01 March 2006

Shawarma Snack Center

February has been a very stressful month for me, and I'm anticipating March to be even more hellish--what with all the string of media trips and press conferences I'm handling right now.

Went to Boracay last weekend on a familiarization tour for our media friends. It was actually a culinary adventure in Boracay--and the best one our agency has organized so far. I gained two fucking pounds though. More on this food tripping adventure when I've collected enough photos on the gastronomic delights we've encountered.

As if I haven't had enough of food last weekend, I thoroughly enjoyed last night's dinner with my boyfriend at Shawarma Snack Center located at Salas Street in the Ermita/Malate district of Manila. When I'm not hunched over my office PC (knee-deep in summer media trip logistical nightmares) or guzzling my venti-size hot caramel macchiato, I am dreaming of stuffing my face with Shawarma Snack Center's food.

This place is the stuff Middle Eastern cuisine dreams are made of. Despite its highly unimaginative name, this restaurant serves authentic Mid-East food, with its owner perpetually hovering over the covered dishes (which are laid out cafeteria-style to entice passersby) to ensure that the food is served hot and fresh. Shawarma Snack Center, or SSC, is frequented by Middle Eastern shesha-smoking customers--an obvious indication that the food offered must truly be authentic.

I love, love, LOVE super spicy food, so Arabic/Persian cuisine is right up my alley. Obviously, SSC serves great shawarma (an easy Php60.00 for the large size) but I go there for the beef kabbab (Php165.00) and my uber favorite dish, qurma (Php120.00 or something like that), which is like the Filipino beef kaldereta, only much spicier and with that distinct Middle Eastern flavor.

Their tabouleh (Php150.00) is a light salad that complements the spicy entrees, while the kofta (meatballs covered with an indescribably lovely spicy sauce which costs only Php120.00) is heavy enough to be considered as a main viand and not just a side dish. Also good to mention is SSC's falafel (Php75.00), a typical Arab snack food that's stuffed with hummus, vegetables and beans.

Not many people are familiar with this hole-in-the-wall resto, and that's just fine by me. I'd be horrified if the Jollibee-crazed Filipino crowd would start going in droves there. I love SSC for its unpretentious look, simple dishware--and the fact that one can munch on spicy food while trying to decipher the Arab customers' conversations or listening to a Korean's wailing rendition of love songs in a videoke bar beside SSC. Throw in a couple of gay hookers passing by every few minutes and a perpetual crowd of Filipinos checking up on the status of their horse racing bets nearby--and you know you're in for a people-watching treat as well.

God, how I love the old Manila district in all its motley, gaudy glory.