Abu Elabed : an Austrian-Syrian co-production 🇦🇹🇸🇾
I’m on a 4-week stint in Vienna in late-spring/early-summer. On a bright and early weekday morning, I go out of my way to Hannovermarkt (Hanover market) in the city’s 20th district. I only have one destination in mind: to try schwarma (Döner), done Syrian style.
Abu Elabed is a market stand known for its grilled meats; you can even buy ‘em by the kilogram. Established by a lawyer and English-language teacher, both from Damascus, Syria, the stand is well-known for producing authentic food to the Syrian- and middle-East community in Vienna.
They’re open for business when I arrive at about 1030am. Through the large open windows, two vertical rotisseries accommodate rotating spits of beef and chicken. They’re already nicely browned on the outside with small pools of fat drippings in the drip pans below.
One of the staff whips out the long electric blade, slowly shaving off slices of grilled chicken. Stainless steel tongs pick up the mass of meat, slowly shaking off excess drops, so the sandwich doesn’t become drenched in fat. On the counter is laid flat a large circular piece of thin wheat-flour flatbread, onto which first is a light spread of tahine sauce, on top of which the chicken is placed. The staff looks at me expectantly: “mit allem?” (everything?)
“Mit allem; und scharf.” (Everything; and spicy.)
In goes some lettuce, diced tomatoes, red cabbage, onions, chopped gherkins, parsley, another generous dab of cool creamy yogurt Tahini sauce, and a healthy sprinkle of dried red chili powder. It all fits in nicely into a wrap, and I think that’s it. But there’s one last flourish.
The wrap is dipped into the pool at the bottom of the drip pan and is pressed against the hot rotisserie, momentarily lighting the fat on fire. Then, the wrap is placed onto a grill for a couple of minutes, lightly pressed from above with a hard plastic lid. This spreads the browning and caramelization of the dipped fat on the outside, and heats the fat and meat on the inside. The short grill time is done, the schwarma wrap is delivered in a paper envelope and napkins to this hungry salivating customer.
The grilled marinated-chicken schwarma wrap is crunchy, chewy, juicy; light yet substantive. The rich fatty flavour and crispy texture on the outside combines with the fresh crunch of the vegetables, cool tahine sauce, and the tender marinated slightly-chewy pieces of grilled chicken. The ingredients and construction of this shwarma wrap are simple, but there’s a beautiful complexity of flavour and texture in the final product.
I want more, but I have other eating to do later. I tell the staff in German I’ve come from (Vancouver) Canada for this schwarma; it is definitely worth my time out to the 20th district. For a future visit, I’m going to have to pick up and use some Arabic words.
For less than 5 Euros, I purchased 1 (beef/chicken) schwarma wrap and 1 Ayran yogurt drink.
• German: Abu Elabed: Döner – Falafel – Tandoori Brot – Pizza – Gebäck
• Engish: Abu Elabed: Shawarma – falafel – Tandoori bread – pizza – pastries
• Arabic: abw aleabd: shawirma – falafil – khubz tinduri – bitza – mueajinat
Public transport with Wiener Linien:
• U-Bahn U4 to Friedrichsbrücke station, then tram 5 or 33 to stop “Wallensteinplatz.”
• U-Bahn U6 to Jägerstrasse station, then bus 5B or tram 33 to stop “Brigittaplatz” or stop “Wallensteinplatz.”
Thanks to Lukas Galgenmüller for his food in Vienna videos. I made all images above with an iPod Touch 6 on 31 May 2022. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotografie at fotoeins DOT com as https://wp.me/p1BIdT-mX4.