Considering I’ve known Chirag for close to two years now, a joint foodie post with him is like…close to two years overdue. Anyhoo, we’ve finally got our act together, and it took nothing less than a food that we both hold close to our hearts, our tummies, our food loving souls…to make it happen. Manakish.
[psst, the word ‘manousheh’ in our post is not some sort of auto-correct defect. It’s the singular of manakish in Arabic. Yes it is. No, it’s not right to say can I have A manakish with cheese. Yes, we know you’ve said it before, we have too. No, it’s never too late to change.]
Now Chirag had told me about these falafel manakish in Karama. That’s like waving a bone in front of a dog, go fetch. I barked till he agreed to take me there.
I came across the falafel manousheh quite by accident – come to think of it, this is starting to ring true for a lot of really good food I find. The term they first used at Moulin D’Or when I walked in a few years ago during late night certification classes was: falafel sandwiches. But sandwich it was not. I watched their chef make what looked like a green topping manousheh wondering what he was up to, before I realized they really meant ‘falafel manousheh.’ I’d had falafel manousheh just once before in Abu Dhabi, where the guy tried to break open what I believe was a solitary falafel over labneh in a combination that, well, was clearly not worth blogging about.
Moulin D’Or however, put a nice spin on a traditional offering, spreading delicious falafel batter on a manousheh dough, topped with tahini, tomatoes, some greens and pickles. I can get aboard that train any day.
Me too…any day, ALL day. And if I’m hopping on any train, I’m taking both Chirag and Sheban—two outrageously smart, tech-wired entrepreneurs—with me, and making a food tour working session of it. Yeah I know, everything these days is about the food tours. I’ll launch it and then I’ll shut up already. Or maybe you’ll see promo SMS spam on food tours violently possess your cellphones. You can turn off the TV, turn off the radio, shut your eyes tight when you pass an annoying yellow bakeshop-plastered billboard, but cellphone...that’s where I’ve got you right where I want you, because Dubai has established that your cellphone is the one place you can never opt out of promo spam. It’s the Hotel California of ominous marketing spam, you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave…
But I will admit, when I stepped into Moulin D’Or, the food tours were the last thing on my mind. For someone whose Achilles heel lies in warm buttery baked goodies, this was heavenly hell. I walked in and it all just smacked me in the face: giant croissants puffed up like angry birds, small white discs of pastry smattered with za’atar and cheese, chocolate glazed rows of ganache and coffee buttercream-layered Opera cake, boats and crescents and all the usual shapes of tiny fatayer with cheese and meat and veggies. How had I not ever given Moulin D’Or a second glance on my visits across the street to Al Reef Bakery? Imagine, all those mornings where I could have been living the dream with HULK buttery croissants…
Seriously? You know you can get giant croissants anywhere right? It’s the falafel manousheh that’s a rare species around here. And to think we almost missed it that evening.
When I walked up to Moulin D’Or’s manakish oven, my heart skipped a beat. I didn’t see the A4 printed sign in Calibri that used to read “Falafel Sandwich, 5 Dhs”. It would seem we were a couple months too late to make the trip, and the falafel manousheh had now morphed into a mainstream falafel sandwich, no frills. Dejected, we walked back to the table. I was devastated, Sheban looked sad but could potentially be won over with a meaty fatayer. But Arva...Arva hadn’t really accepted the tragic news at all. She just strolled right back to the counter, because one more attempt at sighting the falafel manousheh was absolutely necessary. Skipping over a comment relating to women, better service and the GCC, I will merely point out that the chef agreed to make a couple of manakish just for us.
I’m ashamed to admit that I do use my chubby womanly charm when it comes to food. That’s not a bad thing now, is it?
Considering how the evening had progressed, the manakish’s arrival to the table was that much more exciting. The consensus around the table was that it looked even better than expected (though I was just gobsmacked with hunger by this point to have any expectations at all) I was just glad our trip had not been in vain.
Crisp manousheh dough, layered with awesome falafel mix, topped with tahina and crunch, a quiet calm engulfed the table as we ate (save for my incessant questions about food tours this and food tours that). Falafel makes for a very light manousheh when not fried, and although I felt that my memory of the manousheh I’d had here years ago was slightly better than the reality on my plate, this was still...
…satisfying. Of all the manousheh I’ve tried, the salty-bitter za’atar and cheese ones, the meaty sujuk ones, the creamy sweet lebneh ones, I’d say this falafel manousheh was the more subtle of the lot. The manousheh innards were so light that if you guzzled them down thoughtlessly, you wouldn’t hear the falafel spread murmur fragrantly from the crust. The base was thin and crispy, disintegrating into a crunch reminiscent of a stroll over dry autumn leaves in a city with four seasons. There was no cheese, and if there was tahina, it was barely there. The whole ensemble was delicate and understated.
The manakish must have been good, because we talked about falafels for about 20 minutes afterwards. Did you guys know there’s a falafel bar in Sharjah? NaaahsssSSSH! It’s a secret! …but more on that later. I can’t guarantee that Moulin D’Or will entertain more requests for the coveted manousheh, but having a woman in your party apparently helps. If not, they do have a decent repertoire of manakish to choose from. and cheesy fatayer and angry bird croissants. yumsies.
[Share some reader love with Chirag and check out the cross-posted post on his blog, Naihar.]
Moulin D'Or Bakery
Zabeel Road, across from Al Reef Bakery
Phone: +971 (4) 354-7847