Recipe: HG Mangal Bread and Dip
From Helen Graves' "Live Fire"
Fans of South East London restaurant FM Mangal (the ‘HG’ above = my own initials) talk about this bread and dip in hushed tones. What is the recipe? Can it ever be replicated? What are the secrets? Well, I’m not sure, but I’ll tell you the secret to my ‘kebab shop bread’: MSG. Monosodium glutamate: the flavour enhancer that brings intensity to the flavour of crisps, stock cubes, KFC and instant gravies.
I found out about this ‘kebab shop secret’ thanks to Hasan ‘Big Has’ Semay, a chef who is also a columnist for Pit and who wrote about it for our MSG issue. The whole issue – guest edited by Burmese food writer MiMi Aye – was themed entirely around MSG and delved deep into the reason it’s so wonderful, and all the misinformation surrounding it, which is rooted in racism. Writer Cheryl Chow’s powerful piece for the issue explained all of this, and it’s one of the best pieces of food writing I’ve read in a long time.
We were honoured to publish it. MSG is not harmful. The human brain makes no distinction between the stuff produced in a factory and the MSG that occurs naturally in tomatoes, Parmesan and mushrooms. There is simply no scientific evidence to support claims that it produces so called ‘Chinese Restaurant Syndrome’. So, with that in mind, here are two recipes absolutely laden with it. That’s why they taste so good.
HG Mangal Bread and Dip
Setup: Indirect cooking for the dip, direct cooking for the bread
Equipment: Tongs, metal skewers
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
HG Mangal dip
1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 head of garlic, cloves separated and peeled
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1 teaspoon sumac
1 ½ teaspoons MSG
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon turnip juice (optional, but a must for the niche fans as it really completes the dip)
100 ml (3 ½ fl oz/scant ½ cup) warm water
HG Mangal bread
2 teaspoons MSG
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons smoked sweet paprika
2 teaspoons sea salt
4 tablespoons neutral oil
8 shop-bought flatbreads or lavash, or a batch of flatbreads such as the ones on page 60 (needless to say, this is 1,000x better with freshly-made flatbreads)
— Prepare a barbecue for indirect cooking over low heat.
— Separate the onion quarters into petals with 2–3 layers each. Thread onto a skewer.
— On a separate skewer, do the same with the garlic cloves.
— Cook the onions and garlic over a low direct heat for 25–30 minutes, until well charred and fully softened. The heat needs to be low, otherwise they won’t soften inside, so move them to a cooler part of the grill if you need to, turning them frequently so that they cook evenly.
— Combine the pomegranate molasses, sumac, MSG, olive oil, turnip juice (if using) and water in a bowl.
— Once the onions and garlic are ready, add them to the liquid and set aside while you make the bread.
— To make the bread, combine all the ingredients in a bowl to make a paste then brush the paste onto the flatbreads while fresh and warm. If serving kebabs alongside, brush the spice mix on the breads, then re-warm the flatbreads on top of the kebabs. Serve with the dip.
Excerpted with permission from Live Fire by Helen Graves, published by Hardie Grant, May 2022, RRP $40.00 Hardcover.