Saj & Shawerma: Syrian Shawerma in Zamalek
The Cairo restaurant scene has welcomed more and more diverse cuisines over the years, but that very simple thing called shawerma has enjoyed a popular presence throughout – thanks, partly, to the consistent series of Syrian restaurants opening up. You don’t even need an entire restaurant to serve shawerma; sometimes, just a corner.
Saj & Shawerma is one such example. Originally operating from the corner of a shutdown café, it is now independently run and managed by a family of Syrians.
With the options of either eating in your car or simply leaning on one, there’s not a whole lot to judge aesthetically and, thus, the primary concern becomes the food.
We were met with warm greetings from one of the waiters; but when asked if we could have copies of the menu, we were told that they ran out – something that became bit of a recurring theme throughout the night. We took our time browsing the bigger menu hung up on the wall next to us.
Meat shawerma comes in small (13LE) and large (15LE), while, strangely, a small chicken is 10LE and a large is 18LE. Also on offer are kobeba sandwiches (9LE) and Syrian falafel sandwiches (6LE,) all served in traditional Saj bread. You can also get individual pieces of kobeba for 3LE a piece.
We were particularly keen to try the Syrian falafel and kobeba, but, yet again, we were told they ran out. Instead, we opted for the basic chicken and meat shawerma sandwiches.
Shockingly, the sandwiches took a whopping forty-five minutes to appear; a fact made all the more surprising when considering that, at the time of our visit, we were the restaurant’s only customers.
The ridiculous waiting time was partially made up for by the meat shawerma, which was one of the best we’ve sampled in a long time. The Saj bread tasted fresh and didn’t feel soggy, the meat was cooked perfectly and the addition of tomatoes, parsley and tehina made for a flawless combination.
The chicken shawerma, sadly, was the exact opposite. Lathered in more toumeya and pickled cucumbers than your senses can handle, you could hardly taste the chicken.
We like to give the benefit of the doubt with food, but with most of the menu’s more interesting options unavailable and the mind-bogglingly long waiting time, it’s difficult not to feel a little exasperated. The only saving graces were the incredibly friendly staff and that delicious meat shawerma.