At the foot of the rolling hills of Herat lay green pastures where the livestock roams free and is raised with care to feed the community. These are the memories of Walli Sidiqee and his family. The Sidiqees are the inspiration behind two NJ restaurants serving authentic Afghan food. Their locations are in Martinsville and Basking Ridge.

Afghan cuisine, according to the Sidiqees, takes time. It is centered around healthy, whole ingredients. In an interview with co-owner Walli, we learned the meaning of halal food, Afghan culture, the detail-oriented cuisine, and the welcoming ambiance of his two restaurant locations.

“We are unique,” said Walli Sidiqee. He talked about Afghan food as a healthy option, with incredible flavors. Sidiqee also pointed out that it hasn’t been done “in a proper setting” in the Garden State. “My goal is to make sure to honor this cuisine and take it to the next level,” in Basking Ridge and surrounding towns.

Walli is the chef, manager, and co-owner of the Hills of Herat. At 36, he immigrated to the United States from Afghanistan. He has worked in restaurants for the 13 years he’s been in New Jersey. For the past seven years, he’s taken pride in his perfectionist attitude with the opening of a small restaurant in Martinsville, and now a restaurant double that size, in Basking Ridge. At his side are co-owners, Mustafa Sidiqee and Saboor Sidiqee.

“Our meat quality is at the highest level, and it’s all halal which has more accountability,” he went on to explain the concept of halal. The “animal has no health issues and no hormones injected in it. So, the meat is more flavorful and extremely healthy for you.” 


One of the staple food items on the Hills of Herat menu is qorma, which is an Afghani stew. “We serve traditional dishes like the meatball qorma—a mix of ground beef and ground veal, and there’s no fat so the meatball can hold together,” explained Walli.

“We add onions, black pepper, salt, a lot of garlic, and mix it. And we make a stock with tomato, onion, garlic, and tomato paste, and cook meatballs in the sauce and steam it with those flavors. The meatballs are so much better rather than keeping those separate.” The veal qorma consists of a similar stew-style chock full of pressure-cooked veal chunks.

grilled meats at Hill of Herat
Grilled meats

From the Grill

Hills of Herat also offers items from the charcoal grill. “Our tenderloin kabobs are very flavorful,” stated Walli, who explained how his kitchen cleans the meat. “What we do is patiently take off every single tendon… Cooking on the grill, tendons make the meat chewy. So, we clean the tenderloin or filet. Then we marinate for at least a day in onion puree, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, and different spices. The next day we skewer the meat and cook it on top of a special char-broiler for kabobs.”

Other cuts like the ribeye steak and lamb chops are “out of this world and have just the right amount of fat,” said Walli.

“We have something for everyone: Carnivores get steak and kabobs. We have eggplant and cauliflower for vegans. And we don’t use a lot of nuts or ingredients that people are allergic to,” said Walli. “For people with celiac, we don’t use a lot of flour. I would hate to be limited or not give folks a chance to have a good meal.”

Food for Everyone

During the conversation with Walli, it became apparent that there was no good reason not to try Afghan cuisine. What’s more, there’d be no better place to start than the Hills of Herat.

“This is something new,” said Walli about his restaurant and concept. “And it caters to everyone’s palate. It’s very healthy. We only have two or three fried items on the menu, and we’re not using a ton of oil…”

Walli brings his work ethic, ingredients, and cooking methods straight from his home country. He’s got an idealistic view of what food should be, and he seemed like a trustworthy man that any customer would be happy to have serving him or her.

“The real Afghan food is some of the healthiest and flavorful cuisine there is,” he said. “The recipes and cooking methods are authentic and never evolved because of war for hundreds of years. That was the idea: To serve what we eat at home.”

Growing up, Walli learned the importance of emphasizing hospitality for guests. His goal is to distill his experience and relay his upbringing to those dining at the Hills of Herat. For example, he was raised apart from the Western world and mass production.

“The majority of beef and chicken, they inject hormones, and that becomes part of fat and dairy. Animals are kept together and stressed. But back home no one has cancer, or intolerance, or heart issues. I think it’s because there’s no mass production. So, we source from different farms. And with halal food, none of that stuff happens to the animal.”

Growing Up in Afghanistan

Many people in the United States may have a preconceived notion of what being in Afghanistan is like. These visions and ideas, are often shaped by the narrow view through the cable media lens. However, Walli Sidiqee offered a different perspective.

“Growing up, I was a farmer in a valley town village that was self-sufficient. It was like living 200 years back. You grow vegetables, and raise animals, and use wood [for fire], and drive horses, no cars, no cell phones, no gas, no electricity. It was a really pure lifestyle,” he shared.

“But we’ve been through wars and became refugees three times in my life. Coming to NJ was a big transition because culturally you’re in a place where it’s completely opposite from what you’ve been doing.”

Sidiqee described hard times in his early life when his family had to limit themselves to two meals a day. And if there were visitors taking refuge from war—it was customary for his family to let them eat first and leave themselves—the hosts—the leftovers.

“If I were to dream or imagine a life 15 to 17 years ago, I wouldn’t be able to dream about where we are now,” he said, while describing war in Afghanistan and recalling bullets whizzing by his home. “I’m extremely grateful. The initial four to six years [in New Jersey] were challenging. I was trying to catch up. It’s always been about survival and providing for our families. And making sure you’re the hardest-working person in that room and taking care of the people around you.”

Culture and Cuisine

For Walli, food is his segue to communicate all this information—whether it be by one bite, or by dining with new or old friends and sharing experiences. He enjoys seeing guests’ faces light up after trying his food for the first time.

“In order to learn about culture, you have to meet the folks from those countries and ask what they’ve been through and what they think,” he continued. “Mainstream media is telling you hatred only, but it’s extremely important to travel and get to know people from other regions.”

He pointed out that in the past, his home country used to be a travel destination, a place for higher education, and a hub for trade and culture.

“It gets people closer together and shows people the true Afghanistan,” he said. “The country is amazing. The wars were imposed on us. People don’t know the background, and it’s hard for them to have a grip on what’s going on. The restaurant tells people we’re all the same. We’re some of the nicest people on Earth, and the cuisine some of the best in the world.”

So, customer by customer, and kabob by kabob, Sidiqee and his family will show NJ residents and tourists what Afghan culture and cuisine means to them.

“Food is what I love doing, and it’s the best medium to gather and to connect people, to close the [gaps] between people. Sitting at a table, you can introduce culture and the more you communicate the more you realize we’re the same people, just with a different upbringing.”

Hills of Herat
665 Martinsville Road
Basking Ridge, NJ

1982 Washington Valley Road
Martinsville, NJ