In this 21st century, Britons and the immigrants seem to agree that kebab is the new chips. Despite its popularity, it is not always easy to tell where your dose of kebab originate from. There is, surely, a cross over of origins – India, Central Asia, Iran, Lebanon, etc. – which, if you do not come from one of those regions, you don’t care much about. Neither did I, not the least when I was pissed and needed a greasy fix to seal off my late night ecstasy. Now I feel like tracing back the many kinds of kebab – not just in this post but in a few more to come – and shall we begin?
Middle Eastern Kebab?
The term “kebab” now is a blanket terminology over many kinds of grilled meat: say, doner kebab, also known as, a pile of meat grilled on a vertical rotating stick, or shish kebab as minced meat on iron skewers. This idea of cooking is believed to have borne out of Persian warriors and their cooking of meat in open fire with their swords. Mint, innit?
It seems, in London, the best place to kick of my kebab tasting is on Edgware Road. Maroush I – and also many other Maroush, Ranoush and my lover Beirut Express – is a safe choice for a Middle Eastern food virgin. It’s a nice place with good quality food, though the service can be relatively negligent. How negligent? I’d say, you’ll get this free bowl of green olives when the staff feel like giving you one…
The cold and hot mezze dishes at Maroush I are relatively generous in portion and ooze authenticity. Any first-timer can never go wrong with a plate of grilled Halloumi cheese. The texture and taste of Halloumi is a faint reminiscence of cow-milk mozzarella but more salty and dense in texture. Also, halloumi always makes this screeching noise when you chew on it. The ones at Maroush were very thickly sliced and I could taste some real great quality!
The usual cold mezze dishes I’d recommend are Moussaka and Moutabal Baba Ghanoush. Moussaka is a tomato-based aubergine stew with chick peas, served cold. It was sour and sweet, mellow and slightly crunchy. The aubergine pieces at Maroush were chunky, unlike many other places. The baba ghanoush – grilled aubergine puree with sesame paste and lemon juice – was smoky and velvety. Both came with (free) warm flat bread to sweep the bowls with. If these look too daring, get yourselves a Houmous. It was also very good!
Other dishes I had had this more acquired taste. The Boiled Lamb Tongue served on a bed of crunchy lettuce with lemon juice was interesting in its simplicity. The chewy texture of the tongue as well as the very lamb-y scent – as the dish was prepared without any herb or marinate – could easily put a few Lebanese food virgins off. The Samaka Harra – baked fish with spiced ratatouille – might fare better. The big and firm piece of fish was toppled with fragrant fried onions and rather spicy mixed vegetable, which overpowered the delicate flavour of the fish a bit. Good value for money, nonetheless.
Then there was this Mixed Grilled to share. You’d get mini Shish kebab, grilled chunks of lamb and chicken in this platter designated for two diner. All meat was moist, tender and cooked to serious perfection. This was a deconstructed kind of good kebab. You’d have to put a bit of onions, green peppers and tomatoes into the flat bread yourselves, and then the hot sauce and the cooling garlic sauce.
Flavour-wise, it was well worth your DIY effort!!
It was a pity Maroush I did not have a good selection of desserts; there was only Baklava available. This platter came with a variety of nutty choices: cashew nuts, peanuts and pistachios. The puff pastry was well soaked in diabetically sweet syrup but it still retained the crisp.
One meal done and there will be a few more kebab tasting meals to go..
My head rating says, “8 out of 10″.
My heart rating says, “7 out of 10″.
21 Edgware Road
Tel. 020 7723 0773