Holes in the wall
A variety of food are always energizing if you have adventurous tastebuds. A message from someone asked me to try this hole in the wall, along M. Roxas Street that is unpretentious yet authentic Pakistani food.
This search for restaurants and dining joints has become an adventure now because we get to meet other foodies and ask them what they enjoy in the cuisine. This one, Mubarak Café, has certified regulars, particularly those of the same religion.
The search for the place was some feat that took us two days at most to be sure we were on the right track as we decided to go for this type of East Asian food again. For one, Mubarak, which means blessed and auspicious can bring you anywhere in the world. But that is what the internet is for, to search. Exactly the point of not giving directions so that you may also travel and search with your pointer and fingers.
The simple menu is just a one-page tarp on the wall with the prices for the dishes nicely placed on the top left side of the pictures. A little inquiry gives you the difference between the dishes but not asking can also cause surprises in the lookalikes and taste-the-same.
Those eaters who are familiar with Asian cuisine will find little nuances in the masala, kabsa, and curry flavors of food. Usually, these are made from a combination of dry spices that are added to the meats or vegetables as they are fried, baked, or stewed.
Of course, Google gives you some details although you may still be a short distance from the real score. Kabsa is of Arabian origin, if the facts are right, this spice mixture has cardamom, cloves, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, black pepper, black lemon, raw almond, and raisins.
The cook said this dish is cooked with ordinary rice, not basmati. Indeed, this did not taste as aromatic as the other rice dishes that are common to Asia. We ate chicken kabsa as our main rice dish, the rice was chewy and sticky with chicken chunks. The golden color of the rice coming from the mix of spices. No garnishes and fancy preparations, the perfect thing about these Asian dishes is that the spices have healing properties too. There is some guarantee that you don’t get indigestion.
Beef masala is an Indian dish with stewed tender beef chunks in a mixture of warm spices. The distinct spice in masala is the coriander seeds, mace, nutmeg, and mustard seeds that are added to the spices of kabsa. This has a warm effect on the body after you eat the dish.
This too is not too fancy when served here. A little salty, this should be balanced with the chapati or the rice. Wiping the thick sauce with chapati reduces some of the saltiness. Curry on the other hand is distinct with the use of turmeric in the mix of spices.
So, familiar with the flavor of curry, we have ventured into the other flavors. But something is unique here at Mubarak, the chili was not fiery. Those who try to avoid chili should try this place.
The garbanzos and channa dal were first in our list of soup and veggie in one. The funny thing was we ordered both only to find out that these were almost the same thing. Garbanzos had more chickpeas and the other more soup. These are delicious because the other split beans included in the soup have become a smooth silky sauce. Once a Pakistani friend just boiled the beans with onions and ginger and the soup was delicious. Garbanzos have been a favorite because these have some nutty taste to it. I have always enjoyed them in the Spanish dishes. In the Eastern dishes these are delish in hummus.
The egg chapati were ordinary chapati dipped in scrambled eggs on one side. The Indian flatbread that was soft and chewy is supposed to be made with stoneground whole wheat grains mixed with water. This could have been made with a special flour.
There goes one edition of experiences in the tiny three table affairwith foreign meals.
Happy Valentine’s and enjoy the day.