Mutabbaq: A Taste of Arabia

Churning out the MutabbaqOn a recent evening, I set out on a power walking mission through Riyadh’s dusty  and automobile maddened streets.

I wanted to find a little Bangladeshi place that had been pointed out by my Pakistani friend two weeks prior.  It is next to a Pakistani joint that he’d taken me to.  I’d later find what I was looking for to realize that it wasn’t Bangladeshi food at all, but South Indian fare.

Because I got lost on that mission, I didn’t come to find what I was looking for that night.  Instead, I stumbled across another little hole in the wall.

I saw guys frying huge square pancake like creations.  While witnessing this fascinating scene, I’d worked up a serious appetite.  I walked in and ordered the beautiful creation.

I asked what it was called and wrote down the name.

Mutabbaq.”

They even spelled it for me.

From which country?”

Origin Afghanistan.”

I  felt great vibes about this food before I even got my order.  There was no menu.  It was the only dish on offer.  The guys looked very confident in their preparatory endeavors.    I thought:  When we focus on one thing, we tend to do it very well.

Mutabbaq Fresh off the GrillI squeezed some lime onto this square pancake treat, took a bite and said to myself silently: It seems I get lime with everything I order in this land.  I think that freshly squeezed lemon and lime works well on almost all foods.

Mutabbaq half-way DevouredThis middle eastern taste bud titillation looked as good as it tasted.  The guys cooking it knew exactly what they were doing.  I don’t think it could have been removed from the grill a second sooner or later and been better. The texture was just right.  There was a slight hint of crunchiness, while still soft enough to melt in your mouth.

Mutabbaq StuffingIt wouldn’t have mattered which stuffing they chose for this Arabian griddle cake. Like the scallions and tomatoes they used, I’m sure that almost anything would have sufficed.   As I prefer veggies to animal flesh, the veggies used were perfect.

According to Wikipedia Mutabbaq, meaning ‘folded‘ in Arabic, originated in Yemen and Saudi Arabia.  Lovelyplanet claims that it was invented in India.  As mentioned above, the guys who prepared the dish claimed that it’s from Afghanistan.  Maybe they were Afganny.  I didn’t ask.

All I know is that I was happy to come across this place by mistake, and to try this middle eastern pancake that I consider a treat for the taste buds.

It cost 3 Rial or $.80.   I sometimes can’t help but think,  Riyadh is one of the world’s richest cities, yet it’s possible to find food values that are as good anywhere I’ve been.

There’s no way I can give you directions  to this place, nor do I know the name of it.  But, if you’re in Riyadh, and you want to check it out, let me know and I’ll gladly take you there.  I can’t wait to go back.

10 Responses to Mutabbaq: A Taste of Arabia

  1. Ayngelina says:

    That looks AMAZING. I must look for some in Toronto.

    • Earthdrifter says:

      AYNGELINA: Great that you live in such a cosmopolitan city. I wish you luck in finding a place that serves Mutabbaq.

  2. Arianwen says:

    Oh wow! My mouth is watering like a fountain!

  3. Yum! I have tried a verson of this before, I have no idea where, but I love the name, Mutabbaq, it’s awesome! And I agree, lime makes everything better, here in Mexico they are 50 cents a kilo, so along with the avocados at $2 per kilo, I’m in heaven!!!

    • Earthdrifter says:

      SARAH: Lime is ubiquitous to Latin American cuisine. It acts as a tasty and healthy salad dressing. Avocados are expensive in most places, great price there. It’s considered a super food, excellent for the heart and eyes, and helps prevent diseases, among other things. My guess is that you tried Mutabbaq in India or Indonesia.

  4. Al says:

    Looks delicious

      • Earthdrifter says:

        BRIDGET: Definitely yummy. I found another Saudi eatery that does Mutabbaq. It wasn’t nearly as good looking or tasting as the one in the pitures, where the little place offers only Mutabbaq. The second Mutabbaq I tried was from a place that offers many other things. That must be why it wasn’t as good.

    • Earthdrifter says:

      AL: It absolutely was. I wonder if you can find a recipe and try to make it yourself, as I guess that it doesn’t exist down in Uruguay. I wonder if there’s a small Arab immigrant community in Montevideo where you may be able to find some eats from this part of the world?

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