Cool new Fort Worth BBQ spot will combine Texas and Pakistani flavors
Fort Worth's barbecue scene is about to see an exciting expansion in more ways than one with the arrival of Sabar Barbecue, a food truck that's opening at 194 Bryan Ave., at the corner of Main and Vickery.
The truck will open on November 18, starting out on Saturdays only, from 11 am-3 pm, and eventually opening more days down the road.
Sabar is not only a new arrival, it'll take an innovative approach to the genre by combining classic BBQ with Pakistani cuisine.
The truck is already gaining attention since owner Zain Shafi comes with solid credentials, having worked at Goldee's BBQ, which has become the gold standard locally since it was crowned No. 1 barbecue joint in Texas in 2021 by Texas Monthly magazine.
Shafi's obsession/interest in BBQ was sparked in 2019 after he took a class with Dylan Taylor of Goldee's.
"I ended up going down the rabbit hole of barbecue, learning everything I could," he says. "We had a furniture family store in Grand Prairie and lived right across the street. I volunteered that if they ever needed an extra hand, I'd come help, and they eventually said yes. I worked there for two and a half years, and it was an ideal place, I didn’t want to leave."
But he wanted to start his own place. His original idea was traditional Texas barbecue but Halal, using meat that's been processed in accordance with Islamic dietary laws. But as he got more into it, he gravitated towards the idea of incorporating foods he'd grown up with.
"Growing up as a Pakistani, we never had barbecue, and I thought, why couldn't I do something where I get to showcase Pakistani and also Texas barbecue with a nice medium between them," he says.
So he'll have traditional brisket - but with a rub that incorporates spices like bay leaf and coriander. He'll have ribs - but not pork ribs.
"Muslims don't eat pork so we'll be doing lamb ribs with a unique rub that incorporates Sichuan peppercorns," he says.
The Sichuan peppercorns are an homage of sorts, hewing to a tradition followed in the Xian region of China which has a large population of people of Turkish ancestry, the Uyghurs, who skewer meat with a rub that's heavy on Sichuan peppercorns.
Sabar will also do turkey, smoked in the Texas tradition, but with a flavorful rub that incorporates flavors used in tandoori chicken, the most popular Pakistani chicken dish, including coriander, cumin, cardamom, and nutmeg.
In place of ho-hum Texas toast, they'll do naan, the chewy-delicious bread favored in Pakistani and Indian cuisine, and their sausage will be an inventive twist that combines BBQ and Pakistani sensibilities.
"In most countries, there is a route to preserve meat in the form of sausages," he says. "In Pakistan, there isn't a sausage so their way of using all the meat is in kebabs."
"The most popular type of kebab is a seekh Kebab — 'seekh' means skewer in Urdu — which consists of onion, garlic, cumin, Kashmir peppers, green chilli,ginger and salt," he says. "So we'll make a 'seekh kebab' mixture that we grind, case, and link, to mimic a traditional seekh kebab."
They'll serve it with naan and raita, the condiment made from yogurt, mint, and cilantro.
Their version of burnt ends will be a nod to nihari, a Pakistani stew which is simmered for hours until it forms a thick, spicy, flavorful gravy.
"It's the best of Pakistan and Texas, where you have bite-size pieces of brisket but in a rich curry sauce," he says.
Sides will be all-Pakistani including fruit chaat, with fruits such as apples, oranges, and mangoes tossed in spices like coriander and cardamom. "It's so refreshing, it just hits perfectly and makes sense with barbecue," he says.
Also kachumber salad, made from cucumber, onion, and tomato - "our version of pico de gallo," he says - and dal chawal, a rice-and-lentil dish that he says is "the ultimate Pakistani comfort food."
Dessert will be a pudding called Gajrela, featuring carrots cooked in cardamom, milk, saffron, and sugar.
Sabar means "patience," something Shafi has had to acquire over the process of finding the right space and getting open. The trailer will be located next to a micropark that offers some outdoor seating.
"I wanted to provide a place where people could linger, and create a little community, not just be a takeout spot in a parking lot," he says.
"I want to share things that are dear to me with people who are into food but maybe have never had Pakistani food," he says. "I grew up in this country but my parents came from Pakistan and growing up, we still ate Pakistani food. I feel like this might be the best way to showcase it. Pakistani food is really good, Texas barbecue is good, they can work together."