This might come as a shocker to people who’ve struggled to stay afloat through my cumbersome food sagas in the past, but I’ve had such an intense two weeks of work and Stuff (with all the dirty laundry that the capital S implies) that I have nothing much to write. My mind is blank. I’m trying to revive it by playing Starship on repeat, but I might need another 48 hours of ‘rock and roll’ to snap out of it.
Lucky you, because you get one of my most rapidly digestable posts. No faffing about, just straight-up kababs grilled along the sidewalk in Al Shahba Sharjah, steps away from where I spent my kindergarten years.
I sat in the car, watching from afar as cherry-sized nubs of chicken or mutton were latched onto a skewer and cooked over violent sparks screeching out of what looked like nothing more than a basic beachside grill. The first kabab, its ears smouldering with charcoal-infused char, brought on an unexpected but deeply elemental wave of nostalgia – some nebulous memory mixture of the beach, our balcony BBQs in Old Dubai, childhood, grilled buttered corn on the sidewalks in India, a squeeze of lime.
While far from being the best kababs in the country, these ones get a full score on simplicity, character and smack-in-your-face charcoal flavour. The fuss-free ambiance of the sidewalk and the distinctly audible voice of lime calling through the chicken kababs make for a totally unpretentious and effortless dinner experience. But not a thoughtless one, given a kabab marinade that sings with labneh and kiwi, a tenderizing duo that’s worth a round of applause just for the creative insight that a pavement-chef invested in it.
I’d caution against overcomplicating your meaty meal with the side serving of herbs and chutney, these kababs deserve your unembellished chew. This is the sort of place where you grab your chicken and mutton fix, stash up on silky tandoor rotis made by the grinning guys next door, and lose yourself in the soothing repetition of cars milling through the unofficial driveway for their dinner order. It’s all very laissez faire, as evident from the baker listening to his headphones and prodding rotis off of the scorching sides of his tandoor. It’s the kind of kabab experience that looks you in the face – you with all your complications in life and your work debacles and your personal struggles and your heaps of dirty laundry, you with all your Stuff – and shrugs with a flavour that is so simple that really, don’t think too much, just eat.
A skewer of thanks to the aerial flying guru at Airspectiv for introducing me to this spot.
Calimero Cafeteria & Al Shabab Bakery
Al Shahba, Sharjah. If you’re a smart phone navigator, here’s my Google map with the location and all my other hideouts