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Spice up your life

Spice up your life

KUALA LUMPUR, July 2 — I have an adventurous palate. I’ve eaten many types of food (including some I dare not mention in print) from different nations and I enjoy this window into another culture.

One of my favourites is Middle Eastern cuisine. This diverse region offers a taste like no other, with distinctive spice and flavour profile. I love the taste of sumac on grilled meat! The preferred protein of this region — lamb — is also my first choice, although I don’t eat it often due to the high saturated fat content. There has been an explosion of Middle Eastern eateries in the Klang Valley in recent years.

Whether it’s Persian, Arab, Turkish or Syrian food you’re after, there’s bound to be at least one decent Middle Eastern restaurant in your neighbourhood or close to it. Here are some of my picks.

Mozer’s

Mozer’s ‘Mandy Rice with Lamb’ is so smoky that you can taste the exquisitely fragrant smoke in the rice!
Mozer’s ‘Mandy Rice with Lamb’ is so smoky that you can taste the exquisitely fragrant smoke in the rice!

This Syrian restaurant in Subang Jaya has been attracting a crowd of loyal diners since its inception. It has consistently good food and friendly service. I enjoy the Mandy Rice with Lamb. It’s so smoky! You can literally taste and smell the fragrant smoke in the rice, which is simply exquisite. It’s best paired with sweet ice blended Vimto. This UK drink is a Ramadan favourite in Middle Eastern countries. Also, I usually order a serving of assorted baklava whenever I dine in.

Arabian Island

Arabian Island is a low-key restaurant but its ‘Lamb Tagine’ can easily rival some of the finest establishments in town.
Arabian Island is a low-key restaurant but its ‘Lamb Tagine’ can easily rival some of the finest establishments in town.

This hole-in-the-wall establishment is often bypassed in favour for its much larger and better-decorated neighbour. But don’t be fooled because it is this restaurant that serves better Middle Eastern fare. That was the tip my Moroccan friend told me, and having tried both, I’m inclined to agree. I am partial to its Lamb Tagine — a slow-cooked hearty stew of lamb chunks and vegetables served with flatbread. Delicious!

Shawarma Halap

The shawarma at Shawarma Halap is arguably the best in town.
The shawarma at Shawarma Halap is arguably the best in town.

I’ve always marvelled at the long queue in front of Halap during weekend nights. People from different countries and all walks of life congregate here to order some shawarma to munch down on the spot. More promisingly, you’ll see lots of Middle Eastern types with flatbread in hand so that says something about their authenticity. The owners are Syrian and they make the flatbread themselves every day. This place has arguably the best shawarma in Bukit Bintang.

Al Siddiq

Falafel sandwich from Al Siddiq.
Falafel sandwich from Al Siddiq.

This place is a few doors down from Shawarma Halap and has an equal number of people waiting in line. They both serve pretty much the same thing but this place is run by Egyptians. I like the falafel sandwich, a deep fried ball of seasoned chickpeas inside a wrapped flatbread. Best of all, it only costs RM4. It makes for a perfect midnight snack.

Oregi

One of the favourites at Oregi is the Yemeni-style ‘Maqluba Chicken’.
One of the favourites at Oregi is the Yemeni-style ‘Maqluba Chicken’.

This restaurant is located in the heart of the SS15 college area and it’s always packed with students, even at night. Service can be a little slow but the food is worth the wait. My usual order is the Yemeni-style Maqluba Chicken. It’s a huge portion of rice with fried eggplants and chicken pieces in the middle that’s inverted onto your plate. The eggplant gives this rice dish the creamy mouthfeel that I love.

GETTING THERE

Mozer’s

G.30, Subang Parade, Jalan SS 16/1, Subang Jaya, Selangor

LRT: SS 15

From the station: 500 metres

Operating hours: 10am-11.30pm

Arabian Island

S.00.12A, Impian Meridian, Jalan Subang 1, Subang Jaya, Selangor

LRT: USJ 7

From the station: 600 metres

Operating hours: noon-10pm

Shawarma Halap

85, Jalan Berangan, Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur

MRT: Pavilion Kuala Lumpur-Bukit Bintang

From the station: 300 metres

Operating hours: 10am-4.30am

Al Siddiq

87, Jalan Berangan, Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur

MRT: Pavilion Kuala Lumpur-Bukit Bintang

From the station: 300 metres

Operating hours: 11am-6am

Oregi

53, Jalan SS 15/4B, Subang Jaya, Selangor

LRT: SS 15

From the station: 200 metres

Operating hours: 11am-2am

* Poh Huai Bin has never travelled to the Middle East, unless you include Georgia. It’s one of the most interesting places he’s been to and he’s blogged about it on sixthseal.com.

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