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Arabian food and amusement - Many a mickle maks a muckle

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March 15th, 2003

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03:24 am - Arabian food and amusement
Most people in this country think that takeaway food in this country comes into a fairly small number of categories: fish'n'chips, American (translates to hamburger or fried chicken), kebab, Chinese, Indian or Italian. Others do exist, but these are fairly clearly the six most popular types. (Not sure about the ranking, but kebab would be at #6.) We do have a Kurdish place in Middlesbrough as previously discussed, but this evening I took food away from the local Arabian restaurant, the Byblos Cafe. I had a "Malfouf" starter, described as being "cabbage roll stuffed with rice, herbs, mild spices and garlic. Cooked in tomato sauce with lemon juice". In practice, there were a package of five little rolls, each the size of two fingers together. The filling had no particularly distinctive taste, but the overall taste was pleasant enough. I ate three as a starter and left the other two to come back to during the main.

My main was chicken manakish: "Chicken breast pieces, blended in our special sauce, mixed with herbs, onion, peppers, fresh green chilli and garlic butter, folded in flat dough and baked in a hot clay oven, served with salad." Effectively it was a bready pancake loaded up with chicken and stuff. The chicken looked like mostly being brown meat rather than white, but it tasted fine; the limited extent of sauce was reasonably mild, which was a slight disappointment given that it claimed to be "hot". (Definitely the right side to err on, though - I've known madras curries which were too spicy for me to finish.) The taste was fine, the major disappointment was the size - can't have been much more than seven or eight inches in diameter. The salad was the typical lettuce with stray slices of tomato, but with some brown herbs sprinkled over that livened them up a bit. Excitingly, there were three sour chilli peppers in there as well, of which I had two.

The price for this - a typical starter and a cheap main - was £4.75 (technically £1.50 for the starter plus £4 for the main minus 75p "15%" discount for collection) - which compares well with two courses from most Indian restaurants and typically with most Chinese restaurants. Most of the rest of the menu is a choice of marinated lamb, marinated chicken or prawns in a choice of three sauces - typically £6 a dish. However, the starter line-up looks very good and the fun thing to do would be to go in a party of three or four and order one of everything on the "starters" page instead of having main meals. This would be about £27 of food to share. (Not an original idea - I saw someone on LJ mention doing something similar t'other day...)

Overall conclusion: quite nice, but nothing tremendously special. The strongest aftertaste I had came from the cabbage roll, which wasn't unpleasant but which I probably wouldn't choose to repeat. All told, I preferred the deal I got from the Kurdish placce (not least because there was rather more food there for barely half the price) but this has a menu more to my taste for a few repeat visits. Clearly a nicer atmosphere in which to enjoy a sit-down meal, too.

Current weight: 208 pounds, which is about what it was last time I measured.

Comic Relief tonight: missed the Harry Potter sketch, but it'll probably get repeated somewhere along the line. The first of my two highlights was "Comic Relief does University Challenge", pitting a team of four comedians who had gone to university (Clive Anderson, David Baddiel and Stephen Fry from Cambridge plus Frank Skinner from Birmingham Poly) against four comedians who had not. A very entertaining contest, but the audio mixing was a little heavy on the audience and a little light on the quiz. Favourite incident was Stephen Fry not knowing how many players there were on a Quidditch team, despite having narrated all the British versions of the Harry Potter audio books. Paraphrasing, he said "You think I listen to myself?" Shame! Shame!

The second of my two highlights was a wonderfully affectionate tribute entitled "the legendary missing Blankety Blank episode from 1981" featuring a whole host of E-list comics (Matt "George Dawes" Lucas was the most famous of them, which is really pretty low) making remarkably accurate and contemperaneous Blankety Blank gags and references while in character as a plausible Blankety Blank (British version of "Match Game") line-up of the day. The final gag, which I will not share, was incredibly predictable in retrospect yet executed perfectly and took me by surprise. An unexpected hidden gem which I fear won't have got nearly the attention or appreciation it deserved. Unfortunately the VCR downstairs was set to record both these spots in Long Play, so the quality of my recordings won't be great.
Current Mood: 'tis the weekend, yay
Current Music: Oooooo... it's Gene... Gene... the... dancing... ma-chine...

(2 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:March 14th, 2003 08:32 pm (UTC)
Not an original idea - I saw someone on LJ mention doing something similar t'other day...

Perhaps not original, but still a lot of fun. Doing Chinese dim sum or Spanish tapas is the same basic idea, and having done both with groups of people I can honestly say they are really enjoyable - not to mention really good food.

Clive Anderson

<3's Clive! The original Who's Line Is It Anyway? rules.
[User Picture]
Date:March 17th, 2003 02:23 pm (UTC)


You know, my occasional promises to visit you while you still live in Middlesbrough are quite genuine, just not backed with any force. But the idea of eating in all of Teesside's finest restaurants for the price of the canard-au-gratin I had yesterday is the best argument so far.

(Forgive me. It was tender and piquant.)

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