Kabab Roll: A Fastfoodista Review

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Exotic does not always have to mean expensive. Expensive, likewise, does not always mean authentic. Last Saturday, together with my GF, we were able to discover a gem-of-a-shop hidden in plain sight that gave us the awesome experience of Pakistani cuisine at more than reasonable prices.

Kabab Roll is a Pakistani food stall in Mall of Asia that offers Hindustani food minus the usual "exotic ambiance" gimmicks that're just an excuse to jack viand prices up without adding anything to the taste of the food (We're looking at you, Prince of Jaipur and your fancy carpets). Located in the middle of the main thoroughfares of Mall of Asia, Kabab Roll is as authentic as you can get. The food you will be eating is Pakistani street food so eating it outdoors and in public adds an unexpected flavour to your meal - just like how they do it in Karachi.

People often mistake the place as one of those typical faux-shawarma stands which invaded our country some 14 years ago and never really left. We really have too many of those, honestly, and none of them seem to get the shawarma right. Anyway, upon closer inspection though you will notice three things:

1. They have a charcoal open grill, a chapati tabletop fryer, and even a mini tandoor oven inside the small stall of theirs.
2. The guy cooking, or at least one of the guys cooking is actually Pakistani (although admittedly, I instinctively thought he's indian)
3. Lots of indians eating in the shop.

Now, I won't claim I'm an expert in authenticity, but my rule of thumb when it comes to these things is that the level of authenticity is directly proportional to the number of foreign nationals eating there. I won't say, for example, that Chowking is authentic, because I don't see hardcore Chinese eating there. (your Filipino-chinese friend doesn't count. I'm talking about the no-english/no-tagalog Chinese who usually just hang around Ongpin/Binondo) The time we ate there, I was able to count at least five Pakistani nationals, in three seperate groups.

Also, the cook was sweating.

See, my dad always told me if a guy making your shawarma or Chutni is sweating, it's bound to taste better, if not just saltier. While it sounds like a joke, there's also the more practical basis that if a guy is sweating, that means he's a dedicated cook, or the demand is high - or both. For our case, the guy who prepared our food looked like he could singlehandedly end the water crisis - if we're prepared to drink desalinated water.

To give you a short background on what you can eat there, Pakistani cuisine is like a lovechild of spice-crazy Indian dishes and the no-frills goodness of Arabic gastronomy. Meat is usually prepared with deep spice marination so that every square inch of any meat is tasty. Spiciness is moderate to heavy, although tolerable by my low standards (and by low standards I mean I sweat when I eat KFC hotshots) The main filler of Pakistani food is Basmati Rice, which is the class A GRO version of the usual rice, in a sense that it's twice as tall, mouth-wateringly tasty and non-sticky. They also have the indian version of the Pita, which is the Pratha, a lightly fried unleavened bread mixed with light curry powder and milk, which is already a meal in itself. Kabab Roll does not have the Basmati rice when we visited, although my previous experience with the rice has left nothing but fond memories (which is totally unlike my experiences with GROs, which is nonexistent. If you're reading this, Anna, I swear.)

Here's a basic rundown of what we were able to try out during our visit:

Beef Behari Chatni Roll- The Chatni Roll is the shawarma/burrito of hindustani cooking. This version has white garlic sauce in it, kebab-style cooked beef and lightly fried pratha bread. The owner claims that this is their best seller, and understandably so. Unlike the shawarma that relies on the taste of the sauce to carry the flavour, the chatni's strength is drawn from the strong flavour of the meat mixing with the natural sweetness of the pratha flour. The garlic sauce only exists to smoothen out the taste. The chatni is midly spicy, although I personally found myself consuming half a mineral water for the first two bites. (75 pesos)

Beef Sheekh Kabab - The beef seekh kabab is beef barbecue marinated with a multitude of spices that almost disables my tongue from comprehending how the marinade was created. One thing I can confirm though is it has the sweet kind of curry flavor that sinks deep into the meat's juicy insides. The flavor of this dish is so strong, your mouth will retain the taste long after you've eaten, which is great if you want the experience to stick with you for a long time, but not so great if you hate having to brush your teeth three times (80 pesos + Pratha (20 pesos))

Chicken Tikka/ Chicken Green Tikka - This dish was the last that we ordered from the stall, and honestly we thought that we'd get just a stick of each, since that's how they serve Chicken Tikka in the Shawarma Snack House. In Kabab Roll, the chicken tikka is served as quarter chicken with a side dish of vegetables. Tad on the salty side, I said to myself I'd kill to be able to eat this with Basmati rice. The chicken is marinated in spices and yogurt and cooked in a stone oven called the Tandoor oven, whose temperatures can get high enough to melt cast iron - the result is tender roasted chicken that closely resembles Chicken Inasal without the oversalty flavour that I really hate in the Bacolod counterpart. The green tikka is the non-spicy version, while the spicy version, which my GF ordered, proved to be too spicy for her, which is probably the first time it's happened. Anyway, if you're sensitive to spice, stay way from the Chicken Tikka and order the Green Tikka instead. (120 pesos + Pratha (20 pesos))

Overally, Kabab roll is an awesome restaurant that offers the masses a chance to eat exotic food that's neither a cop out (like the fake shawarmas that are floating around) nor too expensive (like Arya. Maaan, fuck Arya). Located in the east wing of Mall of Asia, right beside Fully Booked, it's a must visit for everybody looking to snack on something new.

1 comment:

rei said...

Noted! thanks for the great info~ :D


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