Hyderabad: It's evening and a group of youngsters flocking a popular eatery in Nampally are waiting for a piping hot Shawarma, Arabian fast food that is popular here as an alternative to pizzas and burgers.
Dozens of eateries in different parts of Hyderabad serve the delicacy, which is said to have arrived here about two decades ago but has grown in popularity only in recent years.
Shawarma, as it is known in Arabic, is basically a sandwich wrap filled with either mutton or chicken along with vegetable salad. The meat is marinated and roasted over a slow flame for several hours. The grilled and juicy hot meat, mounted on a special machine, is shredded and rolled on the bread.
Mayonnaise, chilli sauce, vinegar or traditional Arab sauces such as tahina (made of til) and hummus (made of chickpea) and chopped cucumber, onion and tomato are added to the filling for a perfect serve.
Groups of youngsters flock to the eateries for the hot and delicious shawarma. While families also visit the eateries, youngsters constitute the majority of customers. While many prefer to take it piping hot in the restaurants, others go for a take-away.
"It tastes so delicious. I can't resist the temptation," said R. Sangeeta, a student, after grabbing her favourite snack at 'Feel in Saudia', a popular eatery.
The delicacy is not only a hit among local youth but is also a favourite of Arab and African students here. It is also preferred by locals who have worked in the Middle East.
Thanks to the traditional ties, the Middle East has an impact on Hyderabadi cuisine. While some hotels and restaurants serve Arabic dishes like qabsa and mandi, it is the shawarma which proved a hit because it can be taken any time and because of the wide variety and combinations available. However, most of the eateries sell it only during evenings as it fits easily as a snack between lunch and the dinner.
Priced between Rs.60 and Rs.75, shawarma is available in not just the streets around the historic Charminar and other parts of the old city but also in areas like Nampally, Mallepally, Toli Chowki and even in the Hitec City, the information technology hub, where the young techies savour the delicacy.
Arabian Food at Toli Chowki is one of the eateries serving the Arabic fast food. Its owner Mir Qaiser Kamal claims to have introduced Shawarma in Hyderabad in 1997.
He worked in Saudi Arabia for 25 years and returned to set up a restaurant serving dishes from the Middle East. According to Kamal, shawarma originated in Lebanon.
He serves shawarma in 'samoli' 'Lebanese khubz' and other types of bread. He is proud that the Arabic food which he introduced is popular today. Those who tasted his shawarma include celebrities like actor Sanjay Dutt.
"Keeping the tastes of Indians, especially Hyderabadis, I made a few changes in the dish from what is served in Saudi Arabia. I made it a bit spicy," Kamal told IANS.
So, the next time you are in Hyderabad, don't fail to grab a shawarma!