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Oct 19, 2003 10:09 PM

Little Shedrak's Pacha (Lamb's Head)

  • g

Reading the Mayor of Chicago Chowhound, Vital Information's, Middle Eastern list reminded me I had been meaning to try Little Shedrak's for quite a while, today was the lucky day. Lucky, you ask, well it's Sunday and Sunday at Abu Shedrak's place is Pacha day. When I asked if the listed Sunday special was available the waitress, a very nice Iraqi woman named Nina, was about to go in to full-on not-for-you mode, until, armed with knowledge from a past RST post, I preempted her with a "I have been looking forward to trying the lambs head"

While I imagine there are many variations on pacha Little Shedrak's version is a large bowl of clear, somewhat neutral tasting, lamb broth with various, and I do mean various, variety cuts of lamb topped with a rice and lamb stuffed oblong, about the size of a large orange, lamb stomach. The lamb stomach, which reminded me in color and shape of haggis, was stitched along the side with sewing thread and when Nina saw I was having a bit of trouble accessing the filling she showed me the trick of 'unzipping' the thread so the filling released.

I was also asked if I wished my pita in the pacha or on the side, I opted for the side, but she then instructed me on the fine art of dipping the pita in the broth, I almost felt as if I had made a slight faux pas by not getting having the pita in the pacha. Also, retrospectively, I think I should have released the rice from the stomach lining in the broth as opposed to my plate so it soaked up additional liquid.

The lamb meats in the soup were interesting and, mostly, tasty, especially the delicious lamb tongue. There was also the lower part of the lamb shank, cut just above the foot, perfect for Evil Ronnie, a halved lamb head, with a bit of tender cheek meat still attached and brain etc. in the cavity. There were also a couple of pieces of, for lack of a better description, bone-on lamb stew meat that were tender and delicious.

The pacha was, as I imagine most meals are at Shedrak's, served with lightly pickled cabbage, cauliflower, carrot, raw onion, hot pepper and, in the case of the pacha, a lemon half. Shedrak's is a modest, though fairly large, restaurant, large screen TV, counter seating along with two rooms of tables. There were decks of cards scattered about and the tea and Turkish coffee were flowing.

Sunday is also dolma day, but not this Sunday, for some reason, though they did have a special of white beans with lamb and the Gus (shawarma) seemed to be quite popular.


Abu Shedrak's
4749-51 N. Sawyer (at Lawrence)
Chicago, IL 60625
Open 7-days a week


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  1. Gary,

    Was there an ocular to be jocular about? How much does a serving of Pacha cost?

    My neighbors lived in Spain for years and tell us stories of whole heads served at meals. I believe it was goat and lamb. Though I have prepared suckling pig where I had people arguing who got the brain, not to mention the eye.

    Thanks for giving me something to look forward to.


    7 Replies
    1. re: Cathy2

      If the Allnightathon takes place on a Saturday night, I would like to host a pacha hour. This is one of the great Chicago dishes! I have posted extensively on this board on each of the components of the meal (the kershah = hand-sewn tripe pockets, the tongue, the head, the trotter etc) as well as the Baghdadi (and Baghdadi-Jewish) context. Technically, it is a Saturday dish in Baghdad (and the beloved Sabbath dish of Baghdadi Jews before their evacuation from Iraq) so Wiv might actually be having leftovers. Yes, Cathy, you always "get the ocular" (yum!) with your half lamb's head. And the name pacha (pronounced patcha) is without a doubt a cognate of Jewish petcha. The standard price in Chicago is $8. Pacha is available at all the Iraqi/Assyrian places in town on Saturday (usually evening: it simmers all day Saturday//for Jews, it's "cooking" without "cooking" on Sabbath)-this includes the Iraqi/Assyrian Garden of Eden on Devon, the two George's, Al-Mataam etc

      1. re: RST


        I don't have experience with other Iraqi restaurants pacha, but at Shedrak's it was quite clear that Pacha is a Sunday dish. The menu, which I have in front of me, states Sunday and when I was talking to the co-owner, and I am assuming wife of Abu Shedrak, she said they only had pacha on Sunday, but, with advance orders of 5 or more, would prepare it for other days as well.

        If I remember correctly from my long ago conversation with George, of George's Kabab, when he was still on W Lawrence, pacha was a Sunday dish at his place as well.

        Speaking of George's, I had a dish very much like Ann Fisher describes at Noon O Kabob, which I enjoy, but have not been to for quite a while. Thanks for the reminder Ann. I just looked up my George's post, it is in conjunction with a post about Ssyal Ginseng an unusual, in a good way, restaurant on W Lawrence. I will link to the post.

        Yes Cathy2, there was a bit of ocular and, yes, it made me quite jocular. (smile)



        1. re: G Wiv

          At George's, it is prepared in the evening on Saturday. It is usually ready at 10 p.m. or so Saturday night and is served throughout the night (the place is open 24 hours). By Sunday morning, when I used to come for the Sunday dolmas, the pacha is all gone.

          Pacha refers more precisely I think to the trotter rather than to the head. I am beginning to wonder if the words petcha/patcha/pacha might also be related to "paya" the ubiquitous trotter dish to be found alongside nihari as one of the basic offerings in our countless Pakistani restaurants (there must be at least 30-50 versions in the city).

          For this matter, I wonder if there is a deep Indo-European link to the Spanish word pata (hoof, trotter; as in the Pueblan "cemita de pata de res"). I'll look up a Spanish etymological dictionary the next time I visit Northwestern lib.

          I was just on Devon and took careful note of the closing times of the various restaurants on the strip. I have never been on this street really late and could not answer that recent query about late night joints. As it turns out, Devon is pretty much a midnight street, most of the establishments (groceries as well as restaurants) closing either at 11:30 or midnight. (And note that it is Monday today). There are also several 4 or 5 a.m. places, notably, Gaseeta Khan on Western, Delhi Darbar on California etc.

          Right next to King Sweets (on the block that Tahoora is also in) is a new Bangladeshi restaurant called Sonargaon (sp?) Does anyone know anything more about it? The menu seems to reflect the predominance of Pakistanis on this block and offers lamb nihari, paya etc alongside Bangladeshi dishes. Across the street is Madni bazaar, which calls itself Indo-Pakistani AND Bangladeshi.

          Checked on the new place Wiv mentioned next to Turkish Grocery (1/4 block w of California). It's a new Afghan restaurant called, simply, Afghan Restaurant. Bright, well-lit, clean and with an interesting menu. It's a next stop on my list!

          I love Devon by night!


          1. re: RST

            An old and dear friend who has recipe tested and ghost-written many a well-known cookbook gives a recipe for the Ashkenaz dish of calves foot jelly in one of her own cookbooks. She spells it P'tchah, if I recall correctly.

            1. re: annieb

              The "pata" of cemitas poblanas refers to calf's foot jelly. The pure "jelly": sans meat, sans skin, sans bone. The "cartilaginous" part of the hoof is processed and "transformed" by some sort of artisan specialist. I say "transformed" bec I am guessing that the traditional manner involves some kind of chemical agent (a soda of some sort?) I could not pursue this question when I was in Puebla last February although I would have loved to go watch the process. The translucent jelly ("pata") arrives at the market in large tubs-already deboned and cleaned. Butchers/meat specialists in the markets of Puebla usually have a tub of house-marinated (i.e. pickled) pata as well. I have long wondered if pata were an example of Sephardic Jewish influence on Mexican cuisine...

              1. re: RST

                According to my friend's recipe, it is simply a very strong broth made from simmering the calves feet in a small amount of water, with seasonings. A stronger than usual aspic, if you will. It falls into the same category as head cheese, etc.

          2. re: G Wiv

            Ah! The good old days! Can't believe those posts were from over a year ago!

            Ssyal is eternal! I was there in July during the hottest days of the month (you're supposed to have ginseng soup during the hottest days of summer). The soup invigorated me completely during a very stressful period. (Also, I usually get some ginseng wine on the side but I don't think that they sell this.)

            Ssyal Ginseng Soup in summer. Sul Long Tang at Han Bat when the city is covered under its mantle of snow. The seasons turn...

      2. The bone-in lamb stew meat was probably from the neck, which is the preferred meat for lamb stew. (Or from other animals, for the soul food classic neck bones.) I am often able to pick it up for a song at places like Treasure Island.