It is a GREAT ball of carbs that you need at least one glass of tea to help you digest or drag at least two other ravenous carb sucking comrades to help you finish the damn thing.
Arva strikes again as a partner in food exploration in this sandy and windy city (Another sandstorm today). Of course, she didn’t have to drag me as I came willingly, to try out another Iraqi treat she’s been contemplating about these past few days. She said we would be visiting another Iraqi restaurant, Samad Iraqi restaurant, as a follow up to my initial brush with Iraqi cuisine at Al Baghdadi. But this time, instead of another 2-kg bony fish, we would be having Qoozi.
This wouldn’t be my first time to try Qoozi, which is one of The Husband’s favorite Arabic dishes. I’ve had my fill of this grand dish during Iftar dinners during my first ever Ramadan (I know I have a number of firsts here in Dubai). So in my head, I was again struggling with the dilemma on how two ladies could finish a whole roasted lamb seated on top of a fluffy fragrant bed of spiced rice. That would mean a LOT of take away then. Perhaps last both of us for an entire week? I took another giant leap of foodie faith and placed myself in the hands of the Old Dubai food expert. Arva tagged her mum along, so that means more of us to share in the Iraqi bounty. Whew!
It took a while for the waiters to share with us famished ladies their precious time and attention. (Could it be because we were not Arabs? Possibly so, as apparently, this is not an unusual scene in Dubai. Yes, racial discrimination is still alive and doing very well here.) So it was a good thing that the three of us had our foodie hats on and started analyzing the menu and sharing Iraqi food trivia. Arva pointed out that we weren’t having just Qoozi; we were ordering the Qoozi al Sham, stuffed lamb.
Ohhhkaaaaay…so instead of the roasted lamb sitting on top of the rice, the rice would be stuffed inside the whole lamb? Great. That was a comforting image after I failed to completely ignore my breakfast hunger pangs. Aaaaaand the waiter was persuasive enough to get us to order Samad’s “special chicken” A whole roasted stuffed lamb AND chicken? Did we really look that famished?
I started stretching discreetly in my seat to help make space for the Samad Iraqi feast ahead of us. Oh and they even gave us appetizerssss: a green salad, pickles, freshly baked Arabic bread and a bowl of lovely dhal soup *insert hair pulling here* We couldn’t resist them unfortunately. So we were already stuffed pre-stuffed lamb (and chicken!) feast. Great.
Then after another 20-minutes of waiting, a ginormous ball of baked bread landed on our table. Where is the stuffed lamb?!?
Thank God there was none! The Qoozi al Sham or stuffed lamb is actually the ball of bread stuffed with carbs galore: rice, noodles, potatoes and bits of chicken and lamb (though Mr. Samad Iraqi Waiter says it is beef. Whut?!?). On top of those carbs, did I mention that you also have French fries on the side? Talk about carbo loading…
But despite Qoozi al Sham being the dieters (a.k.a carb haters) public enemy #1, it is a great, g-g-great ball of carb. Once you slice open that thin layer of baked bread, a fragrant steam of cinnamon escapes, slowly awakening, whetting your appetite. Its not an intense punch of cinnamon, but rather the gentle nudge followed by a sweet, tender yet firm embrace from the golden sultanas, slivers of almonds, peas and bits of roasted chicken and lamb.
So there is lamb. Maybe they should just rename the dish: “lamb with stuff”, not “stuffed lamb” What you say?
If you are sick of carbs by now, don’t be. Because remember the waiter’s recommendation? Oh yeah, “special chicken” with bread AND rice, also known as Iraqi chicken Madfhoon: peeking under a translucent sheet of dough is a piece of tender, falling of the bone moist chicken, fried onions atop a mountain of turmeric rice with a splash of lemon. It was such a refreshing spoonful of rice. You definitely can do away with a palate cleanser if you order this dish. I loved it! Mr. Samad Iraqi Waiter, this truly deserves the name “special chicken”, so don’t even try to change it. Let it be.
So after talking about the overdose of carbs we just had, can you now say that reading this post deserves a glass of tea? 😉
Samad Iraqi restaurant
Along Al Murraqabat Street
Deira, Dubai UAE
+ 9714-2293660 / 2293661
Delirious about delicious,
P.S. We were debating about the possible origin of the Iraqi Qoozi al Sham:
- Theory #1: It could be a leftover dish. Qoozi al Sham = leftover lamb + leftover chicken + leftover carbs (rice, noodles, bread, potatoes) + trimmings (raisins, peas, nuts). I would compare it to the Lechon Paksiw, made from leftover lechon (if any).
- Theory #2: It could be a “poor man’s” meal. Hence, the onslaught of carbs to give poor man the energy to survive harsh desert working conditions.
Well, these are all speculations. But how do you think this dish came about? Hmmmm…