Shawerma, a personal journey.

This post is almost a year late. I first thought of starting this blog only to write this post.

On my last Holiday in Syria I went to eat shawerma with Mazen one of my best friends. He told me that Abo Fayyad the (almost historic figure) famous shawerma chef is working in a new shop in Mazzeh, Sheikh Saad, and they are selling shawerma sandwiches the old way.

We went there and to my great surprise it wasn't Abo Fayyad standing in front of the spit. It was his brother Abo Hisham. When I was in high school and all the way through Medical school I had hundreds if not over a thousand of sandwiches (I promise you I am not exaggerating) made by Abo Hisham. Although the two men made almost an identical sandwich it was only Abo Hisham for me, may be because of his pleasant personality and the fact he always called me "Doctor".

The shawrema sandwich those guys made looked like the primitive ancestor of the shawerma you can buy today in Damascus. It was bigger, the bread was thicker and the sauce was so runny they needed to put the sandwich in a tiny plastic bag so you don't end up with fat and sauce all over your cloths. It was delicious, nevertheless. The sandwich was the norm at that time. All the shops in Sheikh Saad (the shawerma destination in Damascus at the time) sold it to thousands of happy punters every evening till the early hours of the morning.

This sandwich is all but extinct now. It was replaced by the Medan (the current shawerma destination joint with Al-Qusoor Sq.) model. The thick bread from government run bakery has been replaced with much thinner "touristic" bread wrapped in another paper-thin-crisp-as-you-like Saj bread. The runny sauce is all gone and here comes stronger tasting garlic mayo sauce. The sandwich is more sophisticated and way better looking so it was only a matter of time till this format took over.

The cause of my beloved older shawerma version was not helped by the development of the Sheikh Saad area and the difficult nature of Abo Fayyad. After the two brothers moved from their original shops they never settled. It was a matter of few months before either the shop being knocked down or Abo Fayyad breaking up with his business partner.

As you can tell, shawerma had a great place in my heart (and a huge impact on my waist line). It was fantastic to eat a sandwich made be Abo Hisham exactly as it was ten years ago.

8 comments:

Tammam said...

Kano (funny, haven't called you that in more than a decade I think),

The description of place and time you put here almost brought tears to my eyes. It is amazing how a food, a meal, even a runny sandwich made at the side of the street can carry the memories and emotions of an era of life that will never come back.

Thanks for starting this blog mate. I always thought that your passion and dedication of fine food will come out somehow (beside the fact that you cook the best food I know outside a fancy restaurant). Keep going, what you are writing is just fantastic.

I will be a pain and make you cook the prawns you have described in the other post when I come to London or you to Geneva.

This blog is on my favorites list and I am going to tell people about it, so keep it coming mate.

By the way, are you thinking of including any recipes?

Cheers, Tammam

Kano said...

Hi Tammam

Thanks for the kind words. I hope others will find this blog as interesting as it is for us.

I will be writing my food related ideas, experiences and views. I will do some restaurant reviews especially little know "Local Gems". And I will be fighting the corner of Syrian Cuisine.

I am not going to include recipes for the time being mainly because I don't think I can create a re-producable recipes. As you know my cooking is usually spur of the moment. I imagine the taste in my head and try to create it. I don't know how to write or even follow a recipe.

Regarding that prawn dish, just get on the plane.

Salam

Rani said...

Kano,

I had been a Mazzeah Resisdent for 23 + Years, Now I'm in Gulf, but you look like a Genuine Shawrma Fan, and I would like to give you a little peiece of Tasting advice (If you don't mind) Try Al Sadeek in Qanawat, it is authentic Lamb Shawrma oily not greasy served in a platte with Authentic Mutabal Homos and most important with 1 Grilled 1 Freid Kebbeh, a cup of old youghart the one that mom do.

And OH I'm in love with that place.

Enjoy

Kano said...

@Rani

As you said I am a big big shawerma fan.

Regarding Al Sedeek, I love that place. I don't go that often though. Last time I went was few years ago.

When I was a kid every summer holiday in Damascus (used to live in Saudi Arabia at the time) my dad used to take me to Al Sedeek. Their old shop was in Al-Marjeh Sq before they closed for a while then re-opened in Al-Qanawat. The shawerma was exactly the same that time as it is now.

Ruby said...

I completely sympathize - I grew up in the UAE and was used to a certain style of shawerma. I recently returned to the Gulf for the first time in 30 years and went on a quest to recapture that sandwich of my youth but never quite found it...

My husband is from Aleppo, by the way, so I'm bookmarking your blog for future reference!

Kano said...

@Ruby

Sometimes nothing can live up to our childhood memories even if it is a lot better or a lot tastier.

Wlecome to my blog!

Anonymous said...

I second Rani's opinion on Al Sedeek which im not even sure its the right name but all I do remember is that there was a mosque brightly lit at the main road where you turn into the alley where you get the best lamb shawarma you ever had....beats any meal.
Keep up the good work, I love this blog!!

Kano said...

@anonymous

Welcome to my blog. Glad you like it!

Actually both you and Rani inspired me to pay Al-Seddik another visit next time I am in Damascus and possibly right a post.

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