Sunday, April 24, 2016

My new-found love: Middle Eastern food!

Last month or in March, I started having a new food craving - Middle Eastern food - so the weeks that followed I spent hunting for places to satisfy my palate. Out of curiosity for this cuisine, I also have been doing some reading about the famous dishes in both Arab and non-Arab 
countries in the Middle East. 
I've learned, for instance, that shawarma, which we Pinoys have grown to love, is Arab in origin; that chelow kabab is the national dish of Iran (chelow is Persian rice or saffroned basmati and kabab is also kebab or kabob, depending on the area and culture; and that falafel is considered to be the national dish of Israel. 
I was glad to not only read and learn about these food, but to also actually be able to taste them. I started my Middle Eastern food journey at Mister Kabab, which might as well be considered the "authority" in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine in the Philippines because I believe it's been here long before the others came. I read that it had very humble beginnings in 1987 on West Ave. in Quezon City. Today, 29 years later, Mister Kabab has seven stores and is still considered one, if not the best and most established restaurant serving Middle Eastern food.

Mister Kabab along West Avenue in Quezon City
Inside Mister Kabab. This place is not air-conditioned but it doesn't stop people from coming. It's always jam-packed when I pass by at night.
Here's what my daughter and I had at Mister Kabab for lunch one Saturday:

Falafel, P150.
This was really good! Who would think legumes make good sandwich filling? Falafel is deep-fried ball or patty made from ground chickpeas (garbanzos), fava beans (whatever it is 'coz I'm not familiar with it), or both. Falafel is to be eaten placed in between folded pita bread but because I'm not used to it, I tore the pita into pieces and dipped them into the hummus (that gooey-looking thick sauce on the plate) while munching on the falefel in between. I was surprised that fried chickpeas would be good to eat - crunchy on the outside, soft 
and chewy on the inside. Yummy! By the way, falafel on Mister Kabab's menu is spelled "flafel" which made me a little confused. This, however, did not diminish my liking for this food.
Hummus, meanwhile, is a food dip or spread made from cooked, mashed chickpeas or other beans, blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic. This, of course, is according to Wikipedia. Tee-hee. I loved hummus too. Very tasty!
Shawarma Plate, P120., plain rice, P45. 
Shawarma or Shawurma is a Levantine Arab meat preparation, where lamb, chicken, turkey, beef, veal, carabeef, or mixed meats are placed on a spit, and may be grilled for as long as a day. Mister Kabab's shawarma is so good and with that big serving size, it was really filling! My daughter ate it with buttered rice and also an extra piece of pita bread.
Extra pita bread, P20.
Wikipedia says Pita or pitta also known as Arabic Bread or Lebanese Bread or Syrian Bread, is a soft, slightly leavened flatbread baked from wheat flour that originated in the Near East, most probably Mesopotamia around 2500 BC.  

Watermelon shake, P65.
Some months earlier, I was at Mister Kabab in Fisher Mall, also in Quezon City. I had one of my closest friends with me and we ordered:

Shish Kabab Sandwich, P110.
This was my friend's order. The meat used here is chicken.
Beef shawarma sandwich, P100.
This was mine. During those times, I still was conservative with regard Middle Eastern food and was afraid to try something new so I stuck with the familiar - beef shawarma.
Yoghurt and fruit shakes, P65. each.
Inside Mister Kabab

Mister Kabab in Fisher Mall

Pinoys have obviously grown to love Mediterranean food because more foodie places have opened specializing in this cuisine. Today, there's also Uncle Moe's Shawarma Hub, Shawarma Bros.,  Hassan Kabab and Steaks, Abdul the Cool, Kebabers, Arya, and some others. Last month, I got to eat twice at Hassan in my office neighborhood.
Hassan Kabab and Steaks on Visayas Ave., Quezon City
I was with my food buddy in the office and she ordered T-Bone steak while I went for the beef kebab, which I had my first taste of.

Shish Beef Kebab with rice, P145.
Kebab is grilled ground meat - either beef or chicken - formed into elongated, tubular shapes and resembles skinless longganisa. In taste and smell, it's different from our native sausage, though, because it uses spices that we don' t usually use, giving it and all other Mediterranean dishes a distinct aroma. It can be eaten with pita bread or rice and I chose to have it with buttered rice. Hassan's version is delicious - not salty but balanced in flavors and served 
with grilled onion and tomatoes.
On my second visit to Hassan, I was with my daughter, who ordered also beef kebab 
while I had keema.
Sizzling Keema, P115.
Keema, according to Wikipedia, is a traditional South Asian dish of minced meat of almost any kind, sometimes with peas and/or potatoes. Hassan's is quite good, only the meat has a lot of fat that made me cringe as I though about my cholesterol level. I had to make sure I didn't miss my medicine that night!
Plain Yoghurt Shake, P65.
Because I asked the server not to have sugar added into my yogurt shake, it didn't taste so good but I had to contend with it. 

Meanwhile, I remembered trying Kabab Turki Baba Rafi maybe two years ago already. This was at St. Thomas Square on Espana Blvd. in Manila, which has sadly closed (I mean the Kabab Turki stall). I was even able to take photos of the process of making our kabab sandwich, which I'm happy to have saved. 
Here they are:

I also remember liking the kebab wrap but unfortunately, the stall was not there anymore on my next visit. As I write this post, however, I learn there are Kebab Turki Baba Rafi stores at Robinson's Place Manila, Dela Rosa Carpark in Makati and Skyranch in Tagaytay. 
Hope to visit it at Robinson's one of these days.
In my next post, I will take you to another place where we got to eat authentic Middle Eastern food - Shawarma Snack Center in Ermita, Manila.
 Until then, folks! Whatever you're having, happy eating!

No comments:

Post a Comment