Street Eats: Missing Me, Shawarma? Fast and Delicious Lunch in the Basement of Topwin
Although this column is called Street Eats, please understand that during the windy winter we can’t always eat snacks literally on the street, enduring temperatures that leave our hands shaking and our skin goosepimply. In fact, while trying to find cheap, interesting, (sometimes) delicious and decent food, we are led indoors to the deep recesses of places like the basement of Topwin Center.
That lower level of the shopping complex was surprisingly busy during the lunch peak after the Spring Festival – there were even some lines in front of each small stall lining the higher-class canteen-esque food basement synonymous with Chinese malls. Realizing the end of week-long holiday is replaced with endless work, before the tears hit us, we locked our eyes on some Middle Eastern comfort food – shawarma at Shawarma Dareen. It's possible that the stand's interesting Chinese name 想我么 (xiǎng wǒ me, do you miss me?) has worked and has added to its popularity among local clientele.
There are three renditions of shawarma available here: original (RMB 25) or cheese or rice versions (both RMB 30). The cheese and rice options can be served as a salad, sans pita wrap, for those more health-conscious among us. There are also humus (RMB 30), falafel wraps (RMB 25) and french fries (RMB 20). When we arrived, there were about six people in the line, but it didn’t take long for us to get a hold of a warm wrap.
After you order and pay, wait for the cook to cut the chicken meat from the hulking and sizzling elephant leg and wrap things up, then grab a seat at the long bar-like table parallel to the counter. The 12-inch-pita-wrapped shawarma with cheese happily satisfied our hungry bellies, and comes stuffed with the aforementioned meat, cabbage, lettuce, chicken, corn, tomato, bacon, pickles, cucumber, onion, and cheese.
The falafel rendition was seasoned well but proved a bit too dry for our liking, making the bottled wines from neighboring Cheers all the more appealing to relieve our parched palate. The generous portion of french fries were thin, seasoned with salt and pepper, and not too dissimilar from what you might find at KFC, which in short means that they tasted better than they looked. All in all, Shawarma Dareen is a great spot to grab a simple, well-priced, light and fast work lunch.
B1-12C, Topwin Center, Nan Sanlitun Lu, Chaoyang District
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Photos: Tracy Wang