Category Archives: Postcards from Snackistan

Street Food Photo of the Month: Open Kitchen

How’s this for a spot of outside catering? We just love this photo, which was taken in Egypt, although sadly we cannot actually make out what is being cooked. Especially like the use of cars as improvised tray rests.
If you took any good Middle Eastern street food pix on your holidays, do share them with us.
Photo taken by Atsuto and shared under the Creative Common Licence on Flickr.

Meat-on-Sticks Photo of the Month: Chopan Kabob, Afghanistan. With added recipe.

Sun’s out, barometers are swinging into action, a lot of whiter-than-white legs have suddenly gone on show (along with the depressing realisation that the playsuit has remained ‘in vogue’ for yet another year), and every pub garden in the land is rammed. Must be time for the official launch of that strange institution, the British BBQ season…
Hopefully you’ve all got your copies of Snackistan out – doesn’t matter if they get a bit of grease or charcoal on them, as cookbooks are meant to be used – but in the meantime, here’s some meat-on-sticks to inspire you. Chopan kabob is a bit of a regional speciality in Afghanistan. The lovely Helen Saberi (our expert on all things Afghan) explains it thus:

The kebab is supposed to be named after shepherds (chopan) who rubbed chunks of lamb on the bone with plenty of salt, skewer the meat on twigs or small branches, and roast them over fire while watching their flocks.

This recipe is a little more elaborate, but still a doddle to prepare. But then most meat-on-sticks is…
Ingredients (for 4):

  • 100 ml natural yoghurt
  • 2 onions, cubed
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 bunch fresh coriander, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons cracked coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon non EV olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 12 lamb (buy rib) chops
  • 4 long red or green peppers, halved lengthways
  • 4 tomatoes, halved
  • 8 large mushrooms

Mix the yoghurt with one of the onions, plus the garlic, coriander, oil and seasoning. Add the lamb chops, rubbing the marinade in with your hands, before covering and leaving in the fridge for at least 2 hours, if not overnight.
When you are ready to cook, heat your coals. Shake the marinade from the cutlets and then thread them onto skewers interspersed with strips of pepper. Sprinkle with a little extra salt if you’re a salt-head like Mr. Shopkeeper. Then thread the remaining onion, tomato and shrooms on another skewer. Cook the lamb sticks for around 3 minutes a side – and the vegetables for around half that time. Serve with warm bread and thick yoghurt. Noshe Jan! As we say in Peckham. Enjoy!

Action ‘meat-on-sticks’ shot captured by Afghanistan Matters via Flickr under the Commercial Commons Licence for Commercial Use.

Midnight Snacking…

Gotta love the internet. Went off cruising looking for a fun snack-related bunny-hopping egg-shaped Easter treat for you – and found this ABSOLUTE GEM of a snacking video by Hoodwinked Films. Featuring precisely zero bunnies and no visible eggs. Anyway: Happy Easter/Passover/Bank Holiday/whatever. Get snacking. y’all.


The Iranians are very good at snacking. And this is nowhere better demonstrated than by their serious picnic habit. They LOVE to picnic, and come the Spring you will see rugs and makeshift barbecues and cooking pots all over the parks and countryside. Most importantly, thirteen days after NowRooz – the Persian New Year – it is considered very bad luck to stay indoors, and the whole nation and his neighbour empties out to celebrate, throw away their sabzeh (wheatgrass, grown just for the new year) and release their goldfish (kept as a symbol of prosperity for NowRooz). Ex-pat Iranians are less successful in observing this festival – which is known as sizdahbedar (the thirteenth out of doors) – on account of the fact that the British Spring is less, um, reliable, and the authorities are wary of their (BBQ) fire-starting habits. This year Sizdahbedar falls on Wednesday 2nd April – so if you see any Iranians picnicking, give them a cheery wave.

This cracking shot of an Iranian couple picnicking in the middle of nowhere was sourced from Flickr under the Creative Commons Licence for Commercial Use and was snapped by Kamyar Adl.

Meat-on-Sticks Photo of the Month: Meet Mr. Kebab Hand

Meat on sticks. It remains one of the most popular street foods, which is why there is a whole chapter of the stuff in Snackistan. And the business of cooking over fire makes for some great images.

For this month’s photographic offering, we chose this dude, who is obviously proud of his handiwork…even if giving Edward Scissorhands a run for his money.

Mr. Kebab Hands is actually a street vendor in Uzbekistan, as captured by xoque and borrowed with thanks under the Creative Commons Licence on Flickr.

Happy Christmas 2013 from Snackistan!

Just a quick post to wish you all a snack filled Happy munchy Christmas and a jolly New Year.

Watch this space from January onwards for lots of new recipes, more of the book’s out-takes and bloopers, and plenty of Snackistani trivia.

Image of the Al Hariri Mosque in Beirut as captured by robertinbeirut, borrowed under the Flickr Commercial Commons Licence.

The Snackistan Sound

Normally books don’t actually talk. Of course, books do get recorded, and these are known as talking books. But the book itself remains silent. Imagine then one’s surprise when Mr. Shopkeeper firstly found the Snackistan actually describing itself on Youtube: freaky, huh? Following that discovery, he then discovered this spectacular offering, called Groove Snackistan, from DJ Saint Hubert. How trendy are we? How many other cook books have an accompanying club track? You can now get your best moves on while you are cooking. Well, after a fashion.
What was actually going through my head when I was writing Snackistan (in the back room of the shop) was in all truth something a bit more like this little Kurdish number from the inimitable Jalal Hemati Who he? A sort of Iranian Flanders and Swan with added silly outfits… Enjoy. Go on – have a little dance around the kitchen. No-one’s looking.

New Middle Eastern Street Food

new.streetIt’s all kinds of awesome that both Veggiestan and Snackistan have been published in the US of A.
The lovely people at Interlink Books are distributing both tomes – but under different names. So PLEASE NOTE that New Middle Eastern Street Food IS just Snackistan with a different cover and title. Similarly, The New Middle Eastern Vegetarian is Veggiestan in disguise. It’s kind of confusing, especially if you are shopping on Amazon where it is not really clear that they are one and the same. And much as we’d like you to buy multiple copies of the books (they make such very very good Christmas presents – LOOK! you can buy signed copies here), we’d rather you did it knowingly…

Little Arabshire: On the Edgware Road

Every big city in the world has its special quarters, areas where birds of one nation’s feathers flock together, whole streets where all the shops and restaurants are strangely similar (and yet strangely alien to the surrounding streets), serving just one national community. In London, if you want Greek and Turkish stuff, you head to Haringey; if you’re looking for Indian culture then Southall’s the place; and if you want Arabia, then it’s all on the Edgware Road.

Arabs have been settling in London since the end of the 19th century, but the process accelerated in the 1950s, 70s and 80s following various wars and political routs. Why they chose to colonise the Edgware Road is not entirely clear, but it only takes one or two successful businesses to prompt a whole load more to jump on the bandwagon (this is a very Middle Eastern trait: if you run a busy shop, before too long you can guarantee your compatriot will come and open something more or less identical next door).

The first time we delivered to our wholesale customers in this little patch of Central London, I was, frankly, gobsmacked (this does not happen very often). It was mid-Summer, when the population of the area more than doubles, as extended families of Arabs from Saudi, the Emirates and to a lesser extent the Levant, rent apartments and come to enjoy the best that the West End has to offer. Every shop featured (neon-lit) bi-lingual signs, and the pavements were heaving with promenading Arabs in full national dress. Armani-clad boy racers revved impotently in the heavy London traffic, hoping to attract the attention of, well, anyone really. Brightly lit restaurants replete with fountains and gold chandeliers rejoiced in exotic names such as Maroush IV or Ranoush XXV. In the shop windows bling jostled with technology and swanky health preparations. The air was thick with the fruity smell of shishe smoke, the waft of too much expensive perfume, and the aroma of shawarma kebabs turning in the windows of the many, many takeaway joints. It really did feel as if we had left London, especially when later I witnessed a group of five ladies in full hijab haggling with the cashier at Woolworths.

Tell you what: if you haven’t visited it before, or are coming to London soon, the Edgware Road is well worth a detour – and it is certainly the best place to sample some of Snackistan’s finest.

With a bit of luck and a following wind we are hoping to organise a Snackistan street food walking tour based on the Edgware Road later on this Autumn – watch this space!

Photo sourced under the Creative Commons Licence on Flickr: image taken by timmiles2007.

Street Vendor of the Week: Tired Falafel Makers in Damascus

The first of a series of portraits, sketches and postcards from Snackistan. To add a little ambience to your street food experience. This week we found this ace image of Syrian falafel vendors on a fag break. You know, catering’s a hard thing. The only reason I took up smoking (long since renounced) was because I could see all the other chefs, sous-chefs and kitchen porters have a ciggie break whilst muggins here just kept working (swear down this is a true story). This image totally captures the relief of being able to stop for a moment after a hard night of chopping, carving, frying, dipping, blending, wrapping….

*Image by Will sourced under the Creative Commons Licence on Flickr.