Getting It Right:

The Finest Food in the Simplest of Places

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‘Mr Souvlaki’:  Mahmmoud Jawawdeh

Sometimes one finds the finest food in the simplest of places.

This week, after a visit to my brilliant young Dunedin, New Zealand, hairdresser, I noticed a Mediterranean take-away / eat-in outlet a few doors down.

Regular TPOC readers will know of my penchant for healthy food. Did you also know that Mediterranean food is widely recognised as the healthiest cuisine on the planet?

According to the website of the world-famous Mayo Clinic, the benefits of a Mediterranean diet are numerous and include a significantly reduced risk of heart disease for its adherents:

“An analysis of more than 1.5 million healthy adults demonstrated that following a Mediterranean diet was associated with a reduced risk of death from heart disease and cancer, as well as a reduced incidence of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.”

Not only that, it’s a jolly tasty selection of fare.

And one chef that certainly knows how to make it so, is Mahmmoud Jawawdeh, owner of “Mr Souvlaki” at 138 King Edward Street, South Dunedin.

‘I Cook By MY Rules . . . FRESH!’

Enticed through his doors by a photo of a vegetarian tagine (one of my all-time favourite dishes), I was momentarily disappointed when he advised that that day was one of the few on which he hadn’t found sufficient high-quality ingredients to meet his exacting standards for the dish, and so wasn’t able to prepare it for me.

He asked me what my favourite components of Mediterranean cuisine were. Before I knew it, I had in my hand the freshest, most mouth-watering pita pocket full of said ingredients.

He’d also convinced me to try his falafel, which I don’t usually like:  I find falafel nice only in concept, but otherwise dry and unappealing.

Mahmmoud advised, however, this was due to the way in which it had likely been cooked. He explained in detail why I’d find his different. I listened politely but – having less than no interest in cooking, only in eating – I retained none of said detail.

But the proof was certainly in the pudding . . . his falafel was exquisite. And not at all dry.

When the Passion Is Real, Call It Like It Is

In general, as a hardened journalist, I detest writing about someone being “passionate” about his or her work. It’s the stuff of second-hand, amateur resumes.

But it’s hard to find a more apt way to describe the Jordanian Mahmmoud and his attitude to his own culture’s cuisine.

To him, by the way, “Mediterranean” cuisine hails from his own country, Jordan, from Morrocco, and – of course – from Greece . . . and associated, assorted areas.

His respect for his culture’s food – as a chef – is rooted in its emphasis on freshness, on health-conscious ingredients, and on its creative and extensive use of herbs . . . mint, parsley and oregano being his favoured staples.

Mahmmoud arrived on New Zealand shores, from Jordan, in 2008, keen to share this passion with his chosen adoptive country. He initially took a posting as head chef at Oamaru’s ‘The Galleon’, breathing new life for a time into an old institution.

He then – in 2014 – took the bold step of opening his own establishment in Dunedin, a small city (albeit one of New Zealand’s four “major” cities) two hours south of Oamaru, in the lower half of New Zealand’s South Island.

More power to the Dunedin-ites. If only he’d stayed in Oamaru and graced us with his splendid fare.

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