Guest Chef Series returned to the University Hospital Market Place Cafe on July 9, welcoming Chef Zahra Mirzai of Choopan Grill of Selden. Chef Mirzai’s restaurant specializes in bringing Afghan food to Long Island, which happens to be a rare find. Afghan cuisine is known for its aromatic and flavorful dishes and has been influenced by a fusion of Persian, Indian, Chinese and Mediterranean cultures.
Chef Mirzai prepared Halal Ginger Chicken Naan Wraps and explained that the secret behind these wraps is in the preparation. “They’re marinated at least 48 hours in advance … and when we grill it, it is just tender and juicy, and everyone seems to love it; it just melts in your mouth.”
According to Terance Lee, General Manager of Retail Operations at Market Place Café, “we started the Guest Chef Series to add more variety to our menus and offer guests cuisines from around the world. It has been a great way to partner with the local culinary community and give chefs a chance to share their culture and cuisines.”
The culture behind the food is very important to Chef Mirzai: “We’re very authentic; other Afghan restaurants are out in the city and it’s become so mainstream in Manhattan that it’s generic, so we try to keep the authenticity here.”
Chef Mirzai has a true passion for food and comes from a long line of chefs. Her mother, grandmother and great grandmother are all chefs with their own branch of restaurants which is one of the many reasons she decided to go into this business. “Before my mom opened her restaurant in Manhattan, she started with a little go cart truck, and this is what she served. I’m paying homage to her, I learned everything from her.” Choopan Grill is a dine-in restaurant that is looking to expand to more take-out options in the future.