This cocoon of chickeny goodness.
An egg and chicken kathi roll from Shiraz. And I speak from experience. Second hand-experience. A friend let on the other day that he had tried Shiraz. Oh really? You did? Umm yeah, as a takeout. My mother-in-law sneaked it over to me as a private treat.
Sanity prevails, we love you mother-in-law and may every obedient carnivorous son-in-law be so rewarded.
Let me unwrap this masterpiece for you. The bowels of this beauty get stuffed with marinated* chunks of chicken, an omelet, a sea of green chilies (beware, you have been forewarned.), and caramelized onions coated with concentratedly delicious residual pan grease – everything drizzled up with a big fat squeeze of lemon.
The kicker though, is that the insides are all suited up into thick concentric layers of a heftily oiled Indian paratha. Crispy, chewy, flaky…depending on how much heat touched any one area in the pan, but all of it together making that deadly combination that makes me not want to move the roll away from my mouth for anything more than...than the three and a half seconds needed to let out a deep contented moan between bites.
*I’d dissect the marinade for you if I could, but it was hard to stop and smell the flowers when all I wanted was to dive into that kathi roll and roll myself in it endlessly. I’m willing to bet it had some combo of yogurt and coriander powder and ginger garlic paste, just because most Indian marinades have those thrown in at some point or the other.
Now Shiraz, a transplant from Kolkata, India where its Awadhi cuisine seems to have a pretty decent fan following and blogger coverage, is also known for their regular mutton biryani. BUT, being the biryani snob daughter of a mother who makes the most killer Hyderabadi biryani [drool over killer biryani here], Shiraz’s rice concoction with fewer than four mutton pieces scantily buried under the rice grains just didn’t cut it for me. My friends loved it though, which makes me even more certain that if mom were to open up a Biryani joint in Dubai one day, every other restaurant claiming to serve Biryani would have to change the name of their Biryani attempts to something less grandiose, like…non-veg pulao. Till the blessed day that happens, if you haven’t tried my mom’s version, you should probably mute out my egoistic claims and just succumb to a bowl of what Shiraz puts out.
Moving on, while my friends focused on the biryani look-alike, I focused on this:
A kingsly hunk of chicken chaap, cushioned so comfortably on a bed of oil that it defies the menu description of this dish being ‘shallow-fried.’ Don’t be put off by the grease – the marinade on this chicken was just…majestic. I am usually not a fan of overly rich Mughlai cuisine that greasily schlops itself against your ribs and makes you a sloth for the rest of the day. But the yogurt, saffron (tons of it, the high quality stuff.), and other mild spices that the chicken had been fried in came together to create this subtly sweet, teasingly fragrant essence that I just wanted to bottle up...and inhale in little heady puffs that the night as I curled up on my full happy belly and fell asleep. CRAAAZZZY GOOD.
So good in fact, that I packed the tiny little leftover tendrils of saffronated chicken home to eat with Dad. He endorsed this legally addictive stuff too.
Another two dishes that I’ve since tried at Shiraz, just because I couldn’t get enough and had to go back for a kathi roll and meaty takeout two days later, were the Mutton Reyzala and Mutton Pasinda. One had mutton chunks floating in a creamy soupy gravy, while the other was more of a dry masala version. Dad, sister and I debated passionately over the dinner table over which of the two was the Reyzala vs. Pasinda since Shiraz hadn't labeled the packages. But all that matters was that in both, the utterly butterly cubes of mutton had been totally plumped up with similar addictive, yogurt and saffron-heavy marinades like I’d tasted with the chicken chaap. I think Shiraz could drown anything possible in that marinade of theirs and I’d be a happy camper.**
Looksie who just made my Best of 2011 list:
…Applause for Shiraz's grand entry into The List. Standing ovation. Confetti in the air. Crazy mass of people going wild with whistles and hoots.
...holy shizzles, stampede resulting from sheer excitement…
A whiff of that yogurt-saffron marinade to tranquilize the crazy wild happy masses.
[Special thanks to Howard uncle, an expert in Kathi rolls who used to run his own, very famous Kathi roll joint once upon a time in Sharjsh. And to this Bengali blogger whose review of the original Shiraz in Kolkata helped me zoom right into the good stuff on the menu.]
**PS. I have since tried cold mutton pasinda/reyazala, whichever one was the dry one, straight from the fridge, the marinade and bits of gravy all forming a thick cold layer of concentrated flavor on the meat. Dare I say, frigid little saffronated mutton popsicles may become the next best thing after cold leftover pizza.
Ground floor of Al Abbas Building (getting off from Maktoum Bridge, go straight ahead, past Bur Juman on the left. Shiraz will be on your left, maybe a block or so after you pass Burjuman.)
Phone: +971 (4) 358-9818