Sausages had the longest-standing record on my list of top foods for a happy schoolgirl. While my family would be sinking their teeth into juicy beef patties, I would plead for a simple hot dog swaddled in a white bun, with extra, extra ketchup please. Over time, I grew out of my thick casing of love for sausages. Such was the level of ennui I had experienced after a childhood devotion to the meaty rolls that I cannot even recollect eating them during college. Once I graduated to a yuppie job in New York, ennui turned to scoff. Why waste tummy space with simpleton sausage when I could regale my palate with Venezuelan arepas or plump crescents of salmon sashimi?
I would have never ordered sausages at Al Hallab, a Lebanese restaurant in Dubai, if not for a sausage-smitten friend. I argued back venomously. It was a colossal crime to shove sausages on a table that was to be plied with delicate cheese fatayers, glistening vine leaves stuffed with lemony rice, scalloped hummus and mutabal ornate with pomegranate gems. But when the disputed tray of Lebanese sausages emerged, baby logs oozing a deep, bloody sauce that wafted of sweet spices and citrus, the sausage-sceptic in me was -silenced.
I reluctantly bit into the fried makanek, my curiosity elbowing out a staunch stubbornness to partake of something that felt far too childish to make a mature mezze appearance. The supple sausage skins tore at the touch, oozing out crumbly moist beef that hinted distinctly of cumin, red pepper and the sticky syrup that gave the makanek its vampire appearance – acidly sweet pomegranate molasses. The hummus and mutabal retreated into oblivion.
Since then, I’ve indulged in Armenian sujuk, Moroccan merguez and Argentinian sausages that tasted of gruff primal desire far removed from the links I had pandered to as a child. With makanek starting the trend, it may not be long before sausages regain their title, albeit in their more mature spiced forms, back on my list of top eats.
Makanek is available at Al Hallab, multiple branches in the UAE, call 04 282 3388
Arva Ahmed blogs about hidden food gems in Old Dubai at www.ILiveinaFryingPan.com