Syrian Food and Culture


Where to begin. I have been thinking about Syria. With any mention of Syria these days, no one thinks about food. The civil war and refugees is front and center. For me though, it is all that and the food. I am excited about cooking Syrian, but with utmost respect to the Syrians and their plight. I do not want to downplay at all the crisis, but instead highlight Syria with my cooking and prayers for our world neighbors. Syrian cooking in and of itself is not difficult. The Syrian flavors include cinnamon, allspice, cumin, pomegranate, lemon, onion, garlic, currants, nuts, and if these sound good to you, they taste even better.

To date, I have made Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Dip, Syrian Meatballs in a Rich Tomato Sauce (Kafta), Kofte-Syrian Grilled Burgers, Green Beans with Cumin and Tomatoes, Chicken with Almonds and Raisins. Super easy, super fast and super tasty. See below for the Syrian Meatballs in a Rich Tomato Sauce.

In thinking about Syrian cooking last month, I started thinking about Syria ALOT. The challenge for me (as I am sure for most average persons) is to understand the Syrian Civil War. I just started reading about how the civil war started in 2011. Basically in a very elementary understanding here is what I know -what began as peaceful protests erupted in a full-out war. But before I give my thoughts on this, please read this so you can get a grasp on this war:

This is a blog about food, but for our family and the impetus for writing this food blog was to gain an understanding about a culture that we might not otherwise care to know about. As a person of faith, I believe not only in praying for our neighbors next door to us, but also praying for our world neighbors. The Syrian people and especially the children need our prayers. They need doctors, medicine, food, and hope. This is a regime in which a leader of the country is killing its own people (simplistic yes, and as you will read more there are many factions fighting for their own cause in Syria including the government led killings). Please pray for the ceasing of killing. It is terrible and I cannot imagine right now my child terrified nightly. Syrians are leaving in hopes of a better life (just to stay alive). Please pray for the Syrian Refugees.

Not to leave you feeling hopeless, there is some daylight in the darkness-Here is what one reporter wrote about Aleppo:

“But then you meet the bright young men and women still pursuing their careers, still swooning over the beauty of their neighbourhoods, still romanticising the idea of people power, still hopeful for a future of opportunities to rebuild and start over again.

Aleppo may have all but fallen but the past five years of interacting with resilient Syrians has made one reality very clear – their unwavering refusal to give up.

Won’t you join me in praying for Syria? Also join me in cooking a Syrian Meal and giving thanks to the Syrians for their contributions to our world suitcase of recipes!

Syrian Meatballs in a Rich Tomato Sauce from (adapted) from Clifton A Wright.0301172027a_HDR

Ingredients for Sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tablespoon flour

1 carrot, peeled and diced

1/2 lb. tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2- 1 teaspoon cayenne flakes or 1/2 dried red chili

1 quart water

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

Ingredients for Kafta (meatballs):

1 lb. ground lamb or ground meat or a combination of both

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 egg yolk

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground allspice berries

1/4 cup parsley, chopped fine

The Sauce:

Sauté the onion in the olive oil until softened and golden, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic. Reduce the heat to low, and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add carrot, flour, tomato, tomato paste, chile, and water. Stir well. Raise heat and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer 30 minutes. Remove from heat and pass through a sieve or puree in blender. Put the sauce in a large skillet that can hold all the meatballs.

Preheat the broiler.

The Meatballs:

Knead together the ground lamb, flour, egg yolk, salt, cinnamon, white pepper, nutmeg,  allspice and parsley. Form meatballs the size of large eggs. Arrange them on a broiling tray and broil until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Transfer to the sauce in the skillet and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until bubbling furiously, 10 minutes. Uncover and cook for another 10 minutes.

Serve with rice, couscous, or bulgur.



One Comment Add yours

  1. marshallemmy says:

    What a beautiful post describing your family’s commitment to learn about what’s going on in other parts of the world. Food is about fellowship in addition to nurturance, so what better way to come together to learn about our neighbors around the world. Thanks for the information about what’s going on in Syria. It’s so hard to accept that we’re still killing each other and can’t find a better way to settle our varying perspectives. There has to be a better way. Thanks for doing your part to spread understanding.

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