Folks, I’d like to announce the birth of my ice cream machine. It’s the most beautiful and productive being in my kitchen, and even though I’m no ice-cream fanatic, there’s something magical about the process of transforming chocolate and cream into thick, gloopy liquid swirls of cookie-studded chocolate ice cream.
Once the ice cream has ripened up to the right rich-creamy-scoopable consistency, I usually need a sweet-toothed soul to take it off of my hands and help me free up space in my cramped freezer…so I can try my hands at another batch from scratch all over again. Watching that machine purr out fat threads of cool cream is just unbelievably addictive.
Over the past week of creating ice cream, I’ve just stacked away all the goodies I’ve stumbled upon into a ‘must-blog-about’ list. Here’s the list, all crammed into one post so that I can rush back to the kitchen and churn out the next batch of ice cream that I do not intend to consume but for whom I’m sure to find a willing audience.
Russian Bouglama at Marmara, one of the many intriguing restaurants that beckons to me when I’m stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Dubai-Sharjah highway. This was such a grandma-style homely dish that it defied the very nature of the restaurant—male dominated, dice-playing buff dudes who had made the restaurant their nightly smoking and playing hangout. I don’t recommend this place for women or to families or to anyone who’d squirm at the potentially questionable hygiene of the corner tables…but to anyone who dreams about dunking chunky bread with peppery nigella seeds into a savoury lamb broth full of silky capsicums and tomatoes and dill, this odd place is perfect for you. And me.
Turkish Iskendar kabab, also at Marmara. This joint serves a combination of Russian, Georgian and Turkish dishes, all seamlessly slapped into one menu in utter defiance of political boundaries. We hungrily forked straight out of the short stack of well-charred lamb and beef strips cuddled up against toasted bread cubes, all splodged over with a well-seasoned tomato paste and a dollop of austerely uncreamy yogurt. All very satisfying for a simple dinner, but nothing that outranks the Iskender I’ve had at Anatolia Grill, Kervan Saray or Istanbul Flower.
A bread boat of cheese, aka Kasarli pide in Turkish. I’ll be honest, it’s nothing that makes me want to brave snakes of traffic for, but I find that pides rarely ever do. Something about the carb-to-cheese ratio often feels too high. But it’s a safe dish, and while it may not excite, it usually never offends.
There’s a section of ‘Farinaceous’ dishes on the menu which hint of dumplings and cheese pancakes (Khachapuri?), and since most of them weren’t available during the day of Ramadan that I visited, I might have to go back and brave the awkward man-cave environment again for a taste.
North Indian Murg Kasturi Tikka at Sigdi in Karama. Creamy nubs of chicken marinated in fenugreek and grilled till their edges were smoky with the taste of charcoal. Fenugreek seems to be one of the lesser used herbs in commercial cooking, but it’s one of those ingredients that when used correctly, can elevate chicken or lamb to its righteous place in herby-flavoured heaven.
Sigdi’s Nalli Nihari, with beef-clinging marrow bones in a sticky unctuous broth that spoke of a painstaking multi-hour cooking process.
Sigdi’s version was admittedly not authentic, not as silky as paya nor as spicy as the real versions, but it was peppery, warm and totally worth packing to take home (which I did.) The gravy had an almost pureed-and-strained quality, and it was closer to a corn starch-thickened Chinese sauce that coats the back of the spoon than an oily nihari gravy that leaves the spoon so greasy that you may as well throw it away than scrub it clean. Or like me, skip the spoon and use a layered Warki Paratha to sop up the meaty juices, with the paratha's ajwain seeds hinting of fennel and thyme in the background.
A token mention for the Rose Lassi promoted by my Sigdi-advocate, Potson. This is one of those S.O.S It's Summer drinks, a refreshing combo of syrupy rosy Rooh Afza mellowed out by the mildly sour taste of yogurt. A glassful of the drink is a good way to spank the ludicrous summer heat outside back into its sorry place.
Thanks again to Potson, I was introduced to the baby bum-soft buttery pav and fried masala eggs at Raju Anda (anda = egg in hindi, though their real name is Raju Omlet. Given the versatility of their egg dishes beyond just Omlet, which is misspelled to begin with, Potson has rightly rechristened this 18-chair egg-focused joint as a more Indian-sounding Raju Anda).
This place is on what the most multi-ethnic back streets of Karama, right behind Pizza Hut, where you get everything from Ethiopian injera and Keralite karimeen to Indonesian chicken curry and Filipino kankong. Of all the dishes we tried on my second visit there, the one I liked was the same one I had originally ordered on my first solo visit – the Masala Half-fry. A sunny-side up egg drenched in butter and covered with finely chopped onions, ginger and the right toss of spices over which you want your yolk to spill out and drench up.
A word of caution: You’ve GOT to ask them to reduce their extremely generous use of butter, else you’ll find yourself hunting for the egg whites in a massive pool of melted coronary attack just waiting to happen.
Every pav is slit into two cheeks, each slathered with the salty-sour taste of cultured Indian butter – Amul. For all the desis reading this blog, say it with me baby:
UTTERLY BUTTERLY DELICIOUS...AMUL!
Moving on. Slather on some of their sweet green chili sauce on the pav, let it soak in along with the butter, and then dip it right into the center of a well-salted, creamy yolk...and suddenly you understand why a tiny Indian place dedicated to just eggs makes total sense.
Clockwise, from top left: Chilli omlet, crush omlet, boil tikka and bhurji
The folds of chilli omlet tucked into a buttered pav was runners-up on the list, with the crush omlet (a spiced omelette covered with shredded strips of egg) falling to a distant third. The boil tikka (boiled eggs immersed in a thick tomato gravy) and bhurji (scrambled-up egg tossed with masala and veggies) were so overpoweringly spicy – both chillies and chest-burning garam masala – that we couldn’t even include them in the egg ranking.
It's a cute place, bordering on somewhat contrived with every egg pun possible meticulously plastered across their walls. And with a killer Adrak Chai that has the spunk of fresh ginger and the right amount of sugar on occasion.
And this here, this dense monster of a sweet cream ball here is the gooey chocolate ice cream with sugary cookie bobs from the Frying Pan den.
It might be the only dessert I have to talk about until I get over my infatuation with the ice cream goddess that is being worshiped in my kitchen. Once she leaves, maybe I’ll go hunt out those cronuts that a sweet foodie mentioned to me on my food tour recently…if you haven’t a clue what a cronut is, google and DROOL. And pray that I get over my ice cream mania so that I can tell you where to find them.
The location of the restaurants have been pinned to my Google map.
Marmara Turkish Restaurant
Al Nahda. Right after Al Mulla Plaza to your right, as you drive from Dubai to Sharjah
Website link: http://www.marmararestaurants.com/
On Zabeel Road, Karama.
Raju Anda (Omlet)
Take a right after Pizza Hut opposite Bur Juman, then another right at the T-junction, then another right, and then a left. Drive down the street, Raju Anda will be on your left.