JEDDAH: A staple in every Saudi household, dates are being promoted to be used in innovative and tasty dishes at home.
Considered one of the Kingdom’s icons and an integral part of Saudi hospitality, the fruit has been an important part of council meetings, weddings, social gatherings and everyday life due to its nutritious value and widespread availability.
As the third-largest producer of dates worldwide, the Kingdom offers a plethora of varieties to choose from, with each offering its own individual taste, shape and texture.
And now, more than ever, the date is being used in dishes at high-end restaurants.
Saudi executive chef Noura Al-Moammar, 41, told Arab News that “dates have always been served and combined with Saudi Arabian coffee since the ancient era.”
She obtained a diploma in culinary studies Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and is currently a restaurant consultant offering menu creation for restaurants.
Al-Moammar discussed how dates continue to play a major role in modern cooking: “Knowing the benefits and the taste of dates, I had to utilize my culture by combining the Saudi background with my French skills to create the artistic dish of foie gras with dates and tartine with goat cheese.”
Some areas in the Kingdom have long experimented with dates and other dishes. Many in the western region of Saudi Arabia eat dates with fish, with the mix of the two flavors appealing to many locals and offering something new for an explorer.
With 14 years of experience, 32-year-old Saudi chef Ayman Bazarah began his career as an assistant chef at hotels in Madinah.
Four years later, he headed to a culinary school in Sydney, working for Michelin-starred restaurants, before moving to other renowned establishments.
His love for dates taught him which varieties of the fruit work best with certain dishes, taking advantage of his unique taste pallet to experiment and explore using the simple fruit to create something wonderful.
“We use dates in such an essential manner and there is high competition for the quality of dates in big markets,” Bazarah said.
Pointing to its use in international kitchens, he said: “Dates have a certain degree of sweetness, and we use them to make desserts and as a substitute for sugar. Chefs in international kitchens abroad started using them in dishes other than desserts such as barbecue sauce because it has a good level of sugar and a unique taste.”
While experimenting, he used dates to tickle the taste buds and find that perfect balance between sweet and savory. One of his favorite date-inspired dishes is glazed tenderloin with date molasses and a side of chestnut puree.