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 shawarma (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 shawarma wrap is delivered in a paper envelope and napkins to a hungry customer. For less than 5 Euros, I purchased 1 (beef/chicken) shawarma wrap and 1 Ayran yogurt drink.
The grilled marinated-chicken shawarma 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 shawarma 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 I’ve come from (Vancouver) Canada for this shawarma. That was definitely worth the time and a wander to the 20th district. In the future, I’m going to have to return with a few Arabic words.
(The entire encounter and exchange was entirely in German.)
• 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
Abu Elabed, in Hannovermarkt: Döner, falafel, tandoori bread, pizza, pastries.
Abw aleabd. Shawirma / falafil / khubz tinduri / bitza / mueajinat (below, right to left).
شاورما / فلافل / خبز تندوري / بيتزا / معجنات
Lunch for under 5€: Chicken schwarma 3.50€, Ayran yogurt drink 1€
Schwarma choices: lamb or chicken, each on a rotating spit in a vertical rotisserie with a drip pan underneath.
Pocket sandwich wrap, filled with deliciousness.
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. My visit to Abu Elabed was neither requested nor sponsored. 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.