Good Eats / Uncategorized

Middle Eastern Food

I’m noticing a trend in my eating-out habits of late.

I gravitate to middle-eastern food.

I noticed this yesterday, at a food-court, when I walked past all the Japanese/Chinese/Thai and Burger King/Taco Bell/D’Angelos options, even as I was being implored by youths with crooked smiles to “just come and order something here, c’mon?” I kept walking until the very end of the loop, to

SEPAL.

Cambridgeside Galleria

which, 3 days earlier, apparently (looked it up when I came home) had been featured in the Boston Globe.

They originated not in a food court, but in several locations throughout Boston, and also the MIT student center. Read the article. It’ll give you hope for a small family business’ success from heart and genuine, honest-to-goodness delicious food.

I’m writing about a food-court place because it is as FAR from being a part of the food court as possible. The food is not oily, starchy, or stale. It’s authentic. Tastes like home…

I’m a particular type of consumer, I admit.

I don’t like to be haggled, I don’t like it when people try to get my business when I’m simply walking around, breathing my air, and minding my own business. (I could be thinking about ANYTHING on earth at that moment, whether or not I’m looking remotely in the direction of your store/counter/etc)

So, as I stood and eyed their menu, alone, as it was at the far end of the food court, two young women, one from Ethiopia, and one from Morocco, stood behind the counter looking at me, but wordlessly obeyed my anti-haggling laws and since I was still standing there after some time, brows furrowed and reading the menu in detail, one of them gently said, “Just try a little piece. You will love it.”

She stretched out a plastic spoon with what looked like chicken and rice, and I could smell the fragrance coming up from the spoon. I took the spoon, tried it, and was extremely surprised: It was good, Chicken Maklouba (cauliflower, tender baked chicken, eggplant, and brown rice). She spooned another dish out, as well: Chicken Zanzabeel (ginger and garlic herb baked chicken.) That, was like a fusion of Chinese and Middle-Eastern flavors, right there. That spoon was me, (ok, ok…fine. maybe I was just really blown away by the taste) or at least represented me, in some way.

I really felt like I walked into my Dad’s kitchen, and immediately began missing his cooking. The Moroccan girl began to speak a little bit of Arabic to me, and I felt that tinge of shame again as I told her in Arabic that I could only speak a little bit of Arabic. (I will learn properly, one day, soon).  As I pulled out my wallet and watched her scoop fresh mint-infused and lightly dressed salad and then a cucumber and tomato salad, pita, tahini sauce, okra on soft white rice, and chicken zanzabeel (a Palestinian dish invented more or less by the owner) into a carry-out container, I thought Dad would be awful proud that I was “coming back to my roots.” I have to say, I have never been so happy eating food court food before.

If you’re in Boston, add it to the list of places you go, in addition to ….

a place I went one week ago with a friend:

VIVA CAFE

1105 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02138
Neighborhood: Harvard Square

which is a new restaurant, family-owned, between Harvard and Central Square in Cambridge and is a Moroccan place where they have traditional Middle Eastern wraps, salads, plates. I ordered a simple falafel sandwich with hummous and it was $4.95 – extremely affordable, freshly made, absolutely delicious, and an excellent place for lunch!


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