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Noshe jaan! | 'Me, Mommy, Mantu' children's book highlights Afghan culture

In the book, Adina-Jao, along with her 7-year-old son, Max, teach others how to make the popular Afghan dish mantu.

ROCKLIN, Calif. — For Toba Adina-Jao, the representation of Afghan people, history and culture matters.

"Diversity is really important," said Adina-Jao. "But also the beauty in the differences, the beauty in different cultures, different people, different children and different foods."

Adina-Jao was born in Kabul, Afghanistan in 1980. That's one year after the Soviet Union invaded the country, triggering a decade-long Afghan civil war.

"My family and I escaped the country and migrated to Pakistan," said Adina-Jao. "We lived in Pakistan for a few years. And, because we had family already in Northern California, we found ourselves in Alameda."

Now, years later, Adina-Jao lives in Rocklin in Placer County. She, along with her husband, works to make sure their three children understand the importance of diversity and inclusion. For Adina-Jao, it's a personal decision close to her heart.

"We are a family of two mixed races," said Adina-Jao. "My husband is Filipino and I'm Afghan. I want my children to be proud that they're Filipino-Afghan."

That's why she wrote an Afghan children's book, titled, "Me, Mommy, Mantu." In the book, Adina-Jao, along with her 7-year-old son, Max, teach others how to make the Afghan dish mantu.


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Adina-Jao says mantu is often found at Afghan gatherings, parties, celebrations and weddings. She enjoys making the popular dish with her children at home in the kitchen.

Mantu, similar to a dumpling, comes with dough, traditionally made from scratch. The dough is cut into square pieces, then it is filled with ground beef, cooked onions, and various seasonings. After that, the dough is wrapped, steamed, and served with Chaka.

Adina-Jao explains that Chaka is the yogurt, sour cream and garlic. The mantu is topped with a lentil tomato sauce and na na, which is mint in Farsi. 

"Some people say Bon Appétit before they serve a tasty dish," said Adina-Jao. "Afghans say 'Noshe jaan!' In Farsi, that means, 'May it be sweet for your soul.' Noshe jaan!"

For Adina-Jao, the book represents more than teaching people how to make mantu. She says it's also an opportunity for others to learn about Afghan culture and the importance of Afghan representation in books, especially for the youth.

"My intention is to hopefully write two more books, one for each kid, surrounding the Afghan culture," said Adina-Jao. "One of my other intentions was also to shed a positive light on Afghans. So much has gone on in Afghanistan, and I just did not want us to always be defined by war."

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