Max’s is “The house that fried chicken built”. We spent hours arguing over the meaning of this, deconstructing and misconstruing the nonsensical sentence to ridiculous lengths. All you really need to take from it though, is that fried chicken is this Filipino restaurant’s specialty.
The story behind Max’s is one of a fried chicken shack back in the Philippines in the 40’s which drove the American GIs totally WILD. Decades later, and Max’s juicy birds have spread their wings as far as Karama, to a cosy location snuggled up next to err McDonald’s and Spinneys. Still, once you are inside there’s a really friendly, neighbourhood atmosphere, and I’m not just saying that because they were playing Christmas songs (though that did put me in a dreamy mood - there’s nothing like a bit of Mariah Carey for good vibrations).
Testing out the specialty, we went for half a fried chicken. It came as one whole piece, and was a nice, light version. No thick KFC-style batter here, just a thin, crispy, salty skin, and soft, tender meat inside, not even a little bit greasy! Nice job, Max! It might not look like much to drool over, but my mouth says otherwise. Don’t expect any south-east Asian style spices to pop up though, this is bare-bones basic fried chicken, but sometimes that’s all you need, with a dollop of Max’s sweet Banana Ketchup on the side.
I spent a few minutes pondering out loud the relative beauty of chicken skin compared to this world’s other items of beauty. It’s pretty high up there. I can see why those (presumably) hunky GIs were fans.
The chicken is advertised as coming with sweet potato fries, but be warned that means literally 4 measly fries, so order an extra portion if you’re a sweet potato luva like myself.
Alongside this, we plundered the bird some more with some chicken sisig. We ordered a kinda-dubious looking chicken sisig on the street in Satwa once (not to say it wasn’t also kinda-delicious), but luckily Max’s felt, looked and tasted less like Russian Roulette. This uniquely Filipino concoction of crunchy, juicy little chicken bits mixed in a chicken liver and heart-based paste comes out on sizzling hot plate. Let the bottom get crispy, squeeze the lime over for a little zing, and that’s some tasty shit!
Spicy Gambas shows the colonial-Spanish influence on Filipino cuisine, and for a little diner-style hut on a busy Karama main road, Max’s were pretty successful! The prawns were coated and cooked in an amazing marinade of chilli, garlic, and crucially, crab fat, which (as the addition of any fat in any dish will do) lent them a totally more-ish richness.
We’ve been trying out a lot of Filipino food across Dubai, some more successful than others… but the strength always lies in the comfort-factor. Here at Max’s, the homestyle cooking engulfs you in comfort, loading up your belly with a hug from the inside. In chicken form. I might even go as far as to say it’s the best Filipino food we’ve had… if I may be so bold!!
Kabab Rolls is a place we’ve walked past dozens of times on our way over to the Korean supermarket, 1004 Mart. It has that anonymously bland restaurant look you see everywhere. It was kind of a gamble, but sometimes the most dubious-looking places are the best. After all, we were pretty crazy over The Kati Roll Company in London!
Kabab Rolls makes some pretty bold statements. Here’s a quick glance into the casual sub-continental restaurant’s eloquently articulated menu:
"If it rolls, it rolls at kabab rolls."
"Welcome to Kabab Rolls, the original home of rolls"
"Dubai, where the desert wind blows, bringing the tunes of joy and exuberance…. Dubai mystifies everyone with a unique charm, sense of beauty and art in all its offerings".
Well, we were definitely curious by this point.
We walked in: it was empty. There was nothing else for it but to park our arses next to the fish tank. One particularly massive fish glared at us with a broken, depressed expression, - his roving eye staring us down, judging our frivolous eating; and his protruding, grumpy jawline lending him more than a passing resemblance to Tio the wheelchair-bound ex-gangster from Breaking Bad. He swished his slender body back and forth slowly, endlessly.
80s dance pop hits pumped out to the empty room, just us, two other guys who’ve arrived, and the fish, awkwardly ignoring the beat. She’s a maniac, maniac, on the floor, etc., etc. All these synth classics pound in my head long after we’ve left the place.
To start with, we ordered the worst chaat we’ve ever had. Definitely ignore that part of the menu completely. It was so bad we didn’t even finish it (rare occurance). That wasn’t too heartbreaking though - we were here for the grilled meats, and yes, the kabab rolls! it’s all in the name. This is the orginal home of rolls, guys!!
We go for the Afghani roll - chicken cubes marinated in white pepper and cashew cream sauce, grilled over charcoal, and wrapped in a paratha; plus the Bihari roll - juicy, minced mutton marinated with spicy “exotic sauce”, wrapped in a roti. The rolls are clearly where their strengths lie. Both were melt-in-your-mouth tender, the Bihari roll was tender to the point of baby-food gooeyness. And I mean that in a complimentary way! The soft, creamily-spiced Afghani roll contrasted perfectly with the sharper, kickier Bihari, the crunchy pickled onion in both providing that utterly compulsory crunch and tang.
The Chicken Karahi - chicken cooked in dry masala with tomatoes, green chillis and herbs - we ordered after seeing the guys on the next table tucking into this particularly juicy-looking dish. We covertly signalled down the waiter, muttering and pointing subtly to our neighbour’s table. Our green eyes paid off, this was a tasty Karahi. The sauce tasted fresh and citrussy - for a cheap curry in Barsha you could do worse.
There were chicken wings on the menu, so obviously we ordered them. Sadly, these grilled wings, marinated in a tandoori sauce, weren’t worth bothering. They might have appeared all theatrically on a sizzling hot plate, but these babies were all sizzle and no pop. They were kind of floppy and pointless. I think I ate one (which is a DISASTROUS wing rating in my eyes).
So here’s the thing - maybe we were the dumbasses for trying to branch out at the original home of rolls. Its a weird mind-game when in a restaurant when you get two brilliant dishes, and the rest is average or downright crappy. Am i disappointed??? Do I like Kabab Rolls?!?! Would I recommend it!!? I don’t know what to think! I guess I would - but with the explicit warning to avoid the chaat, avoid the wings (as much as that pains me), and stick to the rolls.
We are milking gochujang for all it’s worth. And it’s worth a lot.
The spicy Korean red pepper paste first came into my life through bibimbap, but it’s insanely versatile in its uses. This recipe is simply: udon noodles dressed with gochujang, sesame oil, sugar, and vinegar; topped with toasted sesame seeds and Korean pickled carrots. If you’ve got the ingredients in your store cupboard (running out of gochujang or sesame oil is a catastrophe we never let happen), this is a really cheap meal to make when you’re broke at the end of the month.
The pickled carrots are from our very favourite new shop Maybury, in Marina. Shout out!!! These carrots are the bomb. I am so taken with them that I recently took to Twitter - a medium I rarely use nor see the point of - to express my undying love for them. I wanted to shout it from the proverbial rooftops. Probably the root of my love is that they taste of pure garlic tang, a taste that lingers deliciously pungently in your mouth for the rest of the day.
Somewhere in Deira, we came across this place. It was inside one of those mini arcades that are full of shops whose existence makes no sense. Rack after rack of cheap, identical clothing; knock-off shoes tumbling off overloaded shelves; mannequins with evil faces and distorted bodies; tacky Dubai trinkets and plastic flowers side by side in the window of a store you could only describe as selling “stuff” and “things”. How do these reams of pointless shops compete with one another, how do they make a living??? I will never understand it.
Among all that was this Chinese supermarket. Aside from a few vegetables, I recognised nothing in here. I don’t think they even spoke English, they showed us our total amount to pay on a calculator, silently. I liked stepping into their little world. And what do you do when confronted with confusing foreign packaged foods? Buy them all!! No, just us? Here’s our loot from this edition of Dubai Supermarket Finds:
A giant tin of some kind of fish. We haven’t tried this yet, the tin is so great that it’s just sitting proudly on the shelf in our room.
This claims to simply be Broad Bean Paste, but I suspect there’s a little chilli in here too??? It’s dayumn hot!! and deliciously sour too.
Wings in a bag? This sounds promising, right? You know we all about dem wings. No. These did not “taste delicious”. Not one bit. That is some audaciously false advertising. They were basically dried chicken wing jerky, and yeah it really felt like I was eating very old, very chewy, very processed meat by-product.
Like fig rolls but weirder. These could grow on me if I just gave them a chance to let our love grow. As it stands, I’m ambivalent.
No idea. I couldn’t even tell you if these were sweet or savoury. They were somehow neither? And also very bland. They might get two thumbs up from the chef, but I disagree, sir!
One thing I’ve found through my numerous Chinese supermarket experiments is that for a country with some outrageously hot, spicy, and flavoursome foods, a lot of the packaged stuff has that disconcerting combination of unusual texture and minimal flavour.
You might think from the above comments that this edition of Dubai Supermarket Finds was a failure. But I see it as a grand success! My Western-conditioned tastebuds might have balked a little, but I enjoyed giving it a shot. And I learned not to eat dried chicken wing jerky. Ever.
We’d been walking past this place for months, on the way to the beach, debating whether it looked worth our curiosity or not. Then the day came. The stars aligned. We were viewing our new apartment close by for the first time. We were starving, and pumped from house viewing. Willing to take a risk. It was time for Little Lamb to meet our stomachs. Little did we know what we were in for!! This place is something else.
The concept is you order a hot pot, which they put on an electric hob in the middle of your table. You can either get a hot and spicy broth or a herby one - we’ve only had the spicy so far, and ma lawd it’s tasty. This ominously red, oily brew is full to the brim with peppercorns, cloves, garlic and warm, tongue-numbing chillis. The pot bubbles away steamily throughout your whole meal, like a delicious jacuzzi, and you choose from the menu which meats/vegetables/fish/noodles/bizarre items you want to put in it.
And wait. What’s that? A sauce buffet!??!!
That’s right!!! Much to our delight, at Little Lamb the condiments are just as important as the food itself, and they encourage you mix and match your sauces. You can imagine how beside himself Kamal was, he’s been experimenting with sauces behind the scenes his whole life - now we find a restaurant right next to our house that actively recommends it!
Needless to say we got too excited, and some of our combinations were quite hideous. Soon we were surrounded by sauce bowls, the table heaving with salty, spicy concoctions. Then we came up with a great trick - sneakily watch what the Chinese people are doing and copy them! This lead us to the brilliant pairing of a hot and spicy sauce with chopped peanuts and a sesame sauce drizzled on top. The salty tofu sauce was perfect by itself - everything tasted better dipped in its wincing saltiness.
Your broth-dunking options are pretty limitless, so it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the catalogue-esque menu. There are set menus you can go for, which are an easy introduction for your first visit, but are only worth spending on if you’re a group of four-plus. So we decided to branch out on our own - experimentation is the name of the game at Little Lamb.
The meat is sliced wafer thin, so you drop it in the broth and it’s cooked within a minute. They present it beautifully all rolled up, folded and fanned out on a platter - we went for mixed lamb and beef. You think you’re not going to get through all that meat, but oh, you will! They give loads of whatever accompaniments you order - big portions make sure you get your money’s worth here.
We also went for “wafer-thin tofu” from the tofu page, which melted into stretchy translucent sheets after their swim in the soup. I’m not sure what Cankong is, but it comes in a pot as though you’ve ordered your own little houseplant! It looks huge, but soon wilts, and is nice for a change of texture.
The side orders are really exciting too. Lamb skewers come in a thick dusting of cumin and chilli, with sesame seeds on top. It’s juicy and hot; meat on a stick, as they say, can never be bad. And this is very, very good.
Roast Buns are cute little buns of toasty, spicy bread on skewers. Made of the softest dough, they look unassuming and nothing special, but don’t be fooled!! These are delicious, among my favourite part of eating here. Sop up your sauces with them (obv) and you’ll be happy.
One thing on the menu caught Kamal’s eye from the start. Lamb Cojones. The waitress giggled nervously when he ordered them. “Are you sure?”, she asked, clearly cringing inside at the memory of eating them. “I don’t like them….”, she warned. But there was no stopping him!
From the photo they don’t look too bad though, right? And yeah, the marinade was actually super tasty! I pussied out and only had a tiny bite, but apparently these balls were quite gritty (not a word you want to hear), tough, and chewy. Plus they squirted some kind of ball juice everywhere when Kamal struggled to slide them off the skewer. Gross.
I’ve got to mention the totally uplifting Chinese power ballads soundtracking the meal - it’s nice to not see them change to Western music even though it’s in JBR - tourist central! I like the fact that this place feels so authentic, and is full of nonchalant Chinese people putting us to shame with their massive orders and ease of eating, while I’m there slopping everything all over the table and my bib (yes, they provide bibs!! Be still my beating heart). But it’s also got a real international crowd, and everyone seems enthusiastic and interested in trying it out. What they offer at Little Lamb is a fun, interactive way to eat with a group, it’s sociable to share everything, and satisfying to cook it yourself. I couldn’t be happier.
This is the type of dish you want to eat wrapped up in a cozy blanket, watching your favourite TV show. Think of it like a version of mac and cheese which is not only healthier, but with the addition of fresh herbs, lemon juice, and a ton of chilli and garlic, it’s 10 times more interesting than eating that pointless goop.
Using Greek yogurt is much lighter, fresher, and zingier than making a heavy butter-based roux, yet that creamy, guilt-inducing richness is still hanging out here. But banish the guilt!! It has no place here!!
So while boiling your pasta, mix half a tub of Greek yogurt with the juice of 2 lemons, a couple tablespoons of semi-skimmed milk, a little olive oil, sesame seeds, salt and pepper, chopped fresh parsley and coriander.
Separately, fry up some chopped garlic and red chilli. The rest of the sauce gets mixed in raw, so you gotta cook these, otherwise all that raw chilli and garlic will be way harsh, Tai.
Once the pasta is cooked, mix it with the sauce and fried chilli and garlic. Serve topped with more chopped herbs and sesame seeds, and some cheese if you’re feeling unnecessarily indulgent.
BIG NEWS. We recently moved into our own place! And you know what this means… a new kitchen!! I don’t even want to talk about the kitchen we’ve been suffering through this past year, but let’s just say there was no oven and two lukewarm mini hobs. It’s time to get roasting.
First up on my roasting agenda was sweet potatoes (lurking in the background of that photo up there). We invited Kamal’s sister over, and made what I guess they call a “slap-up dinner!” consisting of Spanish-style chicken thighs in a slow-cooked spicy tomato sauce, paprika roasted sweet potatoes, and a yogurt and pomegranate dip on the side. I’ve missed making these big, hearty meals. But now the weather’s cooling down and we’ve got that aforementioned big kitchen, I’m going to be all over that shit!
Dice sweet potato, skin on, and put in a tray with olive oil, chopped garlic, paprika, a splash of vinegar, and some rosemary sprigs. Make sure it’s all mixed and covered, then put this in the oven at 180 degrees. They’ll need about 45 mins to roast up good and crispy.
Fry sliced red onion with garlic till caramelised. Add chopped tomatoes, lots of lemon juice, smoked paprika, some brown sugar, a good glug of vinegar, lots of chopped parsley and rosemary. Turn it down to a low heat, cover the pan, then simmer and bubble away. I like to take the lid off at regular intervals and stick my face in the escaping waft of saucy aroma. You may or may not wish to also do this.
Heat up a griddle pan really hot, then add the thighs (which should just be marinated in a little olive oil, salt and pepper). Make sure they give good sizzle when you put them down! Cook for about 5-10 mins each side, till they’re golden brown and the skin is crispy. Then place the thighs into the sauce, and cover the pan with a lid. This will get all the chicken juices leaking into that sauce, making it even more tasty than it already was.
Along with this we made a pomegranate yogurt dip, the recipe is from Moro, a great cookbook I got for Christmas last year! It features recipes influenced by Spanish, Moroccan, and Mediterranean cooking, loads of which are totally new to us. I don’t know why it’s taken me this long to make something from it! This is just yogurt, milk, garlic, parsley and a handful of pomegranate seeds, and created the perfect trifecta with the chicken and potatoes. Some fresh, hot khobez would also have fit in nicely to the crew.
This was a spur of the moment thing. We were walking down the street in Deira, trying to find a taxi among the honking, barely-moving traffic. We’d just eaten a ton of Afghani food and were moaning about how full we felt. I explained to Kamal what “bursting at the seams” means, and he laughed, nodding thoughtfully about this new metaphor. I spotted this place in the corner of my eye as we walked past, and I grabbed Kamal’s shoulder.
Look! A chaat counter!
On the corner of a little Indian place, there was a window through which you could get chaat on the move. Just a small room, with a guy inside surrounded by all the accoutrements and ingredients he needs to make all the chaat under the sun. Busy people stopped off for a couple of minutes, shouting their order for six pani puris, before rushing off again into the depths of Deira.
I scanned the menu for familiar words - landing on Dahi Sev Puri. Dahi meaning yogurt, Sev meaning fried noodle bits, and Puri meaning those crispy hollow balls of fried dough.
They came stuffed with spicy chickpeas, ladled with tamarind chutney, a little fluffy layer of coriander, and almost drowning in yogurt. This was definitely the sauciest chaat I’ve had yet. Suddenly I remembered how full of meat my stomach already was, but I couldn’t stop. It tasted too good. We hadn’t even thought about the option of not ordering chaat because we were already full?! Don’t be ridiculous.
Smiling and satisfied, we staggered away. Bursting at the seams was no longer an adequate metaphor.
Among the never ending rows of shops in Satwa selling plants, rugs, fabrics, TVs, and goldfish. there is Ravi. A loved and respected Pakistani establishment by locals and tourists alike, it was the first place we visited in Old Dubai, almost a year ago now. I was still a little shell-shocked from the mere fact of being in this city, and I remember being totally mind-blown by Satwa. Ravi, on the other hand, didn’t totally live up to the hype!
This week (after an embarrassingly long time), we finally moved into our own place! So we headed to Satwa to stock up on cheap household essentials - soon we were lugging thick tapestry cushions and a giant rug round the streets, panting and silently dreading the journey home. It was definitely time to refuel with some food. And what better place to celebrate this new start than to come full circle and give ol’ Ravi another shot?
Part of Ravi’s appeal, which I mentioned before, is that it’s got a popular outdoor seating area, right on the street in the heart of the Satwa hustle. The thing about popular outdoor seating areas though, is that they’re too goddamn popular. A winding queue of flustered tourists flapping menus at their sweaty necks was enough to send us quickly indoors, where we wouldn’t have to wait to sit down.
We navigated round tables and hurrying waiters, almost beheading a few bystanders as I haphazardly swung the rug around. Our attempt at sitting down in the main room was soon rejected, and we were ushered to the family room with an alarming sense of urgency from the waiter and all the men around us. Whatever guys, I don’t want to sit with you either!!!
Surrounded by our cushions and rug, we finally settled into the family dining room, and hungrily scoured the menus, which were permanently placed under the glass tabletop. I was practically dribbling at this point. We knew we had to order wisely if we were to one-up our last Ravi experience.
We’re big on the mutton scene these days. It’s hot! So we went for mutton chops and boneless mutton tikka, dal for saucy scooping, and butter chicken, because butter chicken is rarely, if ever, a mistake.
There’s fewer more comforting ways to start a meal than with a big, steaming bowl of dal and a pile of fresh, crispy naan bread. Look at my little hands, clenched into white-knuckle fists with anticipation! I couldn’t wait to tear up that bread and pour dal down my throat! Ravi’s dal isn’t the best I’ve had, but it will certainly do the job.
The chops could have been better. We’ve been having some criminally good mutton chops lately while exploring Afghani food (more on that soon, there’s a tantalising tease for you!!), so Ravi’s fell short of the mark. A bit too tough, not juicy enough.
Mutton tikka on the other hand, hello! This was plenty juicy and tender enough for me. Mutton can be such a beautifully soft meat when cooked well, and the softly spiced marinade was spot on. I soon took to dipping the chunks in the creamy butter chicken sauce, which certainly took things up a notch further!
Butter chicken was the winner of the night. That creamy sauce tasted rich in a way you don’t see coming, the kind of sauce you want to smother anything and everything in, immediately. The chicken chunks were tender, this was a good butter chicken, man.
Ravi, you’ve gone up in my estimation! For a cheap, filling sit-down meal in Satwa, you probably can’t do better than Ravi.
We make some version of this dish at least once a week. And the best part is, it’s TOTALLY easy to make!
All you do is fry up some sliced shitake mushrooms (or whatever other mushrooms or vegetables you have) with onion. Once they’re all softened, toss them in sesame oil, salt and pepper. While you’re doing that, boil some noodles. We use buckwheat noodles, which have an unusual earthy flavour we just can’t get enough of. You think I’m joking?? We bloody love them!
Once the noodles are cooked, mix them in with a really simple sauce - just some crushed garlic, red chilli, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Then fry an egg and put it on top, along with the mushrooms.
Variation: if you’re feeling a bit spicy, add some kimchi on top too! Or sliced avocados if you’re feeling green and creamy. The world is quite literally your oyster (especially if you add oyster sauce).
Feeling so fresh and so clean straight off the 7am flight to Bahrain this Eid, we headed for breakfast. Chai Cafe is a little place opposite Bahrain Mall (I got that off the website, not going to pretend I’ve got my Bahrain bearings), which as the name might suggest, has got a massive tea and coffee selection - but it’s also great for a quick, fresh, traditional breakfast.
As you can see, the table was a carrom board! Carrom is a traditional Middle Eastern board game, popular with old guys who like to play while smoking shisha and shooting the shit, till the break of dawn! It’s kind of a forgotten game these days, though Kamal recently brought it back with a carrom night at The Magazine Shop.
Chai karak called my name in what can only be described as dulcet tones. This is a smooth, milky tea, lightly spiced with cardomom, ginger and cinnamon. It originates from India, but tastes like Christmas to me, and goes down a comforting treat. And look how cute the teapot was!
Avoiding the Balaleet (I’m not man enough for sweet, cold vermicelli noodles in the early morning), we went for Shakshuka, which is eggs cooked in a spicy tomato sauce. In this case they were scrambled, and mega-spicy! I might have got a bit snotty.
Then a simple egg dish cooked with tomatoes and cheese, which was basically a little omelette. Kamal’s dad always makes a version of this for us when we’re staying at their house, and I gotta say, I think his is better than Chai Cafe’s!
With these we had fresh, crispy khobez, stuffed with satisfyingly mild and creamy Kraft cheese, hot from the clay oven. Apparently this plastic cheese is the traditional filling around here! Well, at least it’s been tradition for the past couple of decades.
Stomachs lined, we were ready for a week of souk-wandering, music-watching and beer-drinking in Bahrain. There are worse places to start your day than a cute place like Chai Cafe.
Words by Kamal.
Burgerland is very much a part of my childhood in Bahrain. That neon-lit heart shaped logo brings back memories of driving up to it with my family, sitting in the car and munching on shawarmas!
I’m not sure about the rest of the Middle East, but in Bahrain, if a family wants to go eat shawarma, they order up and eat it in the car. It’s some sort of weird tradition that most Arab families do; you see rows of cars lined up outside the place, and at first you think it’s a queue - but NO! They all just love that shit.
It feels kinda weird admitting to be a part of this shawarma-car-eating culture, but yes, I admit I did it! It wasn’t in my hands, I swear it!
Anyways, ‘Burgerland’ - where are the burgers, you might ask? You see, years ago, long before my existence, I was told stories of there being so little in Bahrain that It was hard to even come across a burger. So untouched by modernity, there was no McDonald’s, or KFC, or shopping malls, but rather markets, road trucks and independent, Bahraini branded joints like Burgerland.
The burgers here are shit. No two ways about it, they are just plain bad. At the time you didn’t have many choices for where to get a burger. But now people know better - you don’t get the burger at Burger Land, there are better places for that. They introduced shawarma’s in the late 90s and never looked back.
Burgerland’s shawarma’s are just the best; a concoction of chargrilled-on-the-spit hunks of meat, with sour sauce and flavours, that just comes together beautifully. Last time, we ordered the big shawarma plate in which you can fill up your own pitta, adding onions, tabbouleh, tahina, chilli sauce, fries, and of course the shawarma meat. It’s a joyous experience; that interaction of everyone going in for the shawarma and building the perfect wrap.
We also ordered the chicken wangs, we just had to. We’re currently tasting wings of all cultures - we’ll get back to you on that one (wings world tour). These wings were charred to perfection, squeeze a bit of lemon on and you got that perfect juicy bite.
Top this all off with another specialty of theirs - fresh juices and you’ve got yourself a damn good dinner! I always go for the pomegranate juice, theirs is the best I’ve had, period. The perfect balance; sweet, sour, fresh, you got it Burger Land!!!
Their slogan: ‘Get It Together at Burger Land’ is also really great. It doesn’t really make sense in the context of the restaurant, but that makes me like it even more. As if to say, Burger Land can play a significant change to your lifestyle. Maybe not, but It can bring joy in the form of shawarma my friend, a very good shawarma.
My chaat obsession has been growing at a rapid pace, ever since that first encounter at Bombay Chowpatty a few months back. I’ve frequented them a few times, and they never let me down, and Lassi King in Bur Dubai was equally satisfying. But it was time to venture out.
After asking around for chaat recommendations, one name kept popping up time and again, more than any other - Rangoli, in Meena Bazaar. So we headed to the Indian district, all full of bright lights, shimmering saris for sale, and men offering perfume, watches, and handbags. A few turns into this dizzying little area was Rangoli.
I love the bare-bones style of a place like Rangoli. You got your church cafeteria style seating, the massive fan placed centre-stage, the surprisingly ornate light features, and of course, the counters full of rows of Indian sweets. It’s full of loud families sharing all their food between them, and single men getting their chaat fix after work.
Down to business. The prices at Rangoli are what I like to see. Around 8dhs per chaat dish, you can eat a banquet’s amount for next to nothing. The chaat menu is the longest I’ve seen yet, so there’s a ton of stuff I’ve yet to try out (yay), on this occasion we went for Mixed chaat, pani puri, dahi vada, and mixed pakoda.
Loved the dahi vada, shoving a yogurty-crunchy-spicy ball in your mouth is so satisfying! They are just the right size to give you a massive mouthful without overwhelming. Haha that’s what she said.
Rangoli’s Mixed Chaat contained those saucy masala chickpeas I love, sev (fried noodle bits, you might know them from such addictive snacks as Bombay Mix), broken-up crispy, fried bread bits, chopped tomatoes and onions, swimming in tamarind chutney and yogurt, and sprinkled liberally with coriander. Obviously I loved it. Obviously. There was never any doubt that I would. This is a dish that contains all my favourite things on one plate. Though dare I say it, I might like Bombay Chowpatty’s better?! I don’t know if that’s allowed since BC love being in malls, I feel a bit dirty even thinking it.
Pani Puri are always fun. You smash a hole in the top of the hollow balls, scoop in some chickpeas and some sauce, then dunk it in the spicy water, and ram it in your mouth quickly before it goes soggy!
Mixed pakoda was basically a plate of deep-fried, battered vegetables, and that can never be a bad thing. The onions had my heart from the start, as did the tangy herby dipping sauce. But one of the fried things was full on chillis!! I broke one open and saw lots of seeds hanging out in there, so got scared and didn’t even bother trying it. I live to regret that pussiness.
Anyway, I’ll be running back to Rangoli the first opportunity I get. It is now my life’s aim to try every dish on that chaat menu, and by God, I think I can do it.