Chiangmai Kebab

Gina Hahn

Whether you call it shish kebab, shashlik, kabob or kebab, these delectable marinated and grilled meats are a treat for your taste buds. Served with a salad and some good pita bread, and you have a well-balanced meal that would elicit even your mother’s approval. But don’t look for little grilled bits of meat and vegetables on a stick at Chiangmai Kebab. Owner Allen Hengami’s parents were from Iran and Dubai. What you’ll find here is the original thing - meat that has been marinated then sliced by hand and stacked carefully onto custom-made cookers. Meat that is sliced for serving in a shaving-like motion, stuffed into homemade pita bread with onion and lettuce and finally dressed with your choice of sauces. Real kebab, and you know it the moment you bite into your sandwich.

Allen sat with us and carefully explained the entire process. They go to the market every morning. They buy beef from one vendor and that vendor only, and they buy just enough to serve customers for one day. The same thing applies to chicken. It’s a matter of quality. These vendors have fresh, high quality meat. And the family only cooks enough to supply the restaurant for one day because the cooked product must be fresh and juicy. Leftovers when the shop closes at night are not served the next day.

Before the meat is put on the cooker, a dry rub of imported aromatic spices and fresh lemon juice is applied. It marinates in this mixture for 24 hours and then is sliced and carefully stacked to cook. Meanwhile the staff prepares fresh pita bread, samosas, falafel, sauces, salads, and fresh yoghurt-based salad dressings. Allen brings out a bag of the spices mixture for us to examine. The aroma is divine, a mixture of bay leaves, cloves, peppers, and other spices.

We begin our meal with refreshing, fresh 100 percent orange juice. Allen tells us that they also make fresh fruit lassis, those lovely drinks made from fruit and yoghurt. We skip them because we’re planning on some serious kebab eating and don’t want to miss one bite. Then come the samosas and falafel that are served with a spicy tomato sauce and a tahini sauce that is so tasty I dip food into it all night. The samosas, triangular-shaped pastries, are filled with spiced vegetables. The falafel, croquettes made of spiced, ground chickpeas, offer a good combination of spice and crunch. Samosas and falafel are priced at 10 baht. Water is 10 baht and soft drinks are 20 baht. Beer starts at 35 baht for Chang, going up to 60 baht for Heineken.

The salads come next, and the fresh packaging delights us. Each is packed individually in a plastic container, perfect for takeout. In addition to fresh vegetables, these salads are topped with tender red beans. The fresh salad dressing is an instant favorite, so light and tangy that we begin talking about using it as a dip or a sandwich dressing. We order our pita sandwiches and move to the counter to watch the preparation. The beef and chicken are shaved off of the stack, scraped up and stuffed into warm pita bread. Onion and lettuce are added. Then the whole thing is wrapped in an aluminum foil package and put into a basket. Sauces are put on the table, and we add our sauce to our sandwich. Delicious. Amazingly, combinations of kebab, pita, and salad range in price from 40 baht to 80 baht.

Chiangmai Kebab opens at 5 p.m. everyday, and people begin stopping by almost as soon as the shutters open. This is a casual, outdoor caf้. The little building that houses the cookers and the cooks is bright red and yellow and sits slightly back from the sidewalk. Pull up a stool to the counter and watch the preparation, or eat at one of several picnic tables nearby. And here’s a treat. You can order in Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, Swedish, English or Thai. Allen speaks them all.

Chiangmai Kebab, 69/4 Katchasam Road, Muang, Chiang Mai, [email protected] mail.com, park in the lot in front of DK Books and walk a few meters back. Open every day at 5 p.m.