I’m not sure how many of you are looking for fun and obnoxiously greasy ways to cheat on a diet program, but if you are, feel free to follow the butter-trail that I innocently skipped down over a tiny span of two days, and that I retrospectively recorded as a window of time that I ate like a cow.
Iraqi Tashreeb Bagilla at Bait Al Baghdadi was the starting point of the butter trail, of the glossy and gluttonously greasy indulgence, of the green tea detox that I should seriously be considering this week.
The breakfast bowl was an omelette-covered ecosystem of potatoes, broad beans (foul) and herbs (including Iraqi mint, butnege), with a bottom foundation of thin lacy bread parasitically sucking out the juices from everything above. Where does the butter come in you ask? EVERYFREAKINGWHERE. There was samna (term for clarified butter in the Middle East) in every airspace not already occupied by bread, bean or potato, to the point where I might subtly request the server to give me a lighter, less buttered-up version the next time around.
Next up was a Bombaya-style lunch with Mumbai Express’ Pav Bhaaji, served with a soft floofy bun (pav) lightly toasted at the edges and dripping with buttery gold, like so:
The Bhaaji was composed of tomatoes, onions and spices that had been pureed down into a bright red gloop, garnished with a cube of butter that melted within seconds and shyly trickled away into the creamy layers of the curry. I split open the two buttery halves of the pav, spooned over thick blobs of pulpy bhaji, and finished off my open-faced Mumbai sandwich with some crunchy raw onions, coriander and a squish of lemon.
Much to the annoyance of everybody who loves Mumbai Express (the fact that this place may have a pav bhaaji cult following is not lost on me), I did feel like there was something unnaturally red and homogeneous about this bhaaji. It had the sort of fluorescence you’d expect out of something heavily processed, like sunny yellow velveeta cheese. Maybe it contained canned tomato puree? Or red colouring? All I’m saying is that if you make bhaji at home, it usually wouldn’t look that red unless you dropped your case of blush into it.
Mumbai Express also does a decent Dabeli, a Gujarati snack with a squishy layer of curried mashed potatoes, onions, (tamarind?), and tons of toasty peanuts and crunchy sev (fried gram flour noodles) cuddling the stuffing in the bun all around. It’s listed on the breakfast menu, but it seems like Mumbai Express is extending many of the brekkie dishes over to lunchtime for hungry souls like moi. The fact that I had asked for the Special Kutchi Dabeli meant that my pav was also worthy of a smashed stack of grated cheese (whose attempts at delivering any sort of processed flavour died under the vastly more flavourful potato, tomato and peanut stuffing).
I don’t know if the Dabeli bun was slathered with butter, but it’s almost stupid for me to assume otherwise because the first rule of most Indian-style sandwiches is – take bread, apply Amul…[continue with rest of recipe].
The final butter blow happened over dinner at Nawabs, which has a sign that speaks of cracked, faded antiquity worthy of being designated a restaurant monument in Dubai.
I rarely, RARELY, ever order butter chicken, daal makhani and the usual onslaught of creamy, buttery North Indian dishes (apologies to my Nawabi friends, no offence, but I’m more a wheat-complexioned dosa girl than a blue-eyed butter chicken babe). But for many inexplicable reasons, one of which is that butter in your tummy begets more butter in your tummy, and I already had a lot of butter in my tummy by this point, I actually consumed a range of dishes that left me oozing butter out of every imaginable pore in my body.
The basic cholesterol-worshipping foundation across all the curries were the same. All of them collectively strolled up to the same tomato, ghee and cream crossroad, and then veered off down different lanes based on one or two spices that eventually christened the curry. Our Methi Chicken had taken a subtly fragrant fenugreek route, while the Kalimirch one [pictured above] sped down black pepper lane. The Palak Kofta gravy [pictured below] had wandered into a cave with earthy spinach tones, while the road to Dal Makhani was ladled with whole black lentils and beans…and the necessary bucketful of butter.
It was a Nawabi butter fest, one that left me groaning in the passenger seat of the car that had to deposit me back home.
Caution: If you embark on this butter trail, your insides may well suffocate in a swamp of grease by the last cottony ball of spinach and paneer kofta that rolls down your gullet at Nawabs. Consecutive cups of green tea may not save you. For the uber-ambitious and blubberingly unhealthy, feel free to add a shot of baklava to the buttery binge.
Al Bait Al Baghdadi Restaurant
Al Muteena Street, Deira, Dubai
Phone: +971 (4) 273-7064
[They also have a branch in Sharjah, near Al Majaz Park. Phone: +971 (6) 559-8844]
Behind the Pizza Hut across from Bur Juman, facing the parking lot across from Urban Tadka, Karama, Dubai
Phone: +971 (4) 370-8081 / 397-9616
Multiple branches, but this one was in Jumeirah Plaza, Beach Road, Jumeirah 1
Phone: +971 (4) 344-2330