The Mushakal Sandwich at Muna, Sharjah.

blank A couple of yuppie falafel places have been cropping up in Dubai over the last two years, selling falafels with a personality not dissimilar to the wrapping they come in. What we need more of is a simple concept that Sharjah, and Sharjah alone, does so bloody well – The Falafel Bar.

Muna Cafeteria

The falafel bars of Sharjah are bare-bones joints that have been frying up their fritters since the 80’s. These humble cafeterias have squatted on prime property just steps away from the Sharjah corniche, some of them probably not having washed their signboards since the heydays of Chart Attack on Channel 33. Or for my brown fellow mates who’ve lived through years at TMHS, IHS or…OO…OOEHS (now that was clumsy. Our Own never did have a sexy acronym did it? Sorry OOEHS’ers. Our Ownites? Here’s my fav – Our Owners.)

(And with that frivolous parenthetical discussion, I have just made an army of new enemies.)

Getting back to the point of which era the falafel bars cropped up in, the reference point for the desi crew who grew up here are those good ol’ greasy times when the local Hindi radio channel gave away two bottles of Minara sunflower oil FREE! to any and every competition winner, right after playing a tantalizing millisecond of a Bollywood song dropped in the midst of mind-numbingly endless advertising jingles (take the Atlas Jewelry one which 25 years later, has stuck so stubbornly in my mind that I still haven’t been able to mentally wallpaper it over with other more melodious memories.)

Muna Cafeteria in Sharjah

Muna Cafeteria in Sharjah

The Majaz strip of falafel bars holds two main contenders: Comodor, arguably the most famous one, and Frayha next door. As you continue driving down, Muna crawls into view as the all-vegetarian underdog that serves an easily memorizable menu: falafel, hummus, mutabbal, foul medames, fried eggplant, cauliflower and French fries – each served separately or assembled into multiple variations that get tightly tucked into cozy khubz rolls.

Hummus - Muna Cafeteria in Sharjah
Hummus at Muna Cafeteria

I’ve heard that Muna is a favourite of the all-veggie crowd who’d rather not deal with the scrumptiously carnivorous shawarma spit smack in front of their faces. Just like its meatier rivals down the street, Muna has tables crowded with all the ingredients necessary for a D-I-Y falafel sandwich. Skip the mediocre dips and just focus on creating your own chickpea fritter experience – crunch on a pickled carrot, squeeze a briny pepper, pluck some fresh leaves out of the jungle of herbs on your table, slather on some illegally good chilli sauce, and now you’re set to munch. The only missing element is the garlic-lemon-tahini dip, which my falafel bar mentor Sheban, wisely ordered from Freyha next door and smuggled into Muna with him.

Falafels at Muna Cafeteria in Sharjah

Chilli sauce at Muna Cafeteria in Sharjah

This to me is real Farm-to-Table. Actually, it’s Farm ON the Table. There’s a selection of rayhaan (tulsi), purslane, mint, maybe amaranth, and my favourite za’atar (thyme) leaves just sprouting up like an afro from the water jugs on the table, completely blocking your view of anyone sitting across from you…

Muna Cafeteria

…but who cares? This is about reconnecting with a basic falafel experience and it’s almost better to block everything and everyone else out for a couple of minutes so you can savour the moist herby mush inside the crunchy falafel crust. I’ve never been wild about falafel, but I’ll give it to Muna that they serve up a plate of grease-free, fragrant, herby falafel with the appropriate cross-hatched crust of fried crispiness.

Falafels at Muna Cafeteria in Sharjah

I will forever remember Muna as the place where I made my mushakal sandwich debut under the watchful guidance of Ali. Seriously, where has this cuddly Arabic falafel burrito been all my life? [Answer: probably hiding under a rock and weeping oily tears after the Big Mac domination of the world.]

Mushakal Sandwich at Muna Cafeteria

Eggplant slivers and cauliflower florets heavy with deep-fried sweetness are tossed into a khubz that’s bursting at its seams with smashed falafel, juicy tomato wedges, parsley, chilli and tahini (I’ve been warned to keep the fries out of the sandwich.) Ali swears by the mushakal at Frayha next door, which means he’s just volunteered to go on air and rave about why that everything-in-a-falafel-bar’s-kitchen-sink sandwich is worth pulling out your hair/incessantly switching radio channels/counting sheep as you suffer through the traffic driving into Sharjah.

Mushakal Sandwich at Muna Cafeteria
Muna’s Mushakal under construction…falafel pending.

Found something even better than Frayha’s mushakal that deserves air time? Fine, tell me all about it right here. The day I launch that food show I mentioned in my last post (that day might be the only distant thing that comes after the unpredictable but wildly celebratory day when Etisalat fixes my internet connection), the still-to-be-born food show team and myself will consider trying out the killer dish you found at some secret restaurant in the UAE. And we’ll make you, the dish, and the lucky bugger of a restaurant strut down the YouTube food ramp for cyber posterity.

Muna Cafeteria
Phone: 06-5593715
On Jamal AbdelNasar Street, Close to Al Majaz Waterfront, Sharjah. Check out my google maps link here.

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.

5 thoughts on “The Mushakal Sandwich at Muna, Sharjah.

  1. MyCustardPie says:

    This to me is real Farm-to-Table. Actually, it’s Farm ON the Table. – Priceless. You’ve made me want to go to Sharjah. A feat inded.

    1. Arva says:

      You must. One day, when you and I want to let our hair down, let’s throw our phones in the creek and run away for falafels to Sharjah.

  2. Ann George says:

    I lived in Saudi arabia as a kid and I grew up eating mushakal sandwiches. . After coming to dubai, I had been searching for one decent falafel sandwich but never found one.. thank you so much for finally finding it! !!
    The mushakal sandwiches in Saudi Arabia even had boiled eggs thrown in. .. absolutely delish!
    Thank you once again, you don’t know what this means to me.

    1. Arva says:

      @f890d840db09db354ccdb991699af319:disqus – I’m so glad this will help relive childhood memories! Boiled eggs in the mushakal sounds like a sandwich on steroids, I need to hunt that down…or if you find it first, let me know!

  3. IshitaUnblogged says:

    I really want to go here. Look at it – so simple, yet it is farm-to-table. The photograph of the Hummus, the falafels are larger than life.


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