It’s called khash, a Middle Eastern winter dish traditionally eaten by men in the early hours of the morning. Tackling this for breakfast is a little ambitious, but dinner is definitely doable at Kebab Abo Ali, an Iraqi restaurant in Sydney’s southwest. This family-run restaurant is popular with Iraqi locals. The dining room is a mix of austere wooden furniture perked up with colourful woven tapestries and traditional artefacts.
Khash is not a pretty dish, but hey, offal is rarely about glamour. A mere $15 will get you a treasure hunt of sheep’s head and trotters all boiled together until soft and yielding. “Is that cheek?” “Oh look, I got the tongue!” Dinner has never been so much fun. The meat is a funpark of textures – some bits tender, others more gelatinous – all scooped up with comforting layers of soup-soaked bread. It’s hearty fare for real men. And women.
If sheep’s head isn’t your thing, the parda plaw is guaranteed to be a winner. It looks like a giant pudding wrapped in golden brown pastry, garnished with leaves of flat leaf parsley. Cut your way through and you’ll find an aromatic pilaf inside, super long grains of basmati rice mixed through with chunks of lamb, fried vermicelli noodles, toasted almonds and whole cardamom pods. The flaky pastry combined with spoonfuls of rich spiced rice makes for something special.
The charcoal barbecue gets fired up for kebabs, delivered smoky and charred with a liberal sprinkling of sumac. Choose from minced lamb, cubed lamb fillet or chicken tekka or get the mixed plate to try all three. Qouzy lamb with rice offers up a slow cooked lamb shank. Wood-fired fish has a delicious blackening from the fire.
Everything comes with huge slabs of Iraqi bread, bubbled and golden at the edges like a giant naan. Round things out with a zingy tabouli salad or smoky eggplant baba ghannouj.