RIYADH: The famed home cooking skills of Saudi women have found a surprise challenger during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown — with men revealing their hidden culinary talents.
Curfews set up to help stop the spread of the virus have provided the opportunity for men to show off their kitchen catering abilities by cooking up some tasty family meals.
Quality auditor Ahmed bin Ibrahim has been staying at his family’s house during quarantine, and told Arab News that he had enjoyed pitching in on kitchen duties.
“I like to help my mother while she is cooking by cutting some vegetables, but I learned how to cook years ago when I was a student in the US,” he said.
His mom and YouTube became his culinary instructors during his time in America and his favorite dishes are kabsah, steaks and quesadillas.
“Lately, my dad has been cooking a lot and grilling in our back yard, so I’ve been helping him,” he added.
Faris Al-Harbi, a college student from Tabuk, has been putting lockdown time to good use in the kitchen trying to create new recipes for his family to lighten the mood.
“Since home isolation started, I have cooked five dishes — mandi (a traditional meal with meat and rice), broasted chicken, pizza, grilled dishes, and pasta with pesto sauce.”
He said that it was only since the COVID-19 restriction measures had been put in place that his talent for cooking healthy food had emerged.
“My family really admires my cooking and loves the taste of my dishes.”
Al-Harbi added that he intended to continue cooking once the COVID-19 health crisis was over, but in the meantime had introduced a kitchen challenge for his cousins and family.
“Every day, a member of the family has to cook a dish and is evaluated by experts — my mother and father. This creates a bit of a competition which is nice. Everyone wants to cook something that is delicious and creative, which makes us excited to cook again.”
He pointed out that under the current situation it was sometimes hard to find an alternative for some ingredients not available in the home. “It is also difficult to estimate the right amount of ingredients for the family. Preparing the dough and forming it is also hard.”
Al-Harbi’s brother Abdulrahman, an architect, had been challenged to cook madghout — pressure-cooked chicken and rice — for the first time for his family.
“It was the first time I had cooked, so I couldn’t say whether I was talented or not, but it definitely needed some focus,” he said, adding that his creation was well-received. “YouTube has a lot of cool Saudi chefs and their videos are so simple and easy to execute. It helps anyone who wants to try to cook.”
Al-Harbi’s sister Shahad told Arab News that she was surprised to see her brothers’ talent in the kitchen and would struggle to compete with them.
Speaking about her younger brother Khalid, who is currently studying in the US, she said: “He likes to try international foods and he uses fresh ingredients and different spices. He likes to make avocado toast, steaks, cheesecakes, exotic juices, and risotto.
Although a mess is inevitable in some kitchens as male family members go through a trial-and-error phase, most mothers will undoubtedly be proud and happy with the help they are receiving under the current difficult circumstances.