You can barely walk half a block in most parts of Sydney without passing a shawarma joint. Whether the shopkeepers are Lebanese, Syrian, or Iraqi, Middle Eastern food is everywhere in that multicultural metropolis. We have our fair share of immigrants from the Levant here in New Zealand, too, so I’ve never understood why every kebab joint here purports to have Turkish origins. In fact, ask a few questions and you’ll usually discover the shopkeepers aren’t Turkish at all – we don’t have that many Turkish immigrants here. They might be Iraqi, Iranian, Palestinian, Syrian or Lebanese, but somehow ‘Turkish’ here has come to stand for the kebab, falafel, hummus, lamb on the spit-type cuisine we think of as Middle Eastern. Interestingly, you won’t find falafels or hummus throughout much of Turkey (only in the Eastern regions). And a kebab in Turkey comes not in flat bread but in half a loaf of doughy bread. No, what we’re sold as Turkish cuisine here is by and large more typical of Lebanese cuisine. When I spent time in the Gulf, I saw Lebanese restaurants everywhere, it’s as though its thought of as the French of Middle Eastern food there.
On a dreary patch or turf, halfway down Dominion Rd is where you’ll chance upon the best shawarmas in Auckland. Shefco Lebanese Cuisine has been quietly dishing out excellent shawarmas, rice dishes, pastries, hummus, salads, sweets and a large array of Middle eastern foodstuffs for more than a decade now. Last year it expanded to make room for a few basic tables, so you can eat in if you like, but for me it’s the perfect takeaway. They’ve got a little deli counter where you’ll find imported sheep, goat and cow’s milk cheese, haloumi and a selection of olives. Their bakalava is superb and I’ll often pick up a tray as a last-minute offering when visiting friends. Last year at Eid, they sold over 700 kilos of the stuff. And their freshly baked pita, in three sizes ($1-2 a pack), is the best value, and the best, in town.
827 Dominion Rd, Mt Roskill, Auckland, phone 6205404.