Mr. Zia’s Afghani Winter Turnips

One of my favorite  places for home cooking in San Diego years past was Mr. Zia’s Afghan restaurant, on 30th St. in North Park. Mr. Zia became a friend, and even took me to the Afghani mosque during Ramadan. He served an array of vegetarian dishes that were his mother’s recipes. My favorite was his Afghani Winter Turnips

Another favorite was his cooked pears. They were made with a similar recipe, only the pears were, obviously, a bit sweeter, and had a cooling effect on the body which balanced the overall warming qualities of the other Afghani dishes, rich in ginger, onion, garlic, and other Indian spices. I have also made Zia’s Afghani Winter Turnips with parsnips.

Turnips in Chinese Medicine

Turnips are good any time of year, but are especially prized in Chinese culture with heavy food like lamb, because, like daikon radish, they stimulate the digestive fire and help your body break down the heavier flesh food.

The Chinese love eating turnips in Winter and Autumn, because they are warming, a also pungent….They strengthen the Lung Qi, which is a way of saying that they have a phlegm loosening effect.  For all these reasons turnips in general, and Mr. Zia’s mother’s Afghani Winter Turnips can helps your body adjust to the cold and dryness of winter and autumn.

Health Benefits of Parsnips in Winter and Fall

Parsnips are an amazing vegetable. For those of you trying to lose weight, parsnips are a good choice as they help balance blood sugar. Root vegetables like parsnip and turnip can be a wise substitute for grains if you are following a low carb diet. Better than sweet potato, which is high in natural sugar.

Chinese Medicine describes Parsnips as having a grounding energy, which makes them especially suitable in late Autumn and early Winter as our bodies need to descend from the heights of Summer.

Afghani Winter Turnips in Ayurveda

Mr. Zia’s Afghani Winter Turnips recipe is perfect for the fall, since fall is dominated by Vata. Ayurveda describes Vata as cold and dry, and this recipe, which is sweet, sour, slightly pungent, and unctuous, will ground, moisten and pacify Vata.


Mr. Zia’s Turnips with Parsnip


1 medium white or yellow onion, diced
3 medium size turnips, quartered
1 parsnip, sliced

Oil, Sweetener, Vinegar, Spices

1-2 tbsp sesame, peanut, or grapeseed oil
3/4 tsp turmeric
1/3 tsp cayenne 1/2 tsp grated ginger

1-2 bruised green cardamom pods
2 tsp raw cane sugar, maple syrup, or grape syrup
2-3 tbsp white or apple cider vinegar, more or less to taste

Saute onion till brown. Add veggies, spices, vinegar, sugar, and enough water to cover. Bring to the boil, lower flame and simmer till soft. Enjoy with rice and a green veggie and some protein source of choice.

Mr. Zia’s Pears

Think Afghani Cranberry Sauce in that this is not a desert, but a side dish that goes with a meal, particularly lamb and rice.

Follow the exact same procedure as above, except better to use white or yellow onion rather than sweet. Also you may not need the sugar if your pears are sweet enough. Probably 1 tsp is good.

Please let me know how you like Mr. Zia’s Afghani Winter Turnips with Parsnip, or his Afghani Cooked Pear dish….Thank you, and happy cooking!

(c) copyright eyton j. shalom san diego ca 2010 all rights reserved use with permission

Ayurveda, Acupuncture, and Chinese Medicine in San Diegohttps://www.bodymindwellnesscenter.com

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