Part 2: Sharjah Food Trekking


Just like I promised, here’s part 2 of last week’s post that was waiting to hatch into a published post. The chick is finally out now.

Ever watched the Kotthu Roti man belt out his beats with…blades on the griddle? This stuff happens out near the street in places like Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka, and often behind closed kitchen doors in Dubai and Sharjah. But when you come often enough to a place like Rakaiez in Sharjah, and you know the servers and cooks by name like Shiyam does, then closed kitchen doors will magically open for you.

Kotthu Roti

Kotthu Roti is a tumbled up heap of chopped parotta with fried eggs and onions and masalas and green chillies whose biting aroma shoots right up your nostrils and hits the trigger for a sneeze. Here was another comfort food, one that had to be snatched up with the fingers and dipped into a chest-warming salna.

The night was about comfort and connection, and in many ways, it was a real eye-opener for me about Sharjah. And about foodies who don’t just eat, but start sensing and smelling even before they’ve entered the restaurant. The pungent smell of South Indian sambar spices as you place your order for Kotthu Roti. The smell of the blossoming Neem tree surround the Afghan/Pak Naan shop, a seductive smell that that shies away if you stick the blossoms up your nose, but that swirls up to you on its own terms by latching on to a passing breeze. The sweet-salty-caramel smell of the deep-fryer, a smell that slowly gives way to a fishy essence as you approach one of Sharjah’s tiniest, yet most outrageously popular fish shacks—Mamma Machi.

Mamma Machi - Sharjah

I have yet to try Mamma Machi – there was so much food that night that we couldn’t eat it all, but crazy awesome curried fish, I know where you live now.

There was a heightened sensitivity that night, a curiosity, a suspended judgement, and a keenness of appreciation that often defies the mass marketing of foods and restaurant concepts and blog posts eager to keep up with traffic stats.

And then, there was this.

Chappali Kabab - Sharjah

A place that made a Chappli Kabab that has made every other chappli kabab of my past suddenly seem dry, rubbery and spiced with the wrong (more heaty, less flavour) spices.

Chappali Kabab

This was the cashmere of chappli kababs. Caramelized to a golden-brown on the outside in that savoury way that tugs on your glands and gets your mouth salivating on overtime. Impossibly slim and soft like wool on the inside, glisteningly moist to the core, studded with ruby tomatoes, and seasoned with masalas like whole coriander seeds that erupt into citrus peel and dried green tea leaves upon first crunch, and then waltz down your throat leaving a whiff of flowers in their wake.

Chappali kabab - Sharjah

After you furiously argue that nothing, no NOTHING on earth can make that kabab better, the guys around you will recommend you squish a bit of lemon over it. NOOOO DON’T RUIN IT BY ADDING ANYTHING!…NO REALLY…PLEASE IT’S BEAUTIFUL JUST THE WAY IT IS…AAH OKAY  FINE…*SQUISH*…*MUNCHMUNCH*… HOLYUNTHININKABLES. THIS HAS BLOWN MY BRAINS TO A HAPPY PLANET CALLED BLUTO THAT DOESN’T EVEN EXIST.

Chappali kabab- sharjah

The night ended with my brains still in Bluto but my body sitting cross-legged, sipping a midnight infusion of jasmine buds with honey that Shiyam had graciously made for us. It was the sort of drink that induces the deepest sigh in the deepest part of your chest and makes you deeply reflective about what you’re doing—in my case, blogging about food.

The evening had inspired us, and while we spoke about many things, we spoke most passionately about something that we’ve each been feeling in our own way for some time now. We spoke about dethroning oneself off of the social media pedestal and returning the crown to where it belongs—to the food, to the flavours, to the people who have accomplished so much through hard work, travel and experience in the culinary world. And above all, to those people, whether celeb chef or old uncle with a white beard who makes that cashmere of kababs, who serve you a plate of honest-to-goodness food.

Chappali kabab - Sharjah

Kotthu Roti
Al Rakaiez Restaurant
Phone: 06-5616373

Chappali Kabab
Al Ashifah Cafeteria
Phone: 050-1995071
Link to Google Maps for Al Ashifah’s location

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.

6 thoughts on “Part 2: Sharjah Food Trekking

  1. foodnflavors says:

    we will do it again from Biryani’s to phuckas and Omani halwa the trek continues…

  2. IshitaUnblogged says:

    Hopped reading the word ’Mamma Machi’. I just wrote on Bu Qtair and to write it and to take the video, I visited that many times. Thursday night, I took a lot of fish for a casual gathering and friends were talking about the Mamma Machi – how there’s another place in Sharjah which used to be like Bu Qtair. They were still wondering whether it still exists. Your post dropped like a gift from heaven:)

  3. Ahsan Ali says:

    I tried out the chapli kabab today (without the lemon). Wow, truly as described… if not more delicious! I’ll be going there again – as its not far from home :D

    Thanks for a great rec.

    – @highandwild

  4. nadia says:

    Hi Arva! Could you please share the address of Mamma Machi? I’ve asked around but nobody is pointing me to the right direction. Thanks!


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