By AS Bonifacio
Whenever I have a craving for Middle Eastern food beyond shawarma, I hie off to Kazam in Maginhawa Street in Diliman. My previous go-to haven, Al-Fakr, had long been gone from this foodie stretch, so I was happy to find another similar restaurant likewise serving falafel. This dish is popular that even in Al-Fakr back then, it was hard to come by. I’ve been twice to Kazam where they ran out of falafel, which is simply fried chickpeas (garbanzos). Fortunately, as a healthy alternative, Kazam has rather decent hummus, the non-fried version of falafel, basically, just mashed garbanzos with olive oil etc. thrown in.
I have always been disappointed with the hummus served in Metro Manila restaurants, even at the expensive Cyma, which otherwise has delicious offerings. The best hummus I’ve tasted was homemade, and I was even taught how to make it, but it takes a lot of effort. First you boil the garbanzos, and then you mash them in a blender. Well, they can be mashed by hand too. I’ve tried precooked hummus, sold in dried, powdered form, and it was plain yucky.
Thus I was happy to find Kazam set up space sometime in 2012 at the Sikatuna Village side of Maginhawa Street, no. 162, although they were rudely interrupted by street diggings that required closing down for weeks. Finally late last year, they were back, with their sidewalk trimmed down and now sharing a nice balcony space with their neighboring foodspots. Kazam not only offers hummus but other Middle Eastern delights, particularly Persian food, such as keema (ground beef) and kebabs. I especially love their chelo kebabs, grilled meats with a generous serving of buttered rice, grilled tomatoes and onions. They have a protein-rich chelo combination of tenderloin with either beef or chicken. No pork at all.
Their motabal (mashed eggplant) is a bit too salty for me. The hummus, however, puts the expensive Middle Eastern restaurants to shame, and the added olive oil is not at all stingy. Sometimes I go there just for the hummus alone, with one order needing two orders of pita bread. They have a shawarma variant with falafel and hummus, which I find too rich, carb-wise, but it’s actually a good deal for the price. Last I went, Kazam had a promo of unli shawarma from noon to 3 p.m. daily, but it’s a shame, since I’m not impressed with their beef version.