Breakfast on the beach
As the wind whistled gently playing accompaniment to the mild sea roar, Robin was busy under the beach umbrella flipping pancakes. This scene was at Kingfisher Lodge in Kalba, Sharjah.
Occasion: a highly pampered stay at the aforementioned uber- luxury resort.
After surveying the breakfast buffet in the restaurant, I stepped out, attracted by the "Chebab" scene set against the blue sea. Robin spread a ladleful of thin batter on the pan, almost like a tiny thick dosa, waited for it to cook and flipped it over. Broadly called pancakes by the uninitiated, 'Chebab' is made with date syrup. Robin (from Calicut, Kerala) happily shared the recipe as he flipped more and more chebabs.
The name Chebab comes from "cheb", which means flipping over. He made quite a few, gave me a couple of thin and crispy chebabs, liberally drizzled with date syrup on the top. With a mild saffron colour, it tasted much like the "godhuma pindi attu" that I used to eat in my childhood.
I felt much at home and nostalgic. The date syrup that has come from the ripe dates, sun- ripened and made sweeter with all the heat and the pure air around, it was so delicious! As I sat down relishing this delicacy, he talked about a similar breakfast favourite, "Muhalla", made of wheat flour that gives a nutty flavour and also where the batter is leavened with yeast for the bubbly and lacy texture. A hearty helping of dates is ground into the batter for a 'sweet note' to start the day.
Then I entered the restaurant where Peter Gomes, the Chef was presiding over an elaborate breakfast. He recommended, "Balalit": flavoured with cardamom and saffron, Balaleet is a traditional dish made during Ramadan for Iftar. It is sweetened vermicelli with a scrambled egg placed on the top and garnished with fine slivers of pista nuts. I avoided the scrambled egg and carefully carved out a small portion of what tasted like mildly sweet 'semya halwa' minus the liberal dose of ghee. Hailing from Kolkata Peter Gomes worked in Dubai and Maldives earlier. He finds Kingfisher Kalba quiet, unique, tension free, peaceful and relaxing. When I asked what he likes to cook the most, he smiled and said: "I need to cook every cuisine as the clientele is international, though I enjoy cooking Italian because it is the freshest that you can cook and the fastest!"
Connected by the seas we have something in common, that includes food. Right?