As simple as kababs on a sidewalk in Sharjah.

blankThis 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.

Calimero Cafeteria & Al Shabab Bakery - Al Shahba Sharjah

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.

Kababs - Calimero Cafeteria - Al Shahba Sharjah

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.

Kababs Grill - Calimero Cafeteria - Al Shahba Sharjah

Mutton Kababs - Calimero Cafeteria - Al Shahba Sharjah

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.

Al Shabab Bakery - Al Shahba Sharjah

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
Phone: 06-5582781

Author: InaFryingPan

With a family legacy of ingenious cooks, a nutritionist and chef-extraordinaire mother, and a father who introduced me to steak and caviar when I could barely reach the table, I had no choice but to acquire a keen awareness of food during my childhood years in Dubai. But it was only after I found myself on a college campus in Philadelphia – far away from home, too cheap as a student to spend on anything other than pizza, and with dorm rooms that had little rat-holes of kitchens if they even had them at all – when I developed a heightened appreciation of food. An appreciation of food that I once ate every night at the dinner table in Dubai, but that was now an entire ocean away. I lusted for the culinary treasures that lay outside the stale walls of my college dining hall, hijacked friends’ kitchens to try my hand at something, anything , remotely edible, and greedily raided different websites in search of highly-rated restaurants. With my move to New York to work for a consulting firm that secretly harbored self-professed foodies, my appreciation transformed into a passion, an addicition. I felt like everyone around me in New York was talking about food: where to get the best cupcakes, pizza slices, banh mi, kati rolls, pho, fried chicken, and every other food item out there that is just a plain old dish in some part of the world, but that’s become hyped to unforeseen proportions in New York. What fuelled my addiction over time was travel to different cities, both for work and play, which gave me unfettered access to the culinary havens of not only New York, but also of DC, Virginia, Chicago, Houston, Vegas, Austin, Seattle and even a little city called Bentonville (Arkansas!). After 9 years away from home, I’ve finally taken the leap to come back to Dubai – with not just an awareness, but genuine appreciation and passionate addiction for what I’d taken for granted as a child. Mom, I’m back to reclaim my seat at your dinner table, and to rediscover this city with its ever-expanding menu of international flavors.

12 thoughts on “As simple as kababs on a sidewalk in Sharjah.

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      Good luck hun! The only capital S’s in your life are in SuperStar. That’s what you are.

  1. IshitaUnblogged says:

    Did I hear ‘cherry-sized’ nubs of chicken or mutton were latched onto a skewer? Back to the basics… we are so so caught up nowadays:)

  2. saleem says:

    Reminds me of our days in Hyderabad in 60’s when we use to make such kababs on charcoal grills in the open yard. Would love to try the kababs with you one of these days.

  3. Nassar says:

    Wow this is the first time i read one of your posts, and you kinda make food sound poetic!! beautifully written.
    i know this place and as you said the simplicity is what makes it, the skewer is only two dirhams, but its bite sized so you’ll end up eating like 15 , khoboz is light and its served with a delicious seasoned yogurt.

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      There’s nothing like hearing from someone who’s a veteran of the place you’ve blogged about. Thanks for leaving your thoughts Nassar, and I’m glad you feel like the post did justice to the kababs :) Good things in life are nearly free…or at least at the dirt cheap price of 2 dirhams!

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