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The Syrian Table                       


Syrian is in the Middle East, bordered by Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Iraq , Turkey and the Mediterranean Sea.

Damascus is Syria's capital city. Other important cities are Aleppo, Hama, Homs and Lattakia.

The importance of Syria is due to her unique position as a meeting-point of three continents (Asia, Africa and Europe), and as a crossroad between the Caspian Sea, the Indian Ocean, the Black Sea, and the Nile River. This geographical position lent distinction to the country, not only as a trade and caravan route, but also as a melting pot of beliefs and cultures.


Syria's terrain is mainly plateau with mountains in the west. The Syrian Desert is in the east. There is a narrow Mediterranean coastal plain and two main rivers, the Euphrates and the Orontes. The most significant plantations are filled with Wheat, Barley and cereals which are an important part of the Syrian diet, since they are the basis for the local thin breads and pastries.

Syria cuisine is like in any other Middle eastern country. From Mezze to kibbeh and skewered meats , with lots of differences, yet a resemblance as well.

The cuisine of Syria uses elements from various cooking traditions borrowed from their neighbors and developed from their own traditional dishes. Using the right amount of spices is essential, either for spicing up the taste or for coloring the dish. The diversity of vegetables and cereals found in Syria,  the visual attractiveness of the dish and a balance within the dish colors is very important. Very special in their particular mix of spices and textures . Each traditional dish has a special cooking method. Meat is one of the main elements of Syrian cuisine
There are some differences when discussing the regional Syrian cuisines, due to the fact that these regions are influenced by their neighbors and the adaptation to the agricultural possibilities

Syria has two major gastronomic cuisine. Damascus in the south, and Aleppo in the north. The cooking of the south is similar to Lebanon and Jordan, while the cooking of Aleppo is influenced by Turkey and by the Armenian  


 In Aleppo and Damascus both, the sweets are the local specialty, especially the karabij , round balls of sweet semolina dough stuffed with crushed almonds, flavored with rose water, and served with white, creamy syrup,  Ghazl al-banat, aka "girls spinning" are crumbly snowballs covered with soft sugar and filled with pistachios and baklava with cherries, as well as cakes, ice cream, and fresh fruits as citrus fruits, pears, cherries, apricots, watermelons and figs

Main meals include chicken, lamb and fish. Lamb is sometimes minced or served as kebabs. Flat bread, rice and bulgar are staple foods. Bulgar wheat is an important ingredient used in a variety of recipes. Vegetables eaten are eggplants, beans, carrots, chickpeas, zucchinis, cucumbers, mushrooms, onions, sesame, peas, peppers and tomatoes. Nuts and pine kernels are sometimes used in cooking
Tea is preferred strong and Turkish coffee is popular. Water, yogurt drink and fruit juices are served cold. Non-alcoholic beer, wine and arak, (an aniseed-flavoured spirit), are produced.

Aleppan food is heavily seasoned , especially with red pepper. Many of the vegetable dishes are soaked in yogurt. Aleppans tend to be highly carnivorous, serving a variety of meat dishes, both raw and cooked, at one meal . Their kibbeh for example is molded into flat pastries, rather than the oval balls of Damascus and Beirut, Lebanon, wrapped round a piece of lamb's fat flavored with garlic and red pepper before being broiled over charcoal. Kibbeh trabulsieh, named after the city of Tripoli, is an egg-shape lamb and wheat meatball, stuffed with sautéed ground lamb, spices, and pine nuts cooked in rendered butter

Aleppan salads are likely to be liberally laced with onion rings, parsley and red pepper, zucchini boiled covered with a mixture of sesame oil, garlic, mint and salt. Sliced cucumbers soaked in yogurt and sprinkled with mint, lots of eggplants, and a popular dish which has this vegetable as a main ingredient is Imam baladi  made from small eggplants, peeled into strips with lots of garlic, then fried and simmered in a mixture of pomegranate juice with pepper and cinammon 

Zwaz, fried lamb brain, is consider a delicacy . The lamb brain is fried and mixed with olive oil, lemon juice, parsley and spices and served as a salad with pita on the side. Another version is to add eggs and spices to the lamb brains and fry it as omelet.  M’hammara, a mix of red peppers, walnuts and pomegranate syrup, tastes great on pita is common throughout the Middle East and vary in taste and texture from city to city and from country to country.




Spiced Fish

6 garlic cloves peeled
1 1/2 teas salt
2 red chili peppers seeded
1 sm onion cut into pieces
1 ripe tomato - peeled, seeded
3 tabs tomato paste
1 teas cumin seeds
1 red snapper -  scaled, gutted and cleaned, left whole, head and tail on
1/2 cup olive oil
salt & black pepper to taste

In a mortar, pound the garlic and salt together until mushy. Put the chili peppers and onion in a food processor and chop finely. Add the tomato and process in bursts until it is chopped. Remove to a bowl and stir in the garlic, tomato paste and cumin. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Rinse the fish and pat dry with paper towels. Score the fish in three places on each side. Lay the fish in a baking pan and coat with olive oil . Sprinkle with salt and pepper, cover with the chili pepper sauce. Bake the fish for about 1 hour, basting with the olive oil in the baking pan.


Eish Al-Saraya (Dessert)

15 slices bread
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups water
2 tabs orange blossom and rose water


2 small packages whipping cream
2 tabs cornstarch
1 tab orange blossom water
1 cup chopped raw pistachio
1 tab orange blossom jam

Place slices of bread in an oven tray and broil until both sides are lightly golden and place them in a big bowl. Put, in a medium saucepan, 3 tablespoons of sugar on high heat and stir constantly until it turns brown, then pour water and the remaining sugar. Stir to boil and dissolve, remove the sugar from the heat and add orange blossom and rose water. Stir then pour the syrup on the roasted bread and with a big spoon, mix the bread with syrup until it combines. Spread the bread in a big serving platter some 13-inches square and set it aside.

Place whipping cream and corn starch in a saucepan on medium heat and stir constantly to boil and thicken, then remove from heat and add blossom water. Stir well and pour cream on the brown bread, and sprinkle all the face with chopped pistachio and garnish with red orange blossom jam (in the middle and 4 places around the edges with 1/2 tsp on each place or 1/2 a cherry). Refrigerate before serving for at least 4 hours



Lamb in yogurt



Imam Baladi

5 small eggplants or 2 regular eggplants
6 tabs olive oil
1 onion, peeled and sliced
5 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

2 teas cumin
1 teas cinnamon
salt & pepper
1 teas crushed red pepper

1 cup chopped fresh parsley, 1/2 cup chopped mint leaves, 1 cup toasted walnuts (op), 2 cups pomegranate juice, 1 cup pomegranated seeds (op), 2 teas brown sugar for garnish


Peel eggplants and remove stems. Salt, let sit for at least 20 minutes, rinse and squeeze out water. Slice into thick rounds. Heat oil in deep skillet over medium heat. Add eggplant, and saute on all sides. Remove eggplants from skillet and drain on paper towels and set aside. Add little oil to skillet and reheat over medium heat. Add onion and saute until golden brown. Add garlic and continue cooking. Add cumin, cinnamon, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, parsley, and fresh mint and saute for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Grind walnuts in food processor until very fine, or else sauce will be gritty. Combine walnuts with pomegranate juice and brown sugar and stir until sauce is smooth.

Pour sauce into skillet. Return eggplants and seasoning to skillet, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer mixture until eggplants are tender, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. If sauce is too sour, add more brown sugar to taste. Spoon onto serving dish or plates, and garnish with herb leaves and pomegranate seeds.




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