It’s right to receive blank looks and a curious expression when you mention Kurdistan, but this large area encompassing northern Iraq, as well as parts of Turkey, Iran, and Syria is where Anthony Bourdain finds himself discovering the region’s unique take on some familiar culinary favorites.
Anthony Bourdain visit Kurdistan to film season 7 (episode 15) of No Reservations; it was his only visit to the region, which is defined more by its cultural similarities than any national borders. You won’t find Kurdistan on a map, but you can find it in the flavors of the dishes that Tony tries in this region.
If you’re planning to visit this area – as uncommon as that might be – or are just curious about the foods eaten and places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Kurdistan, this is your guide. Below you’ll find each place and the dishes Tony ate, as well as which country it’s in (just for reference and to help you plan your trip).
Pank Resort, Rawanduz, Iraq
Following some intense trauma and combat training alongside frequent Bourdain collaborators Tom Vitali, Jared Andrukanis, Todd Liebler, and Zach Zamboni, Anthony finds something very different – a weekend getaway and picnic spot for Iraqis, away from the blistering heat of the cities.
Here he joins a local family picnic to sample some of the culinary staples in this part of the world. He tries the ubiquitous rice dish biriyani, dolmas (a Syrian-originating dish of grape leaves and vegetables stuffed with rice and minced meat), grilled kebabs, and mastaw, a salted yoghurt drink that is surprisingly refreshing.
Private Family Meal, Barzan, Iraq
Tony is next invited to a meal alongside local Peshmergas in the town of Barzan in Northern Iraq, close to the Turkish border. This is simple and traditional fare – spiced cous cous, Kurdish naan bread, this time baked over hot coals rather than in a Tandoori style over, and Kurdish bulgar wheat, flavored with onion, stock, and tomato puree.
Abu Shahab City Restaurant, Erbil, Iraq
Bourdain’s next stop in Iraq takes him to the city of Erbil, where alongside United States military personnel he visits the Abu Shahab City restaurant. A variety of Middle Eastern dishes are ordered; shawarma, eggplant soup, okra, kebabs, all topped off with what is lovingly and respectfully referred to as the “gut bomb.” Otherwise known as ouzi, this dish combines chicken, lamb, raisins, almonds, and rice, all baked into a filo pastry crust.
Private Meals, Mardin, Turkey
Driving through the outskirts of Mosul to reach the border and enter the Kurdish region of Turkey, Tony next visits the city of Mardin, built of ruins of the ancient city of Dara. Here he dines first with a local family, sampling sheep fried in oil to render, then removed. Bulgar is then cooked in the rendered fat before the meat is added back in prior to serving.
Bourdain’s final meal is on a terrace overlooking the ancient ruins with his security team. Here he enjoys a delicacy of this part of Kurdistan: kaburga dolmasi is a slow-cooked lamb rib, stuffed with spiced bulgar, and served over a bed of peppery fried rice. Here, as the sun dips to the horizon casting shadows across the magical landscape, Tony reflects on his time in the region, musing that it is “easy to find oneself enchanted… it is inarguably beautiful.”
Have any questions about these places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Kurdistan or what he ate there? Let me know in the comments.