Once upon a time, I lived at the Whitworth Park halls of residence in Manchester, when I was going to UMIST. I have a few amazingly great memories of that place (and a bunch of awful ones thanks to roommates who destroyed everything I had in the kitchen – thanks, dicks). One of the best memories is of the food.
You see, around the corner was Abdul Hadi’s. (There was also Gemini Pizza, which was alright, but Abdul’s was way better). Abdul Hadi’s had (and may still have!) amazing, succulent, perfectly marinated chicken kebabs. Sure, you could go to the Rusholme Chippy and get a half a chicken on a naan if you really needed to fill up, but Abdul’s was an art form – the perfect on-the-go drunk stumble-home food. Charred on the grill, the chicken skewers would go from bright yellow to orange and red. Naan bread was the base, then cabbage, tomatoes, the chicken, yoghurt sauce and chilli sauce.
It was heaven.
About ten years ago, I was visiting my folks, and I wandered in to buy a kebab. I had an idea – I wanted the recipe. I’d take it home to Seattle, and make it at home for myself. Or at least as close as I could get without an actual Tandoor oven (for the Naan).
So I bought my kebab, and I asked the owner for the recipe. He laughed, and asked me why he’d do that.
I showed him my Washington State driver’s license, and explained that in all of my travels, I’d never found kebabs quite as good as his. The Abdul’s chain? A lame imitation. Kebab shops in London? Stringy and terrible, and with an awful marinade that paled in comparison. In short, his was the perfect kebab.
He warmed up at that point, and walked me through the recipe.
Greek yogurt (back before it was popular for, well, everything). Lemon juice. Pureed onions. Salt. And there may have been some other stuff – I can’t remember today. He showed me the bucket of marinade and yoghurt he had the chicken skewers marinading in, and fired one up for me.
He wrote it all down on a piece of paper for me, while I chewed. I professed eternal gratitude, and I left.
… and I lost the piece of paper. It was in my luggage – but I don’t know where it went from there. It vanished, into the firmament. It’s as if the universe knew that there shouldn’t be more than one source for the golden kebabbage of destiny. As if it was a secret that shouldn’t be shared.
The moral of this story?
People will help you if you ask for help. If you show an interest, and a spark, and a willingness to learn, we happily teach others. It comes as standard with being human.
And sometimes, the lessons are very very tasty.
Oh, and don’t write that stuff on paper. Take a photo now that we have phones that can do it.