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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Number 20: Vegan Kibbeh at Saha Arabic Fusion

Posted By on Tue, Apr 17, 2012 at 4:30 PM

Saha's vegan kibbeh, $9. - ALBERT LAW
  • Albert Law
  • Saha's vegan kibbeh, $9.

SFoodie's countdown of our favorite 50 things to eat and drink, 2012 edition


Though more than a third of the dishes on its menus include meat, Saha -- Mohamed and Marmee Aboghanem's stylish Tenderloin restaurant -- has achieved cult status for devoting a huge chunk of its menu to vegan dishes. And we're not just talking hummus. Stuffed and fried avocados wrapped in frilly knaffe, or pastry threads. Maklouba, rice, and spices layered with eggplant, yogurt, and tofu. One of the best of Mohamed's vegan dishes? His interpretation of kibbeh, a Lebanese-Jordanian dish that, almost by definition, is made with a blend of lamb and bulgur.

Aboghanem's vegan kibbeh changes with the seasons. The exterior shell stays the same -- bulgur wheat, pressed into an elongated oval -- and so does the dab of Yemenese bayaa, a leek-herb pesto, on top. Sometimes the filling is dominated by bell peppers and yellow squash, other times it's butternut. On SFoodie's last visit, when we cut through the shell mushrooms, sauteed until they concentrated into an umami-laden mass, spilled out. The fried bulgur shell's granular crunch is the source of the kibbeh's immediate appeal, and then the multilayered flavors unfold and expand: A hit of cilantro, an intimation of saffron, the bite of pepper, the earthy pulse of the mushrooms. It's a dish as rich and inviting as the restaurant itself.

Saha Arabic Fusion, 1075 Sutter (at Larkin), 345-9547,

Other favorites in this series:

21: Starter Bakery's hazelnut kouign amann

22: Pupusas at Cafe and Restaurant Montecristo

23: 2 a.m. apple fritter at Bob's

24: Le Sanctuaire's vadouvan

25: Crab louis salad at Nettie's Crab Shack

26: Soy sauce chicken from Happy Bakery & Deli

27: Locanda's Jewish-style artichoke

28: Local: Mission Eatery's asparagus-egg sandwich

29: Memphis Minnie's 18-hour brisket

30: Custard buns from City View

31: Mission Chinese Food's kung pao pastrami

32: Panisse frites from Frances

33: Izakaya Yuzuki's chawanmushi

34: Fatted Calf's chorizo

35: Silvanas from House of Silvanas

36: Linden Street Brewery's black lager

37: Aged oolongs from Red Blossom Tea Company

38: Broken Record's crawfish grits

39: Cebiche mixto from La Mar 

40: Nutella-hazelnut hand pie from Black Jet Baking Co.
41: Fifth Floor's burger
42: Perbacco's agnolotti dal plin
43: Iced coffee from Sightglass
44: Cypress Grove's Purple Haze Chevre
45: Lechon from Tastebuds Cuisine
46: Duck with beets from AQ
47: Tai nigiri at ICHI Sushi
48: Fish with explosive chiles from Spices! 
49: Baker & Banker Bakery's blueberry cream cheese muffin
50: Kufta tajine from Cafe Zitouna

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.
Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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