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Syrian Food and Appetizers

Traditional Damascus Cooking


Contents in alphabetic order: Click on recipe name to view.


Arabic Coffee

two servings
  • 2 demitasse-sized cups water
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. crushed cardamom
  • 2 tsp. Arabic coffee, with cardamom

Boil the water with the sugar and the cardamom. Cardamom is ground from peeled whole seeds if possible, or use commercially ground cardamom. Remove from heat. Stir in the coffee. Then place over heat, while holding the pot. Let it foam up, remove from heat, and allow to heat to foaming again. Serve immediately.

Note sugar and coffee are approximately equal. Adjust to your taste. Cardamom is not necessary if taste prefers.

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Baba Ghannouj

six servings
  • 1 large, dark-skinned eggplant
  • 3 Tbsp. tahini
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 3 garlic cloves, mashed in mortar with salt
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped finely

Bake eggplant in 350° oven until soft. Or, which is more tasty, broil eggplant under gas flame or on grill until it is very soft and the skin is blackened. Remove most of skin. (A little skin left in tastes good.) Place cooked eggplant, lemon juice, garlic, tahini, and salt in processor and process lightly until just mixed. (Or mash together with a fork.) Mix parsley in by hand. Adjust seasonings to taste. Spread on plate. Garnish with olive oil and/or bits of tomato, browned pine nuts, etc.

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Yogurt

twelve servings
  • 1/2 gallon whole or 2% milk
  • 2 Tbsp. plain yogurt, with live culture

Heat milk in heavy pot (not aluminum) until it reaches 180° F. (or until it is steaming strongly without boiling). It does not matter if it does boil, just be careful the bottom does not burn. Remove from heat and let cool until it reaches 110° F. (or until you can hold your index finger in it for 10 seconds). Take some of the hot milk and add it to the yogurt starter in a cup. Mix together and add this mixture to the hot milk, stirring well. Cover pot. Make a towel nest for pot by placing pot on a towel and wrapping it up. Then wrap that in another heavy towel. Place this somewhere you will not move it for 8 hours. After 8 hours you will have yogurt. If you leave it longer, like 12 hours, you will have more sour yogurt. Refrigerate after unwrapping. Heating takes 5-10 minutes. Cooling takes 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours.

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Cooked Yogurt

  • 4 cups yogurt (not nonfat)
  • water
  • 2-3 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • several cloves garlic, mashed in mortar with salt (optional)
  • cilantro, sautéed in oil (optional)
  • 1 egg white (on hand)

If yogurt is to be cooked with foods it must be stabilized to prevent separation.

Strain yogurt, add 2 cups water. Mix cornstarch with a little water until smooth and stir into yogurt. Stir while heating over medium heat to boiling. Several cloves of mashed garlic plus cilantro sautéed in oil may be added to flavor. If water separates from yogurt, cure this by adding an egg white.

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Laban M’saffa

(Yogurt Cheese)

Strain yogurt through cheese cloth or coffee filter until whey is removed, about 1-2 hours. Refrigerate while straining and to keep it.

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Coosa Mahshi

(Stuffed Squash)

six servings
N.B. The problem with this recipe is not leaving room in the squash for the rice to expand. Until this is mastered, a foolproof way is to use a five-minute or instant rice. These do not expand much.
  • 1 1/2 lbs ground lamb or beef
  • 1 cup rice
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. allspice
  • 16 oz. tomato sauce
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1 Tbsp. dried mint
  • juice of 1-2 lemons or dibis rahman (pomegranate juice)
  • 12 yellow squash, or zuchinni, or the light green squash of Syria

If using long grain rice, cover with water, heat to boiling and cook for 5 min. Drain and cool. If using instant or 5 min rice, this is not necessary.

Core squash. You need a tool for this. The object is to leave as thin a covering of squash as possible. Save the insides for coosa m’tabbal.

Mix raw meat, spices, salt, pepper, butter together with your hands. Stuff squash leaving at least the space of your index finger without any stuffing. With long grain rice leave more space.

In large pot, add tomato sauce and 4 cups water. Mash garlic with salt and stir into sauce. Add squash and cook until done, about 40 minutes. Add lemon juice or dibis rahman. Add dried mint. Taste sauce and correct seasoning, adding more garlic or lemon as needed.

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Coosa (or Batinjan) m’tabbal

(Squash or Eggplant Yogurt Salad Dip)

six servings
  • 2 cups cooked squash
  • 2 cloves garlic, mashed in mortar with salt
  • 3/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
  • salt
  • olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. tahini (optional)

Squash may be cooked just for this recipe or you may use the squash cored when making stuffed squash. After cooking in salted water, drain and press all the water you can out of the squash. Mash with fork.

Add all ingredients to the squash except the oil. Garnish top with oil. Dip with Arabic bread.

If using eggplant, bake it at 425° until soft and black, or cook on grill. Mash with fork and proceed as above.

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M’farraket Coosa

(Squash with Onions)

four servings
  • 4 yellow squash
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, mashed in mortar with salt

Cut squash into tiny pieces. Salt the squash lightly and place in colander for one half hour or more to drain. Dry squash with towel. Heat 2 tablespoons or more olive oil. Add onion and sauté lightly. Add squash and cook, uncovered on medium high heat, stirring occasionally until tender. Add cilantro and garlic and cook another 2 minutes. Good dipped with Arabic bread.

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Cucumber Yogurt Salad

four servings
  • 2 large cucumbers, finely chopped
  • 2 cups plain yogurt
  • 1 clove garlic, mashed in mortar with salt
  • 1 tsp. dried mint
  • salt
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice (optional)

Mix yogurt, garlic, salt, and mint. Add lemon juice if desired. It makes is more sour. Mix in cucumber. Chill and serve.

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Eggplant with Yogurt and Meat

six servings
  • 2 large eggplants, peeled, sliced 3/4 in. thick
  • 1 lb. ground lamb
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp. allspice
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 cups Cooked Yogurt
  • olive oil
  • pine nuts

Sprinkle eggplant with salt. Let sit in colander for at least 1/2 hour. Dry eggplant on paper or cloth. Sauté in oil until brown. Drain. Fry together meat, onion, allspice, cinnamon, pepper and salt to taste (1 tsp.). Drain meat mixture. Mix garlic to yogurt. (I mash the garlic with salt.) Place eggplant in baking dish, cover with meat mixture, and top with yogurt. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Serve with rice.

(Note, I have cheated to save time and used plain yogurt out of the container. It tastes good, but it tends to separate when cooked and the appearance is not as elegant.) I would also top with browned pine nuts if available before serving.

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Baked Lamb and Eggplant

four servings
  • 1 large eggplant, peeled, thickly sliced
  • 1 lb. ground lamb
  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 5 cups cooked rice
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, mashed in mortar with salt

Salt eggplant slices, place in colander, and allow to drain for 30-60 minutes. Rinse and pat dry. Heat oil to high temperature. Drain well on newspaper.

In minimum oil, brown lamb, add onions and spices, salt and pepper. Cook until well separated. Add garlic. Cook briefly.

In casserole dish, make layer of rice. Over rice make layer of eggplant. Over eggplant make layer of meat. Repeat layers and end with layer of rice. Cover and bake for 45 min. Remove cover last 10 minutes. Serve with yogurt or yogurt, garlic, salt mixture, if desired.

Hint: Add spices to taste, experiment! The reason for the salt, draining, etc of eggplant is to keep them from absorbing so much oil. The longer they drain the better, even 4 hours.

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Fetteh Dajaz

(Chicken with Torn Bread)

four servings
  • 2 loaves Arabic bread, toasted and torn in small pieces
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, cut in bite-size pieces
  • 2 cups chicken broth

Mash garlic in salt; add to yogurt. Stir to mix.

Place bread in serving dish (about 8x6). Heat broth to boiling. Add chicken and heat until heated through. Pour combination of broth and chicken over the bread.

Spread yogurt over top. Dust with paprika if desired.

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Fettoosh

(Salad with Pita Bread Croutons)

six servings
  • 2 loaves Arabic bread
  • 2 cloves garlic, mashed in mortar with salt
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 cucumbers, chopped finely
  • 1 large tomato, finely chopped
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • pinch cloves
  • pinch allspice

Toast bread. Tear into bite-sized pieces and set aside. Combine parsley, garlic, and lemon juice. Mix well. Add all other ingredient, oil last. Toss together. Add bread pieces and mix well. Mash down ingredients and allow to sit 30 minutes before tossing again and serving.

Option: Some people add torn pieces of romaine lettuce.

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Fool Imdamis

(Fava Bean Salad)

four servings
  • 1 lb. fava beans
  • 2 cloves garlic, mashed in mortar with salt
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • salt, to taste
  • allspice
  • 1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil

Heat beans to boiling. Reduce heat to simmer. Stir in garlic, tomato, lemon juice, salt, pepper, allspice, oil, and parsley. Serve hot with Arabic bread to dip it with. This is typically served for breakfast, but makes a light, nutritious meal at any time.

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Harra bi isba’oo

(Stir With Your Finger)

six servings
  • 1 cup lentils
  • 1 1/3 cups macaroni (small shells or elbows)
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 4 onions, sliced in crescents
  • 1 loaf Arabic bread, torn in pieces
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • about 1 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, mashed in mortar with salt
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 2 Tbsp. pomegranate juice (dibis rahman)
  1. Bring water and one teaspoon salt to boil. Add lentils and one tablespoon olive oil. Cook, covered 20 minutes.
  2. Add macaroni and another tablespoon olive oil. Cook uncovered 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. While lentils cook, place onions in heavy pan. Cover with olive oil and cook on high heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown (about 5 minutes). Remove from oil with slotted spoon and keep in bowl. You can use this olive oil for the lentils.
  4. In the same pan and oil that onions were cooked in fry bread pieces until they are golden. Drain well on paper. Bread may be eliminated to reduce fat.
  5. In about one tablespoon oil, fry cilantro until wilted, about one minute. Add garlic and fry for another minute. Add more garlic, to your taste.
  6. Add fried onions, dibis rahman, and juice of lemon to lentils. Taste as you go along for appropriate level of sourness. Add cilantro and garlic. Cook together another 5 minutes. Pour into 2 quart bowl. Decorate with fried croutons and more cilantro and onions reserved from above if desired. Eat either warm or at room temperature.

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Hummus bi Tahini

(Garbanzo Bean Dip with Sesame Seed)

six servings
  • 1 1/4 lb. garbanzo beans
  • 3 Tbsp. tahini
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 3 cloves garlic, mashed in mortar with salt
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • olive oil

Heat garbanzo beans until soft. Drain, reserve liquid, and put into food processor with tahini (sesame seed paste), lemon juice, and garlic. Process until smooth, adding reserve liquid if necessary to achieve dip consistency. Adjust seasonings by adding more lemon, garlic, or salt, as desired. Garnish with olive oil and mint leaves, parsley, cayenne pepper, bits of meat, radishes, or some combination of these. Serve at room temperature as a dip or as a main dish for two. Accompany with Arabic bread.

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Lamb Pies

  • 1 large onion, chopped small
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 lb. ground lamb
  • 6 plum tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • pepper, allspice, and cinnamon, about equal amounts
  • 1 Tbsp. pomegranate juice (dibis rahman) (optional)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted or browned in oil (optional)
  • 18 frozen rolls

Thaw rolls and let rise per bag directions, about three hours at room temperature.

Sauté onions, garlic and meat until meat is browned over medium high heat. Remove skins from tomatoes by dipping for about a minute in boiling water, then into cold water.(Sometimes I skip this step.)Add spices and salt. Chop tomatoes finely and add to meat mixture. Add dibis rahman and pine nuts if you are using them. Cook together a few minutes without covering pan. Remove from heat. Meat mixture may be frozen for future use.

On floured surface, roll out each yeast roll until less than 1/2 inch thick. Using slotted spoon that drains any liquid, place meat filling on dough. Pinch each end of dough to form a little boat. Continue with other rolls. Bake on greased cookie pan at 425 15-20 minutes, until dough is done and lightly brown.

Recipe may be doubled. Rolls freeze well.

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Olives

Buy any olives, canned or bulk from an ethnic grocery. Drain. Rinse if very salty. Place in jar with:
  • Lemons, sliced paper thin, and salted
  • Garlic cloves, peeled, sliced in pieces if large
  • Banana peppers, or other mild peppers
  • Red pepper flakes, to taste

Cover completely with olive oil. It takes a few days for flavor to develop. You may add olives as supply is depleted. Add other ingredients as needed. Always be sure to keep covered with oil, as mold will develop otherwise. You don’t want water in this mixture, so draining water from canned olives is essential. Other spices such as whole allspice, bay leaves, or oregano are possibilities.

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Sheikh-el-mahshi

(Stuffed Eggplant)

eight servings
  • 16 small Japanese eggplants
  • olive oil
  • 2 cups tomato juice
  • 1/2 cup water

Partly peel the eggplants to form black and white stripes. Brown eggplants on all sides.

Split each eggplant lengthwise from one side. Stuff the pocket with the meat stuffing (see recipe). Arrange the eggplant in a baking dish. Sprinkle remaining stuffing over the eggplant. Cover with tomato juice and water mixed together with salt, pepper, and allspice to taste.

Bake at 350° for 20-30 minutes. Serve hot with rice.

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Stuffed Squash Cooked in Yogurt

six servings
  • 16 small yellow or green squash
  • 3 cups Cooked Yogurt
  • salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, mashed in mortar with salt
  • 1 Tbsp. dried mint

Wash squash. Core. Reserve corings for dip. Place in salt and water until ready to stuff.

Prepare meat and onion stuffing according to recipe. Fill squash with stuffing. Fry squash in oil, turning until lightly brown on all sides.

Place in pot. Add cooked yogurt (see recipe) and salt. Add some hot water if too thick. Cook over low heat for 15-20 minutes until done.

Fry minced garlic in a little oil. Add to yogurt 5 minutes before done. Add dried mint and serve with rice.

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Shushbarak

six servings
  • 1 package wonton wrappers
  • 5 cups Cooked Yogurt
  • salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, mashed in mortar with salt

Place small amount of stuffing on each wrapper. Moisten edges of wrapper with water. Fold wrapper over and seal by folding on itself. Twist edge around on itself.

Place dumplings in heated cooked yogurt (see recipe). Add garlic to yogurt. Cook for 5 minutes. Serve hot or cold.

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Sautéed Meat and Onions Stuffing

  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • pepper
  • 1/3 tsp. allspice
  • olive oil

Saute onions in olive oil. Add meat and stir in spices. Simmer for 15 min. Fry pine nuts separately until brown and add to meat mixture. Cool.

This is used to stuff eggplant, shushbarak, or squash cooked in yogurt.

Ground beef works just as well.

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Sitti-z’be’e

(Slippery Lady Lentil Soup)

four servings
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 cup dried lentils
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 tsp. allspice
  • 2 cloves garlic, mashed in mortar with salt

Boil lentils in water with 1 teaspoon salt, chopped onion, and olive oil until tender, about 20 minutes. Strain out about half of the lentils and mash or process with a little of the broth, and set aside.. Add the macaroni and the second teaspoon salt to the lentils and cook another 20 minutes. Stir in the mashed lentils to thicken soup.

Fry the cilantro in 2 tsp. olive oil until just wilted. Add to soup. Add garlic, pepper, and allspice. Add lemon juice and adjust seasonings. Parsley, added fresh to soup, may be substituted for cilantro for a different taste. Cumin may also be added.

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Spaghetti with Yogurt (and Meat)

four servings
  • 1 lb. spaghetti
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 cups Cooked Yogurt
  • 4 cloves garlic, mashed in mortar with salt
  • 1 lb. top round ground beef
  • 1 tsp. allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/3 tsp. pepper

Recipe may be prepared with meat or without for a less hearty meal.

Cook spaghetti in salted water. Rinse with cold water. Mix meat and spices and sauté in one tablespoon butter. Cover and simmer 15 minutes.

Mix garlic with yogurt (see recipe for Cooked Yogurt). Melt butter an heat spaghetti. Add yogurt and meat. Toss and serve.

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Tabooli

(Parsley Salad)

six servings
  • 1/2 cup cracked, fine-ground wheat
  • 2 bunches parsley, finely chopped
  • 4 Tbsp. mint leaf, finely chopped
  • 3 tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 2 small cucumbers, finely chopped
  • 4 green onions, finely chopped
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 tsp. allspice
  • pinch cloves
  • pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, mashed in mortar with salt

Place cracked wheat (burghol) in pan and cover with water. Bring just to boil. Remove from heat and let stand 15 minutes. Meanwhile, chop vegetables. Strain wheat and press out all water possible. Place in salad bowl. Add parsley and garlic. Mix well. Add all other vegetables, spices, and lemon juice. Mix well. Add olive oil and adjust seasonings. Press tabooli down in bowl and refrigerate until serving, at least one hour. Fluff before serving. Bowl may be garnished with lettuce leaves.

Note: dried mint may be substituted for fresh.

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Yelungy

(The Phony One)

six servings
  • 1 1/2 cups rice
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • tomato sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. dried mint
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • pepper, to taste
  • 3 tomatoes, diced
  • pinch cloves
  • pinch cinnamon
  • 1 cup parsley, chopped finely
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 lb. grape leaves in brine

Drain grape leaves, wash thoroughly. Soak in clear water to remove salt. Cover rice with water. Bring to boil. Drain rice.

In heavy pot, over medium low heat, combine rice, onions, oil and heat 5 min. stirring occasionally.

Add tomato sauce, mint, pepper and salt. Continue to heat, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.

Add cloves, cinnamon, parsley and 1/4 cup lemon juice. Remove from heat. Allow to cool until it can be handled.

Place approximately one teaspoon rice filling on under side of grape leaf, near stem. Remove stem with knife. Roll grape leaf over filling, folding in sides of leaf, leaving some looseness so that rice will have room to expand as it cooks. Continue until filling or leaves are used.

Place any broken leaves in bottom of pot. Arrange rolled leaves over, alternating direction by layers. Place a plate on top of rolls and a cup with water in it (or another type of weight) on top of dish. Pour remaining 1/4 cup of lemon juice around leaves. Add any leftover oil from filling, and add water to cover plates. Cook 45 minutes over low heat until tender and rice is cooked. Add water if necessary.

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Toronto - Canada
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The Syrian Community Centre of Canada
Copyright 2003 - The Honorary Consulate of Syria
 Web site designed and maintained by Yaser Kherdaji
Toronto - Canada