Cuisines Food Review Mains Uncategorized

Aroos Damascus & Levantine Cuisine

April 25, 2015

I know I’ve been MIA for quite a while now. But, let’s put that down to the fact that I’ve been settling down in Dubai, finding my way around, learning the lifestyle and finally getting a place for Ishaaq and me and going a little crazy through it all. But, as always, good food comes to my rescue.

Today’s post is something I’ve been wanting to talk about since a long time – Arabic food. I’ve had some pretty amazing Arabic food in Salalah. We would frequent a place where we would get the most amazing grilled meat and another one that would serve up some pretty delicious Lebanese food. But, through it all, I never really did know what the difference was between Lebanese and other Arabic cuisines – and I never really did try to find out, till I visited Aroos Damascus in Dubai some time ago. We went in a pretty big group to Aroos and were seated by some rather curt waiters. When we were deciding upon the menu, the waiter serving us took over and decided that he would give us a taste of what the restaurant can do to stimulate the senses. And, soon our table started overflowing with dish after dish – from dips to meats to Shawarmas to sandwiches, pickles, salads – you name it! But, I was confused, because Damascus is in Syria and here I was having Hummus, Mutabbal, Shawarma and the works, which I thought was all peculiar to Lebanon!

So, after a little bit of research I found out that these dishes that we usually call Lebanese are part of the Levantine Cuisine that spreads over Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon and parts of Turkey. Over time the Ottoman Turks took over the area and with the common Mediterranean weather and ingredients available, the region’s cuisine borders started blurring. So, while you may have Shawarma from Lebanon, you’ll also find it in Syria, Jordan, etc. Although at the same time, these very countries seem to have retained some dishes unique to them. For instance, Mansaf from Jordan is a mutton dish made of fermented yoghurt and spices and peculiar to Syria and Jordan mainly.

But, I feel with hummus, Shawarma, etc., we are just skimming the surface of this exciting cuisine. And, I am determined to find out more! In the meanwhile, you can take a look at the absolutely delicious food we were served at Aroos Damascus – at a hefty price that too!

Labneh and chilli paste

Do you know how healthy Mediterranean and Arabic food is? Most of the meat and vegetable dishes are grilled and they use a lot of lentils, salads and pickled veggies. For instance the labneh – pretty much like hung curd – and the harissa-like chilli paste make for really tasty condiments with their constant companion – hot, puffed up khubz (or pita bread as it is called in Greece) all ready to mop them up! The mutabbal on the other hand (baba ganoush in Greek) is smoky, yoghurty with a hint of spice and the ideal texture of smoked brinjal!

Beautifully colourful and fresh salad leaves – I love their use of rokka/rocket leaves.
Pickled olives, beetroots, dill pickle and chillies for the tangy element to the food.
Hummus. Along with pasta, this would be my ultimate comfort food. And, to think that as a child I looked down upon it as bland and boring! The texture, flavour of the chickpeas and tahini and the tanginess of sumac are pretty mindblowing!
I love any dish with a combination of textures and fattoush salad with its fresh, lemony dressing with sumac and the crispy khubz definitely meets that definition.
Crispy Arayees, the pita bread grilled and flattened and filled with shredded meat and spices!
Sheesh Tawook – perfectly grilled and subtly spiced chicken kebabs.
The arabic grill is the perfectly healthy dish – beautifully spiced cuts of meat – chicken and lamb – grilled to perfection!

Finally, we had a sweet dish called Aish al Saraya – bread soaked in milk and honey with a hint of rose water. Frankly, I’m not sure whether I liked it – but I certainly didn’t hate it. The combination of flavours, though seemingly common take some getting used to.

Overall, the food was amazing. We couldn’t find fault in any of the dishes – whether it was in the flavours, the grilling of the meat or the freshness of the salads, and I can”t wait to go back and try out the rest of the dishes!

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  • Disha Khurana April 28, 2015 at 13:40

    If i wouldn’t have decided to update myself with your recent posts, i would have never got to know about levantine cuisine. The pictures & the description look amazing & totally mouth watering. Keep sharing more of such info, it was a great read shanti 🙂

  • Shanti April 28, 2015 at 17:32

    Thank you so much Disha! Love to hear such words…Keeps me going. I’m sure you know what I mean.

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