Zeerah, a family-owned Pakistani fast-food joint, might just be my new favourite place in Mississauga to grab Pakistani roadside burgers (bun kebabs).
The delectable bun kebab has made its way from Karachi to the corner of Artesian Drive and Winston Churchill Boulevard in the most unassuming suburban plaza. A gas station encroaches on the landscape with a gloomy parking lot by its side. But Zeerah is the light at the end of the sprawl.
The flavours in Pakistani cuisine are similar to those in some Indian dishes with generous doses of cardamom, garam masala, cumin and turmeric. The roadside burger includes these predominant flavours with a choice of aloo (potato), daal (lentil), beef or chicken. Any one of these ingredients is sandwiched in a simple white toasted bun topped with lightly spiced chutney, tomatoes and onion.
But apparently the roadside burger is merely a "snack" food. To get the real taste of Pakistan, I decided to order barbeque chicken - which was marinated in yogurt, herbs and spices - and beef, along with a classic garlic-speckled naan order paired with an oil-soaked serving of daal. Nothing felt too rich, and the heat left on the tongue from the black pepper and chili powder was even inviting. A tangy rice pudding with crumbled pistachio topped it all off.
While Zeerah is subdued in its décor, the take-out joint has a large following. The most amazing thing about the restaurant is their meal plan option.
The owners of Zeerah explain to me that because so many international students and families don't have time to cook in the area, the restaurant offers meal plans, a progressive move on their part. For one week or seven meals, you're supplied with two chicken biryanis, two more chicken items, one daal, and two vegetable items for $35. Add five naans or paranthas for $5. The same deal can be spread out over a month or 28 meals for $130, and can be vegetarianized as well.
When I found out about the meal plan, I wondered why more restaurants weren't doing something like this. Basically, Zeerah knows where it's at. They know how to make a mean Pakistani takeout dinner, and they understand the needs of their community. Does it get any better?
Writing and photos by Erin Pehlivan