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Friday September 4, 2009
By ESTHER CHANDRAN
THE preferred soup of most Iranian households is ash, a thick soup prepared with a variety of ingredients depending on the availability of ngredients in a particular geographical location in Iran.
So, you can get ash in the hot yogurt version, hot pomegranate soup, noodle soup, lentil soup, wheat variety and many more.
This inexpensive soup can be traced back to ancient Iranians and a visit to Ali Baba’s Kebab will introduce you to this simple, savoury and aromatic starter, much enjoyed by people of Persian heritage.
As it is a dish known to Iranians, it is not on the menu but is a speciality.
Thick and aromatic, the outlet’s Ash Reshte is a vegetarian stew of chick peas, beans, lentils, combination of vegetables, onions, garlic, fried mint leaves and Iranian vermicelli.
For the month of Ramadan, customers get to savour starters of ash and a plate of zolbia bamia, dates, bread and panir (Iranian cheese) which is actually the welcome meal for those breaking fast.
Proprietor Soheil Ataei, popularly known as Ali, said the light serving of something savoury and sweet helped the body to prepare for stronger flavours.
“As Muslims are fasting for many hours, our body needs sugar to get us going for the rest of the day and this is why Iranians break fast with these traditional dishes,” he said.
Understanding that the Iranian’s preferred meal may not appeal to locals, Malaysians can whet their appetite with a plate of mixed fruits, dates, tea and a scoop of ice-cream.
“Of course, we will serve the Iranian starters of ash and a plate of sweets to Malaysians if they want to have it,” Ali said.
Unlike previous years where a buffet was readily available for those breaking fast, this year, customers can order their main meal off the menu.
“We realised from past experience that our customers prefer to order dishes off the menu than eating what’s available on the buffet line.
“So, this is why we have the free-of-charge starters to break their fast with and then wait for their main meal,” he explained.
The menu greets you with a line-up of main course items like kebab, lamb shank, stews and roast chicken and moves on to unveil its likeable starters.
If you’re into kebabs, this is the place to go as there’s Koubideh (lamb minced kebab), Chenjeh (beef fillet kebab), Ajee Kebab (lamb minced kebab spicy), Soltani Kebab (beef and lamb minced kebab), Ali Baba’s Special Kebab (lamb minced and chicken), Joujeh (chicken kebab), Mixed Kebab (chicken, beef and lamb),
Ali recommended the Ali Baba’s Special Kebab, Soltani Kebab, Koubideh and Joujeh, plates of Zereshk Polo rice Khoreshe Ghaimeh (lamb, dhal and fried potato) and Bamiye (lamb with ladies finger).
The Zereshk Polo is very inviting and entices even non-rice eaters to dig in as the buttery rice cooked with saffron is dotted with raisin-sized ruby red bar berries (zereshk).
As Iranians are known for whipping up tasty yogurt appetisers, I chose a bowl of Borani (spinach mixed with yogurt and spices) and homemade yogurt and cucumber to go with the rice, kebab and stew dishes.
We were also served bowls of Salad Shirazi and flat naan bread which was truly enjoyable with dipping curries served alongside.
Diners who enjoy aubergine can relish the Bademjan (baked steamed aubergine gently fried with garlic and mixed with egg, tomato) and Kashk Bademjan (Fried Egg Plant with Fried Onion and Kashk) and to pep up your meal further, garlic and cucumber pickles will do the trick.
While delighting in our meal, we had Istak (non-alcoholic beer) which was similar to a fizzy fruit drink and available in four flavours - strawberry, pomegranate, apple and lemon.
There are two outlets on Jalan Ampang, opposite Ampang Point and opposite Great Eastern Mall.
> ALI BABA’S KEBAB, 498, Jalan Lima, Taman Ampang Utama, Ampang, Selangor & 266, Jalan Ampang. (Tel: 03-4256 2500, 03-4251 0025) Business hours: noon to 1am daily.
This is the writer’s personal observation and is not an endorsement by StarMetro.
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