Traveling to the Middle East in a bite | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

The Lamb Lahem, a platter of spicy fried basmati rice with peanuts and raisins topped with chunks of tender lamb —SANDY DAZA
The Lamb Lahem, a platter of spicy fried basmati rice with peanuts and raisins topped with chunks of tender lamb —SANDY DAZA


Every time I have to work or go far, I see it as a blessing. I do what I have to do, but find a new place to dine in or simply go back to a place that gave me a memorable meal.

Last Friday, I had to go to the main office of the National Bureau of Investigation on Taft Avenue. Far, but my thought was already on where to dine.

The ones crossing my mind were Emerald Garden on Roxas Boulevard, Ongpin Street to find a dining place and walk around or, on the way back, Banawe. When I was almost done with my business, I remembered Salas Street in Mabini. That Middle Eastern restaurant, Shawarma Snack Center.

Decades ago, I would drive there alone and would get rattled at what I’d see and eat. There were roast Middle Eastern chicken, all sorts of wraps like beef, chicken and even lamb, pots of cooked food all emitting the beautiful aroma of spices, and a huge vat of yellow basmati rice topped with chunks of roast lamb! What do I choose?

Many times, I’m asked, what are you having for lunch? My answer is always, “Depends on what I feel like having then.” This was it!

There were two restaurants before, one across from each other. The other one is gone. As I sat and looked at the menu, confusion again. I didn’t know what to get. In cases like these, I ask the server what the best sellers are.

Mixed grill

I ended up with a mixed grill of beef chunks, spice-infused ground beef and chicken. All these were grilled on top of buttered dry and loose basmati rice.

On the table were bottles of chili sauce and garlic sauce. I poured some over the rice and meat, boom! I was already thinking of what I’d come back for. I took home some wrapped sandwiches for my kids, and they loved every bite.

Two days after, I was looking forward to going back. It was a Sunday and no traffic. In my post on Instagram, someone told me about a lentil soup.

So, this time I had a platter called Lamb Lahem. It included lentil soup, mixed pickles and a platter of spicy fried basmati rice with peanuts and raisins. On top were chunks of tender, melt-in-your-mouth lamb. I squeezed some white garlic sauce and spicy sauce all over and simply traveled to the Middle East! It was so, so good. I was just talking to myself thinking of what I could bring home to my kids. Outstanding!

I will go back for the roast chicken. They have party platters. They can have a whole roast of chicken, beef or lamb with all the sidings of pita bread, or one we used to get: a huge platter of flavored basmati rice topped with roast lamb. That always was a party hit.

I hardly eat rice. That didn’t happen here. It was that good.

Beside them is a store selling Middle Eastern stuff. I got pita bread which I used when I cooked Mexican tacos at home. Yummy! I also took home some dates. Also very good. Last Sunday, I bought a pack of super salty goat cheese. I know how to reduce the saltiness. I’ll slice it thinly, fry and put it on toasted pan de sal.

Shawarma Snack Center, 484 R. Salas St., Ermita, Manila; tel. 85212121, 85244409

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