Turkish Food In Pakistan – Babagoosh Turkish Doner!

Whilst travelling, my motto is, as is the same for many people, to try new cuisines and explore; be it cuisines from Arab countries, Eastern European, central European, Asian, or all the way deep in the heart of Latin cuisine. The list, variations and flavours are endless! However, travelling can pose as a difficulty on one’s bank account so we search for authentic cuisines in the comfort of our own countries and cities.

During my annual visit to Islamabad, Pakistan, I have recently come to notice restaurants, cafés and other establishments popping up almost as frequently as in Karachi and I try my best to sample and assess as many as possible within the given circumstances and timeframe. Moreover, there weren’t any malls in Islamabad up until the last few years when two, ‘Centaurus’ and ‘Safa Gold’, were opened for the residents of the Twin Cities, Rawalpindi and Islamabad. During this specific visit in July 2015 I revisited a favorite which I stumbled upon the previous summer when I wanted to explore Safa Gold mall, which, at the time had not been completely set up. There were numerous vacant spaces in the mall and its food court, but a few places had opened up in the nearly half empty mall, one of which was ‘Babagoosh’.

1399142926-300x105

I was a bit hesitant to try it based purely on the fact that food from food courts are rarely amazing, and are rarely edible without feeling queasy afterwards. But I took a chance, and I am so thankful I did! Babagoosh, an establishment which served Turkish Doners, had only three items, with only a beef, chicken or vegetarian choices, but that was more than enough!

NO holding back! Doner Platter During My SECOND visit. Smothered in the two sauces!

NO holding back!
Doner Platter During My SECOND visit. Smothered in the two sauces!

I examined their counter and witnessed a beautiful sight; the meat rotating on the vertically-placed thick metal rods, slow cooking and I could see from where I was standing the fat glistening down the large beef mixture as well as the chicken mixture on a rod next to it, so as to keep it moist and not dry out. I ordered the Beef Doner Kebab and it was overflowing with the deliciously slow-cooked meat I saw cooking just moments earlier with salad and two sauces. I enjoyed it so much that my family and I visited this mall primarily for the Doner from the food court approximately 3 times a week; and sometimes, my family members went alone or with their friends. This Turkish Doner was the highlight of my trip in 2014, which made me THAT much more excited to visit in 2015!

My FIRST visit to Babagoosh during my trip in 2015. Doner Platter with a light drizzle of the sauces on top

My FIRST visit during my trip in 2015.
Doner Platter with a light drizzle of the sauces on top

During this particular visit in 2015, I can honestly say that the taste of the Doner Kebab and the Doner Platter were far better than what I had the year before. The Doner Kebab is round pita bread which is lightly toasted and cut in the middle, but not completely until the end, so as to make a pocket. Within this pocket is layered your choice of either marinated, slow-cooked beef or chicken which has been sliced by a serrated knife and slightly thinly; but not too thin so as to make it similar to paper. Then layered on top is the thinly cut salad comprising of lettuce and cabbage. And the final addition is the two sauces; one which is white and other red. Both sauces complement one another so beautifully and add such a wonderful depth to the flavour of the overall Doner; and also openhandedly added on top as a finishing touch. Both sauces are creamy; the white sauce is more of a garlic aioli and the red sauce is a slightly sweet and spicy concoction wherein the chili flakes can be seen, if looked at carefully enough.

It should be pointed out that Turkish food, like most food in that region of the world, is not spicy, but rather, filled with flavour and kept simple. The ingredients are allowed to speak for themselves and shine with the help of other ingredients; they are not hidden away in spices or coated in heavy batter then deep fried, etc. Like a symphony, where each ingredient is equivalent to a different instrument with its own part to play thus adding more depth to the overall creation, or in this food-based scenario, the flavour. Captivated and spellbound by its melody which continues ringing in your mind in the distance even when a lengthy amount of time has passed since you last heard it; subconsciously and unintentionally humming its tune. Similarly, for one year, I constantly thought about the Doner and how it may have changed, maybe for the better; but so excited to sample and evaluate their progress in the 12 months that have passed.

Doner Platter with a light drizzle of the sauces on top

Doner Platter with a light drizzle of the sauces on top

That being said let us return to the harmonious song sung by this Turkish Doner kebab which had me slowly trusting food from food courts once again. These three elements were so generously packed into the pita that it was overflowing from the mouth of the pocket of the pita and you were forced to first eat it with a forkin order to be capable of taking a proper bite without having the sauces smeared on your cheeks and nose (which is something I learned hence, I am informing you well in advance =p )! This Doner kebab is accompanied with a beverage and golden, crispy, thick-cut fries; which are smothered in the sauce of your choosing, or both, if you’d like.

My FIRST visit to Babagoosh during my trip in 2015. Doner Platter with a light drizzle of the sauces on top

My FIRST visit to Babagoosh during my trip in 2015.
Doner Platter with a light drizzle of the sauces on top

The second item on the menu after the kebab was the Doner Platter, which consisted of the same elements you would receive in your Doner kebab, plus the fries and these were placed in three separate sections of a rectangular take away container. On the far left were those beautiful crispy fries in nearly the same amount you would receive had you ordered the Doner Kebab; the salad rested on the far right with a slice of tomato placed on top; and in the center, the focus of the whole box, was the meat of your choosing! I chose beef so the various slices of marinated beef; soft, tender, and juicy, were layered one on top of the other until it reached just as high as the salad and fries. Then, if desired, the sauces were poured on top of all three sections. I usually had a small amount in my Doner Platter, which lightly grasped all that it touched while slowly made its way down the ends of the beef and salad slices, like thick lava. And because you can never have too much of those mouth-watering sauces, I requested some extra in small containers to pour, to which they happily obliged. There was so much in the take-away container that once the top was closed, the top would get some of the sauce on the top inside. The Doner Platter was even more generously placed and also a bit more in price, but honestly, worth every single penny! I went there two times in one day, at some point! It is highly addictive and the highlight of my trip, regarding food.

Pita in the back. Doner Platter During My SECOND visit. Smothered in the two sauces!

Pita in the back.
Doner Platter During My SECOND visit. Smothered in the two sauces!

Pita in the back. Doner Platter During My SECOND visit. Smothered in the two sauces!

I look for value for money and in most situations I am satisfied spending the amount requested for the item(s) ordered, be it in Pakistan, Canada, Dubai, or elsewhere. However, in Islamabad, I was not very satisfied compared to what the prices once used to be regarding ‘value for money’ in many of the new restaurants, cafés, etc. that have recently opened in the last few years. Even at the most simplest of places where you would expect that the prices would be more reasonable based on their ambiance, seating arrangements, and location were just as overpriced as those in 4-star expensive hotels. Sadly, I felt like I was cheated many times EXCEPT at Babagoosh. In a city such as Islamabad, where the standard of living is so high that you would also be expected to pay even more for dining out, even at the most simple places, Babagoosh is ONE place where TWO assumptions were disproved; firstly, that you must overspend for food that could have been much cheaper and feel instant regret when the bill arrives; and, that food from food courts in malls may having a fighting chance after all! I not only went several times on my own in the last two years, but I also took family and friends. Furthermore, I frequently and persistently endorsed it to friends and family who had not yet visited, and spoke so regularly and with such high praises that people visited this location from Karachi and even Canada particularly at my request! Subsequent to every person’s visit, one conclusion was very common amongst all: they thoroughly enjoyed it JUST as much as I did. And for most, it became habitual to visit Babagoosh whilst in Islamabad; for those who resided there or those who visited.

My FIRST visit to Babagoosh during my trip in 2015. Doner Platter with a light drizzle of the sauces on top

My FIRST visit to Babagoosh during my trip in 2015.
Doner Platter with a light drizzle of the sauces on top

Advertisements

Lasagna with a Twist – Urban Chef

UC 3

Chicken Lasagna with a slice removed. Layers of delicious-ness!

 

Traditional lasagna always varies from maker to maker; no two lasagnas are ever the same. However with the pressure of making lasagna that is well-balanced, also comes the pressure of competing with flavors of those tasted earlier.

Though I love all kinds of food, lasagna is one of my favorites and I rarely come across one that I can speak highly about. Thus, the curiosity as to the flavor and technique led me to order the (Barbeque) Chicken lasagna from the Urban Chef, which was accompanied with a 300g sample of dahi baray [a dish consisting of balls made from ground lentils, which are deep-fried and served in a chilled, thick, sweetened whisked yogurt sauce]. The lasagna was placed in an aluminum rectangular container, which boxed up in a cardboard box of a slight larger size with the logo of the Urban Chef on top. The lasagna, to my surprise, was hot in temperature as if I had taken a few minutes to let the lasagna sit subsequent to taking it out fresh from the oven.

 

UC 1

The boxes the lasagnas came in.

The sample of dahi baray was wonderful! The yogurt liquid in which the dahi baray themselves floated in was not exceedingly sweet; the dahi baray had soaked up a sufficient amount of the liquid whilst resting in it, but not so much that they broke apart. They maintained their shape, but at the same time, were moist, and not dry. In this scorching and unforgiving heat, this was just the pick-me-up needed. It was light, fresh, cool, and refreshing. I enjoyed every spoonful, from start to finish! At the end, I wished that I had some more!

UC 4

Dahi Baray. Yum!

Now let’s move on to the pièce de résistance, the star of the show… the lasagna! Immediately after opening the cover of the container, with regards to the elements everyone looks for in any lasagna, one box was check marked, right from the get-go, the cheese layered on top. The sections of melted, lightly golden brown and crusty cheese were browned in such a way that each slice to be cut would get a taste of the beautifully baked cheese. In every lasagna, people struggle and, at times, nearly combat one another for the edges. And the edges in said lasagna were just that; lightly browned, just like the layer of cheese, but due to the moisture being removed whilst baking, the edges were thus, slightly crunchy.

UC 2

Check out that gorgeous lasagna with the beautifully browned cheese here and there. YUMMMMMMMM

When cut into, the knife easily went through the obvious layers within with little resistance, which made clear that the pasta sheets were not overcooked to the point of turning into complete baby food. Then the time to see Urban Chef’s masterpiece in the form of a slice clearly revealed layers of lasagna pasta sheets; roughly chopped, almost cubed, pieces of chicken with a slightly red marinade that seeped deep into the meat, béchamel and cheese. The chicken chunks were clearly marinated in advance based on how deep the color went. It was a unique lasagna; not your everyday, traditional lasagna. It was one that I have never seen before, a Barbeque Chicken Tikka lasagna. When one thinks of types of lasagnas and their variations, the most that come to mind are changes ranging from meats, to purely vegetarian, and now a new culinary trend of ‘dessert’ lasagnas. And when I initially heard the title of the lasagna, immediately what came to mind were the flavours of a standard barbequed, overcooked and dried piece of chicken; however, the flavour was only ‘tikka’ so much as the intensity of spice and flavour. I would like to point out that I enjoy spicy food but not to the extent as the way it is cooked nowadays wherein there is little to no balance and mostly just red chili powder to the point where the dish is nearly inedible. The chicken in the lasagna was spicy, but not exceedingly spicy; it had that nice ‘kick’ to it and was balanced with the béchamel and cheese so that it was ‘turned down’ a little. The mix of all the components of this lasagna were perfect and in harmony.

I admire the Urban Chef’s creative spin on a classic and did not anticipate such creativity and triumph, especially with the word ‘tikka’ in the title, but it was definitely worth the gamble!

I enjoyed the lasagna and the dahi baray very much; so much so that whilst writing this review, my stomach is growling for more. Come Saturday, Urban Chef can expect to get another order from me for this lasagna!

If you enjoy lasagna and/or spicy food which is unique, then this creation from the Urban Chef should definitely be on your list!

BURGER MAFIA

BM 6

The back wall with white stones on the bottom

IMG-20150523-WA0025

Triple Cheeseburger!

 

When driving towards Burger Mafia facing Saba Avenue on Khayaban-e-Shahbaz, the yellow-painted wall is unmistakably noticeable. Next to a take-away window, a small door conceals on the other side, a loud and colorful wall, as if you were walking in the streets of downtown; yellows, blacks, reds; traffic lights, tall buildings; posters of famous ‘mafia’ movies, such as Scarface with Al Pacino and Mario Puzo’s, the Godfather, just to name a few.

Waiters dressed in ‘gangster’ attire of the 50’s, when long black trench coats and fedoras were all the rage and commonly associated with gangsters, courteously escorted you to the table and, from time to time, visited to ensure that your experience is pleasant.

BM 5

The side wall with one of their waiters in the shot

BM 4

The burgers ordered were juicy and large, placed on a lovely white dish/platter, similar to the shape of a paddle, with a small round dent wherein the ketchup accompanying the burger was situated. Not your average coleslaw, which had a slight orange tinge to it, but tasted quite nice; fries which were crispy; and a sauce streaked on the bottom of one side of the plate. The burger patty itself was very juicy, and the ground beef clearly made and shaped by hand; a generous amount of beef and very unique taste; the flavour profile clearly kept the Pakistani/Desi clientele in mind. Not your average burger patty! The burger buns, in which the patty was resting, were noticeably soft and the juices from the patty and the sauces from within the burger were soaked up by the buns; thus, all the flavours from every bite were in every subsequent bite.

IMG-20150523-WA0026

 

One of the highlights of this new burger joint was…the bottomless drinks! Yes, that’s right, all-you-can-drink soda while you enjoy the music, food and ambiance created by the polite and friendly staff AND owners. The owners were kind enough to seldom visit our table to not only explain their vision, but also to make sure we enjoyed the food and experience. No more dilemmas of arranging and timing every sip thus, forcing yourself to drink your beverage so slowly so that it lasts for your entire meal! You may easily finish it in one gulp, if you please, and then ask for another, without hesitation or fear that it will be added to your bill.

BM 3

Double patty burger with bacon

The overall dining experience at Burger Mafia was pleasantly entertaining with well-mannered and polite staff who were very attentive; the burger patties, created by hand and with care; the buns, soft and light; the sauces, very tangy and complimented the burger nicely; unlimited refills of the beverages and an experience worth having! If you are searching for this kind of experience and taste then Burger Mafia is where you should go!