Food in Syria is a tradition, a source of pride, a way of life.  Volumes can be written on recipes, their names, serving traditions, cultural relevance, and origins.

Breakfast (kasr el sufra) consisted of:

  • Jiddo’s delicious homemade fruit cocktail; its consistency varied
    from eatable semi-sold to drinkable liquid depending on the fruits in
  • Thick honey (asal jabali) from a local farm or brought from Yemen,
  • local cheeses (halloum, ashawaan, mudafarah),
  • home-made apricot, strawberry, apple, citrus jam,
  • thick yogurts (labneh and shinkleesh),
  • pickled eggplants stuffed with walnuts, red pepper and garlic (makkdous)
  • sesame paste (halaweh)
  • a Damascus mix of thyme with olive oil (ground dried green zaatar with pistachios, coconut, summak and sesame seed)

On special occasions when we ate in large groups, any of the following plates would be added to the breakfast menu:

  • Semolina Porridge (Halawt elsmeed) a delicious sweet warm semolina based porridge sprinkled with roasted pine nuts, served with Arabic bread and Halloum cheese.
  • Flour Porridge (Halwt eltheen) a sweet warm flower based porridge served with Arabic bread
  • Mixed seeds (Huboob) – a mix of boiled beans mixed in a sweet syrup with sweet spices and served in winter
  • Beans (foul) – prepared in a variety of ways, the base recipe consists of black-eyed beans, tomato, parsley, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice.  Some regions add yogurt and sesame oil, others chickpeas, egg or green onions.
  • Chickpea platter (Fatet Hummus) –  Made up of leftover hardened Arabic bread, boiled chickpeas, lemon juice, sesame oil, ground chickpeas and garlic, topped with ghee and mixed nuts and eaten with raw onions; this dish requires a two to three hour rest period after consumption.

The last two recipes could not be eaten on Friday brunch before prayer; since they contained garlic and onion, it was considered against the prophet Mohamad’s teaching to offend fellow Muslims with bad breath of any kind.  Hence, Jiddo would insist the meal is served after noon Friday prayer.

A lot more to cover on food… stay tuned.