waitress Zainab Hedayat says her cousins, all siblings, were inspired to open Khaybar after being frequently complimented on their talent for cooking Afghan food (for the uninitiated, it's a mix of Middle Eastern and south Asian). The family has been in Australia for 20-odd years and uses recipes passed down through the generations. The name Khaybar comes from a mountain pass on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan and large photos from the area adorn the spacious, white-tiled restaurant.
The most popular dish, Hedayat says, is lamb qaboli pallaw - a slow-cooked shank served with a generous mound of brown basmati rice crowned with soft, sweet strips of carrot, raisins, almonds and pistachios. It's a wholesome dish, aromatic with cardamom.
We notice quite a few diners are eating the lamb and rice as a single-serve meal, but we share it alongside a few other dishes: juicy sauteed eggplant with tomato and yoghurt (buranee badenjan), potato-filled fried flatbread (bulanee kachalu), and the Khaybar kebab special.
A trio of skewered meats feature on the special - lamb, minced lamb and chicken - served with white rice, sweet roasted tomato and a wedge of lemon. The chicken is the highlight, called morgh tikka. We're not clued in on the marinade (cook's secret) but it does have that familiar tikka orange tinge and the chicken itself is moist and moreish.
Desserts are house-made and include sherpera - a sweet, fudgy biscuit made with condensed milk, rosewater, cardamom, walnut and pistachio.
So, yes, dumplings are great, but do you really want to stop there?
DO … bring friends, order lots.
DON'T … bring vegetarians, meat dominates the menu.
DISH … morgh tikka - marinated chicken skewers with rice and roast tomato and Ashak dumplings.
VIBE … bright, understated, affordable and family-friendly.