My pending posts have become like a disorganized Old McDonald’s farm of nibbles, here a nibble, there a nibble, everywhere a nibble nibble [which is tantamount to a massive nibble]…
And no post to show for it.
So rather than let the tiny eats rot away in solitary unposted confinement in that part of my brain that would prefer to curl up and snooze after a heavy meal, I’m going to just patch up those disconnected nibbles into one post and pretend like there’s some DEEP unbreakable connection across these foods. SUCH AS: my intense passion to share tasty nibbles with my food loving fellows across the city.
[and the fact that the photos of these nibbles stare me in the face every time I launch Picasa.]
First up, a takeout of stuffed pigeon, or hamam mahshi, from Grand Abu Shakra.
If you mistakenly call them haMMam mahshi, don’t be surprised if the waiters snigger back at you because you’ve just inadvertently asked for stuffed bathrooms. Yuckies.
The last time I attempted grilled pigeons from Grand Abu Shakra, I ordered the unstuffed version…and was served up skanky emaciated pigeons that were quite literally, skin draped over tiny 00-sized pigeon bones. This stuffed pigeon takeout experience was clearly of a different (=tastier) flock. My golden-crusted pigeon was perched on a bed of short-grained rice, scattered with kidney and gizzards (most likely that of a chicken given their size), and throbbing with the sweet essence of heady spices, most prominently cinnamon.
Finding the meat in the bird was like a game of treasure hunt. To compensate for the hollow fleshless innards, the chef had stuffed the bird silly with same spiced rice that was mounded up on the plate. It was only when I got to the breast portion that I found a tender missile-shaped nugget of dark pigeon meat. But the victorious feeling of having found that morsel of pigeon meat, the fragrance of the rice, the crunch of the pigeon skin that boasted the golden sheen of a perfectly roasted, well-oiled bird, all of those together have ensured that forever more, I will look at pigeons with hungry eyes and a growling tummy.
If you ever find yourself at the Spice Souk, you’d realize that sadly, there’s not much to nosh on except this fabulous Arabianized Gelateria (I hope one of my erudite readers out there shrieks out a big fat NO! in my comments and corrects me with a laundry list of eateries in the spice souk area. I’d be eternally grateful.)
Of course I made a beeline for the camel milk, which I’d have expected to have a strong flavour, a gamey essence, a thick-skinned texture that would leave me grunting for more. But, in reality, the camel milk gelato scoop turned out to be quite timid, sort of as though it’d come from the milk of a very…shy camel?
The less exotic half of my gelato cup, a coffee-coloured scoop of hazelnut, was far more exciting and conducive to gelato giggles than the shy camel one. I also sampled a spoon of dates gelato, and one of saffron, both of which are brilliant and will definitely find their way into my gelato cup the next time I’m lurking about that area.
Does anyone remember the time when I went on this Nepalese momo hunt and landed up on floor -1 of a building in Meena Bazaar? Since then, Kathmandu Highland has got a ton of publicity, with one of their servers being splashed up on a full page of The National’s lifestyle cover. Anyhoo, after that last time I blogged about momos, I discovered two new momo variants. One is the kothe momo, partly steamed, partly pan-fried, and fully charged with the teasing smell of timur, a type of unique Nepalese spice with the aromatic prowess of potpourri.
An ordering tip: make sure you ask the servers to get your kothe momos with less oil. Sometimes the chef can get a little too adventurous with the grease in his pan and drown those poor babies.
That up there is the fourth momo variant I know of, the C-momo: plump steamed momos with Chinese style sweet and sour gravy streaming all over them. Sweet and sour gravy is like the cheese of Chinese cooking, you can slap it over anything and it’d probably taste good. As do these momos, though if I had to pick, kothe momos would still be my first choice.
I also claim to have tasted the shish tawook at Bait Al Wakeel. I only mention it because I rarely ever enjoy dry boring chunks of shish tawook, but in this case, (a) the service was so obnoxiously horrid, not just for my table, but all the other annoyed tables around us, that it does deserve a mention. I hypothesize that a rat had died in the kitchen and the servers were mourning its death; (b) the location is so perfectly romantic, with a deck overlooking the Bur Dubai side of the creek.
However, the server-dementors had obviously closed off the deck that night. The thrilled faces of customers enjoying their meal on the deck would have been intolerable I presume; (c) this may well be one of the oldest buildings in town, with interiors that speak to its history as “The House of the [presumably British] Agent;” and (d) that shish tawook, despite the abominable service, was actually ridiculously good. It was smoky and charred at the edges in a way that had me guzzling the chicken chunks down before my dementors could realize that I was enjoying the meal far too much and it had to be snatched away from me.
If it isn’t obvious already, I won’t be going back. Even if they coat their shisk tawook in edible gold and fan me with peacock feathers. [why doesn’t a restaurant in Dubai do this already? It’s unforgivable, really.]
This Filipino muffin-bun with unmistakeable Spanish influence: Ensemada.
In total defiance of the gluten-free diet that is currently topping the pop diet charts at the moment, I picked up this fluffy puff of unhealthiness from my local Madina store downstairs. You start nibbling on the hat of melted sugar and al-dente strands of sour highly processed cheese, till you realize that the sweet-cheesy hat is…gone….and replaced with light fluffy innards that could be dunked into tea (anything longer than a 1 second rapid dunk will cause the fluff to disintegrate into your chai. you have been forewarned.)
As ‘research’ for my article for Serious Eats, I tucked into cheesy Nabulsi Kunafa from Qwaider al Nabulsi, a Palestinian restaurant in Deira with uber-friendly servers, lip-smacking pistachio and dates mamoul, and trays of kunafa and other Arabic sweets that are pimped right at the entrance to trap poor unsuspecting, weak-willed, sweet-toothed customers. My kunafa of choice here is the one covered with ground brown semolina, which I make sure they serve hand-scorching hot so that the cheese can bubble out into my spoon in a show of ultimate decadent comfort.
The perk of parking yourself at Qwaider is that you can place an order for some of the best falafel there is to try in town from the psychedelic-signed Sultan Al Falafel restaurant next door. Sultan puts out a killer plate of stuffed falafel, or falafel mahshi, fried to a deadly crisp and studded with white sesame seeds. Contrary to their usual chickpea counterparts, these falafel innards are not just made with chickpeas, but also lined with a thin layer of chilli, sumac and onion stuffing that one-ups other falafels in that category.
I think the moral of this disconnected, long-winded nibbles story is that, I should try to forget my camera at home more often so that, oops, I can’t post about that yummy pigeon that exploded into a volcano of fragrant rice because I don’t have a photo of it [though the pigeon was a takeout that I devoured at home, so I was cornered in by my Canon.] and no one wants a photoless post and therefore I must not be plagued with self-induced guilt about owning a photo of something excruciatingly tasty that the world at large must know about even though they probably don’t give two hoots about what I consumed over the past two months.
…or it could just be that if you’re a food blogger, you’re going to be pretty darn well-fed.
Grand Abu Shakra
Al Maktoum Street, Next to Al Khaleej Palace
Kathmandu Highland Palace Restaurant
Near Astoria Hotel, Opposite Highland Supermarket, Meena Bazaar, Bur Dubai. [Probably best to ask the guy who picks up the phone to come and get you from the Astoria. He seemed super friendly and ever-so-willing to personally walk me over!]
Phone: +971 (4) 3536398 || +971 (55) 1742232
Bait Al Wakeel
Right by the Bur Dubai side of the creek, near the Textile Souk
Phone: +971 (4) 353-0530
Spice Souk Gelato Stand [I’m sure it has a more legit name, but I was too smitten with my hazelnut scoop to read the signboard.]
Look for the signpost in the main corridor of the Spice Souk
My Ensemada Fix
Any grocery store that stocks Filipino baked goodies…else trek over to the Madina Supermarket on Al Rigga Road.
Qwaider Al Nabulsi
Al Muraggabat Street, Deira
Phone: +971 (4) 227-7762 || +971 (4) 2277760
Sultan Falafel Restaurant
Al Muraggabat Street, Deira
Phone: +971 (4) 227-5559