What Do You Eat Three-Foot Long Sangak Flatbread With?
What Do You Eat Three-Foot Long Sangak Flatbread With?
When a wedding buffet pushes you into this spacey state of existence, making everyone in the buffet line vanish away and leaving one twisted thought lingering in your head…ah, if only I could share that goat head crowned with tempered rice with my readers. When you’re having nightmares about whether your facebook page followers have stealthily unliked your page and left you high and dry, with one pathetic like…from yourself. When you have this overwhelming feeling of needing to jump out of the car and review the first place that crosses your path…even when you really don’t have much of an appetite cause that dang flu virus in India has done this wicked black magic on your precious tummy. When you nearly kiss the camera with joy at the first moment you can pull it out and photograph the salt and pepper shaker over lunch. When you do a bunch of other nasty and embarrassing things that had best be left off of my public domain…
…then you know you’re having deep-rooted blog withdrawal symptoms.
I did, I had those symptoms…and boy, did I miss this blog. The big fat Indian wedding was a dream over the last few weeks – one that involved so much food and dancing and after-party karaoking that it totally wiped me off the blogging planet for nearly a month. But I’ve missed you guys. And I’ve missed all those little corners of Dubai that serve me my curries and kababs and my hot fresh breads straight out the tandoor. All those little places that keep Dubai real warm and tasty for me.
The last couple of times I was in the area, I’d watched in fascination as three-foot long pimpled breads were being hauled out of a dome-like oven in a room beside the main restaurant. The image has been rolling restlessly in that part of my brain that tortures me with images of doughnuts or haleem or thick juicy kababs every time I’m sick and hungry and miles away from the source of the image. It’s a sort of strange mental masochistic tendency – when my brain knows that my tummy has gone for a toss, it’ll twist the knife in my tortured wounds by flashing past images of seen-but-not-tried foods in front of my face. The last time that happened, I started googling for food photos on my tiny blackberry screen, desperate for a glimpse of something that was miles away in Dubai, all the while squirming with tummy cramps in some little town during my travels to India. Desperate, desperate foodie that I am.
Thank God for global data plans.
Khoory brings to Dubai one of the most traditional types of Irani bread – sangak bread, which basically translates to ‘stone bread.’ I’d never seen an oven filled with red hot burning pebbles like the one they had at Khoory. Bread fanatic that I am, I just stood and stared as the sangak-guys tore off a clump of elasticky leavened dough, slapped it on a peel, stretched it out and sort of played ‘piano’ all along the length of it, perforating it with little craters that were sprinkled all over with white sesame seeds.
Now there’s some step in between where that one-foot bread baby gets pulled out into a three-foot mammoth, a step that I’ve stupidly missed in all my gawking at those long cratered landscapes of bread that were being hung up on the wall.
Now in addition to the live open-to-public bread-making, Khoory has their grill laid out in an adjoining little section of the restaurant. We’re talking kababs and tomatoes and hot flaming charcoal…all those elements that make you feel closer to your kababs cause you can watch it being made, feel the heat on your sweaty palms as you bend down close to get a whiff of grilled meat. THIS is what I wanted on my plate, with that hot ogre of a sangak by my side.
With a name like Khoory Special Kababs, you’re setting the bar of tender grilled meat super high. I didn’t know which of the list of kababs on the menu was special per se…was it the exotic-sounding lamb shishlik? Or maybe it was the chicken tekkah? Or maybe I was overthinking it and the Khoory peeps just threw in the word ‘special’ without realizing that I’d be paralysed by the potential implication of such a word? Yeah, probably.
When faced with gross indecision about which kabab to order, a mixed platter of meat will be your lone lantern in the dark.
I started spearing my fork through the plate, starting with the cubes of mutton kabab and the long meat tikkas. Heavy meaty flavor, check. Juiciness, check. Tenderness…chewchewchew…chewsomemore…chewohno….bitsoffat…whyfatwhyyyyy….chewy. Overall decent kababs, but not the best I’ve had in town. The chicken kababs fared better on the tenderness scale – light, moist, tender…but again, nothing that would have me googling for kabab photos on my crackberry in those restlessly hungry moments that ascend on me when I’m miles away from edible salvation.
Just then, just as I’d nearly written off the s-word, I found it. I found the special kabab. The kabab koobideh. This log of minced meat was glistening with a thin sheen of oil and was laying quietly right at the extreme edge of my plate. The koobideh was so outrageously moist and well-seasoned [was it parsley? or cumin in the seasoning? or both? whatever it was, it was pretty magical…] that it obliterated every other previous bite of less-awesome kabab from that plate.
Let me also draw your attention to the sangak bread under the bed of kababs. On its own, the bread has this rustic sesame-tinged feel to it – I could imagine pulling bits of it, slathered with some butter, slightly stretchy bits, slightly crispy bits, eating through it on some mountain village somewhere, with a steaming hot cup of chai. And maybe surrounded by Yaks.
Definitely surrounded by Yaks.
But under the kababs, the bread had sucked up all the kabab juices and forgotten that it had been born a bread to begin with. It had morphed into this rich chewy blanket of meaty drippings. An identity crisis at its delicious best.
[On a separate note, I actually took the rest of the dry, unkabab-ed bread home and the parents toasted it up for dinner. So damn good, both that night, and the next night. The next time we have a soup and bread day, sangak is going to be the bread star of the table.]
What was also very special was the bowl of lentil soup that the kababs came with…
…into which I also dipped pieces of my sangak [I was mixing and matching the bread with everything on the table by this point…in my soup, in my yogurt, with my kababs…I almost thought of sprinkling some salt on a morsel and layering it up with some of the green leaves from the salad…but that idea died somewhere in between the utterly addictive kabab koobideh and the lentil soup.] I’m sure that making the soup in a kitchen close to the kabab grill had something to do with the taste – I’m convinced that the meat juices vaporize into the air and then condense back down over the lentils and baby noodles swirling around in the soup cauldron. Sort of like a cross-pollination of awesome flavours in the kitchen…
I’m glad that I started my blogging year with discovering what’s so special about Khoory. No…I’m not just glad, in fact, I’m relieved that I have my blogger-foodie-explorer cape back after it’d been sitting at the laundry for nearly a month. I finally have my first blog post of 2012 [hallelujah.] And a Kabab-happy tummy. And a new sesame-studded bread discovery. I can feel it in my bones…t’is gonna be a good, good year.