An Arabic adventure with Sheherezade
I have been a great fan of Arabic, middle eastern cuisine although I
have only savoured kebabs, naans, shawarmas in non - Arabic restaurants.
I wanted to try out the authentic, traditional Arabic cuisine and the
place was none other than Sheherezade which is the only exclusive Arabic
restaurant in Sri Lanka.
I was invited by Shiromala, the charming Assistant PR Manager of
Galadari and once I entered the restaurant I felt that I was in an
The exotic, Turkish décor, soft Lebanese music and most importantly
the spicy cuisine of Lebanese recipes, dating back to a thousand years,
is perfected on the sizzling stoves at the Sheherazade, and is presented
on a buffet of delicate and aromatic spread of fine Mediterranean
The Sheherezade is well equipped with 'hubbli bubbli' at the Garden
Terrace which brings out its true Mediterranean authenticity and is only
open for dinner from 7 pm to 11 pm. Chef Ananda who has over 10 years of
experience in this wonderful restaurant told me about the essential
dishes of Arabic cuisine which are three starters namely Hummus,
Muttabel and Tabbouleh.
Hummus is a dip/spread that is made from chickpeas. According to Chef
Ananda in fact, hummus is the Arabic word for chickpea and is one of the
oldest foods dating back to ancient Egypt. If you frequently visit
Middle Eastern restaurants and eat the hummus, you know that hummus
tastes different everywhere as some types of hummus have a strong lemon
flavour, some have an overwhelming garlic flavour and some hummus has a
spicy tone. This had a tangy lemon flavour to it and tasted great with
the crisp, freshly baked Naan.
Muttabel which is another famous appetizer is prepared with grilled
eggplant, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic, tahini, chopped tomato and
green pepper as well. More frequently, eggplant is mixed with yoghurt,
olive oil and garlic. Chef Ananda who gave the information told that
Arabic spices are added to this exotic starter and it tasted wonderful
with the egg plant flavour which was evident. Originally from the
mountains of Syria and Lebanon, tabbouleh has become one of the most
popular salads in the Middle East.
In the Arab world, but particularly the Greater Syrian region, it is
usually served as part of the mezze. These three appetizers are must
tries at Sheherezade for all you diners who love Middle Eastern food.
The chicken shawarma which is another signature dish here was oozing
with flavours. The chicken was grilled to perfection and the secret
Arabic spices and the 24 hour marination did wonders to this authentic
All these Arabic dishes has a lot of history attached to it and it is
quite complex to make a shawarma. I dug in some literature about the
shawarma which is very interesting. Shawarma is made by alternately
stacking strips of fat and pieces of seasoned meat (beef, lamb or
marinated chicken) on a stick - an onion or tomato is sometimes placed
at the top of the stack for additional flavouring. The meat is roasted
slowly on all sides as the spit rotates in front of, or over, a flame
for hours. Traditionally a wood fire was used (now a gas flame is
common). While specialty restaurants might offer two or more meat
selections, some establishments have just one skewer which is what
Galadari uses. While cooking, the meat is shaved off the stack with a
large knife, an electric knife or a small circular saw, dropping to a
circular tray below to be retrieved.
Three starters namely Hummus, Muttabel and Tabbouleh
Beef can be used for shawarma instead of lamb, and turkey is used
instead of chicken. In Saudi Arabia, goat is as common as beef or lamb.
Less common alternatives include fish and sausage. Some shawarma stores
use hot dog buns or baguettes, but most have pita and lavash. Sometimes,
beef shawarma - despite its name - contains some lamb in addition to the
beef, to ensure juiciness.
Another one of my top picks was the chicken kebab which was juicy,
succulent and bursting with flavours. In English, kebab with no
qualification generally refers more specifically to shish kebab served
on the skewer or döner kebab served wrapped in bread with a salad and a
The traditional meat for kebab is lamb, but depending on local tastes
and taboos, it may now be beef, goat, chicken, pork, fish and seafood or
even vegetarian foods like falafel or tofu. Sheherezade had juicy beef,
chicken and the original lamb doner kebab and almost on all days the
kebabs are served alongside the buffet.
The buffet had popular Arabic desserts like honey bread, Turkey bread
and also caramel pudding, mousse and fruits. But the standout was Umali
- a hot dessert which is similar to a bread pudding. This has become one
of the best known desserts in the UAE and quite literally means 'the
queen of puddings'. A particular favourite during Ramadan according to
Restaurant Manager Anil and was not overly sweet. It included puff
pastry, milk, various kinds of nuts, cream, raisins and cinnamon and was
A strawberry flavored Shisha which I had for 45 minutes but still
couldn't finish wrapped up a perfect Arabic dining experience for me at