I promise I will get to the meat bread in a moment.
So someone once told me that P.F. Chang’s exists for unadventurous people who are afraid to go to a real Chinese restaurant run by real Chinese people. These are the same people who are afraid to travel up and down Nolensville Road in Nashville, the absolute epicenter for authentic ethnic cuisines from all over the world. It is a treasure trove.
Yes, there are often bars on the windows of such establishments. And the delicious offerings come with names that Westerners (and especially Southerners!) find difficult to pronounce. Which is why when I went into the Azadi International Market on Nolensville Road this morning, I did not ask for the lahmacun. The Kurdish gentleman who runs the market will understand perfectly if you just request a meat bread.
Oh, the glory of the meat bread. The filling of lamb, tomato and spices sits on a homemade pita bread baked in the back of the shop by Kurdish women. You can watch them form various types of breads and slide them into an infernally hot wood-fired oven. Then savory lamb or goat in a spiced tomato sauce is scattered on top with a crowning layer of melted cheese.
Other non-Kurdish folks have found this magical place. Just read the reviews on Yelp. Places like this seldom have websites and some don’t even take credit cards. I found out about it through my Southern Foodways Alliance newsletter, which featured Azadi in an article on the Kurdish community in Nashville and the foods they recreate here from back home.
I’d never had Kurdish food before (I also bought some sensational savory and spicy chicken hand-held pies and a flat bread that is super flaky and buttery), but I’m all about it now. And all the food of all the peoples of Nolensville Road — the Mexicans, the Chinese, the Vietnamese, the Lebanese, the Guatemalans — all of them.
Sometimes, especially these days, we forget those stirring words on the Statue of Liberty:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
Thank goodness they were kind enough to bring their food with them.