At first try, the thing had a spicy-bitter taste that was hard to describe... but I loved it. Mom said that the dish is called `kacang pol'. Funny name, I thought... but later on in life I noted that there are variants to the name : pol, pool, ful and even phool. All these from translating the original arabic name of foul medames.
In my trip to Cairo in 2004, I had my first taste of authentic foul medames. The buffet breakfast spread at the hotel had two versions of the dish, Egyptian-style and Lebanese-style... of course I tried both. Slightly different tasting compared to mom's version but delicious all the same.
My exposure to middle-eastern cuisine further broadened during my short stint working in the United Arab Emirates. The tough pressure of work was somewhat compensated by food-tasting adventures. That was where I developed an affection for lamb mandey and lovely fresh salad dishes. Nowadays, whenever I hear of an Arabic restaurant opening up in KL, I would make an effort to try it out. To date, Saba Restaurant at Jelatek is still the best in my book.
Of late, Johor Bahru is seeing a few genuine Arabic restaurants opening for business... genuine in this sense, meaning with real Arab cooks. Not those run by locals who cook from recipes they learned when they were students in Egypt or Jordan or wherever. The latest one is called Wadi El-Arab Restaurant located right here in my district of Kg Melayu Majidee. It just opened a few weeks ago and I must say the owner is taking a huge gamble in opening a speciality restaurant out of the city centre.
It was our youngest son's 17th birthday on Friday and so I decided to have the celebration dinner at this new eating place. Wadi El-Arab is located just across the Medan Selera Kg Melayu (where you can get the best ABC in all of JB). The place used to be someone's house and was renovated into a restaurant. Decor-wise, there is nothing to shout about. The front part of the dining area is carpeted and has low tables for that sitting-on-the-floor experience. The inner dining area has simple round tables of the kopitiam type, not quite to my liking.
The menu choices is about average I guess, but sufficient enough for those not familiar with arabian food to try out some variety. They have bokhari rice, makloubeh, kofta, shawarma, shish tawok plus some salads and soups. Most importantly (to me, at least) they have mandey.
The birthday boy and his elder brother had grilled lamb kofta while the missus ordered the same but beef. These are spiced minced meat rolled onto metal skewers, grilled over charcoal fire, served with roasted eggplant and homous, and eaten with arab flat bread. I ordered what else but lamb mandey... at RM19.80 per plate, the most expensive rice dish on the main course menu. Wasn't the best that I had (which would still be at a restaurant somewhere in Muscat, Oman) but still on the okay side. The kofta dishes are the tasty ones. Overall not too bad... but they really need to pull in more crowd to make the long haul.
|The cover menu card|
|Mandey lamb rice|