Tahini is at the center of Arabic cuisine, a simple condiment that is added to all types of sweet and savory dishes. It is served as a sauce at times and is an essential part of other main course recipes.
The name tahini or tahina in Arabic comes from the word “than,” which means ground in English.
Tahini is made by grinding roasted sesame seeds until they come together and release oil which then helps in it becoming a paste. The runny texture of tahini resembles that of peanut butter. The flavor of this sauce is defined as earthy, slightly bitter and without any sweetness to it — yet tahini compliments desserts very well.
Tahini has an extremely rich history. According to Bodrum blog, tahini originated from Persia, where it was called “ardeh.”
Sesame seeds have long been known for their nutritional value. These tiny seeds were even recommended by the Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates.
The recipe presented here couples tahini sauce with chocolate in the Chocolate and tahini rolls. To make the dough for the rolls you will need 300 grams flour, 150 ml milk, 5 tbsp melted butter (or you can substitute it with a vegan alternative), 2 tbsp sugar, 1 whole egg, 1½ tsp dried yeast, and ½ tsp of salt.
Combine all the wet ingredients in a bowl, add the sugar and yeast and leave the bowl in a warm place for 10 minutes, which will allow the yeast to activate. Then add the dry ingredients to the mixture and knead the dough for 5-8 minutes. You can do this by hand or by the paddle attachment on your stand mixer.
Cover the dough with a clean kitchen towel or cling wrap and leave it to rise for at least an hour.
Meanwhile, in a bowl mix 200 grams of semisweet chocolate chips with 2 tbsp of tahini, mix until chocolate chips are covered in tahini.
Once the dough has increased in size, portion it into balls (the size can be according to your liking). Fill each dough ball with a tablespoon of the chocolate and tahini mix. Seal the dough and roll until it becomes and perfect ball.
Place each ball in a buttered dish and sprinkle it with caster sugar and sesame seeds. Bake in the oven at 180 degrees Celsius until you get a nice golden brown color.
Recipes for success: Chef Shun Shiroma offers advice and a tasty roast potato recipe to try this Ramadan
Updated 23 March 2023
DUBAI: Omotenashi is a Japanese concept of hospitality historically related to hosts of the traditional tea ceremony. The term itself is divided into two parts, “omote” (public face) and “nashi” (nothing). “Together, it combines to mean service that comes from the bottom of the heart — honest, no hiding, no pretending,” according to the Michelin guide.
Omotenashi seems to be the guiding principle of Shun Shiroma, the executive chef of 3Fils, one of Dubai’s top restaurants. Overlooking Dubai Harbor, it’s a casual eatery that specializes in Asian- and Japanese-style dishes, including flavorful salmon carpaccio, Hokkaido scallops, and wagyu beef burgers. There is also a fresh offering of “Arabese” food, where the Middle East meets the Far East, such as their concoction snaa’tar, consisting of fine slices of Tai snapper covered with the deep flavors of zaatar.
3Fils is known for having its own rules, such as not serving soy sauce on the side as it might affect the freshness of the fish. But people are happy to keep coming back to what has been voted the fifth-best restaurant in the MENA region.
“There’s an ambience to it,” the restaurant’s marketing manager Khalil Khouri told Arab News. “We want people to feel at home. You can come in shorts and flip-flops. You’re by the water and there’s that fresh air and fresh ingredients. We’ve expanded, and there’s still a queue. It’s testament to what the kitchen does.”
Shiroma was raised in Okinawa and started his career aged 16 at a sushi restaurant there. By 2009, he was in a completely different environment: Jamaica. This was followed by stints in Singapore and New York, among other places.
No matter where he has been, though, his love for the cuisine of his home country has never left him. “We have many categories and variety: Sushi, sashimi, tempura, ramen, and curry,” Shun told Arab News. “It’s healthy and simple.”
Here, Chef Shun discusses Japanese hospitality, the importance of cleanliness, and shares a recipe for korya roast potatoes.
Q: What’s your earliest food memory?
A: I think I was three or four years old. I remember my mom making some bread, butter, and jam. I was shocked by how sweet it was. That’s when my addiction to jam started. [Laughs.]
When you started out as a professional, what was the most common mistake you made?
When I was cutting something, like fish, my chopping board became dirty and it needed to be washed. But I moved on and did something else. My boss said, “Why are you not washing your chopping board?” I was giving 50 percent of myself to the work. My boss told me that nice presentation for guests is important, but it’s just as important to be clean in the kitchen.
What one ingredient can instantly improve any dish?
Just one? [Laughs.] If I give you a cucumber with nothing, you can eat it. But, if I crack it, you can eat it easily. So, this is the ingredient: My heart. This is the best ingredient for food: “Omotenashi.”
Are you a disciplinarian in the kitchen? Do you shout a lot? Or are you more laidback?
We’re busy enough here already, so I don’t need to shout at anyone. I trust our sous-chefs. I just give them small bits of advice sometimes.
What’s your favorite dish to cook?
I love Japanese curry. I make it at home and my kids and wife also eat it. I’m a chef here, but at home, I’m totally not.
When you go out to eat, do you find yourself critiquing the food?
I don’t judge the food, but when I taste something different I’m always asking, “Why have they done that?” It interests me. I just imagine the culture, the history and the nature, then I understand why the dish tastes like that. Then I go back to my kitchen and maybe I’m inspired.
What’s your top tip for amateur chefs?
To be hospitable and to make your own story.
Chef Shun’s Korya Roast Potatoes
3 agria potatoes, washed
30g olive oil
3 pinches black pepper powder
20g spring onion, chopped
10g crispy fried garlic
50g 3Fils Gochujang mayo
Salt to taste
1. Place the potatoes (whole) in a pan of water. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 20 mins.
2. Cut the potatoes into wedges, transfer to a tray lined with baking paper and season with salt and black pepper powder.
3. Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 10 mins at 180 C.
4. Transfer to a plate, drizzle with Gochujang mayo and garnish with crispy garlic and spring onion.
DUBAI: As the sun rises on Thursday, the holy month of Ramadan will begin, ushering in a period of quiet contemplation, fasting during the day, feasting with family and friends in the evening, and getting in touch with our spiritual side.
This is also a time when youngsters look to their community and want to join in the festivities. Parents then have a tough call to make: Are their children ready for fasting? And, if the answer is yes, how can they ensure it is a relaxed, happy experience?
The first thing to remember is not to start too early — those younger than 7 may face negative consequences, health experts warn.
Dr. Samer Saade, specialist paediatrician at UAE-based Medcare Medical Center, said: “Children can start fasting when they reach puberty, so that’s between 10 and 14 years in girls and 12 to 16 years in boys. All in all, the best age to start fasting is between 10 and 12 years old.”
The second thing to keep in mind is the effect that lack of food can have on mood and cognitive function, especially since children need more fluids and energy to meet their body’s metabolic demands and for brain development.
“While fasting, a child’s demeanor may range from weakness, fatigue, decreased cognitive function, altered sleep schedule, reduced attention span and short temper to headache, abdominal pain and fainting spells,” Dr. Nasreen Chidhara Pari, specialist pediatrician at UAE-based Life Medical Center.
Slow and steady
The key to a successful fast is being gradual, with short periods of abstinence, experts say.
“Parents should decide how long their child will fast (if they fast), based on their child’s health, eating frequency, ability to tolerate hunger and activity level,” Pari said.
She suggests children attending school carry an emergency food pack with a snack and water to break their fast if they become dizzy or find themselves unable to continue.
Should a child break their fast, it is important for adults nearby to stay calm and offer reassurance.
Practice positive reinforcement when a child breaks their fast; tell them it is OK and encourage the child to try again when they feel ready. “Extend the duration of fast time in small increments,” she said.
Saade echoes this sentiment, calling for positive thinking, gentle parenting and remaining calm during the process. This will ensure a more effective path to fasting, and also raise a child’s self-esteem.
During this period, what we eat becomes doubly important. Sakina Muntasir, a dietitian with UAE-based Prime Hospital, said that suhoor for children should be similar to suhoor for adults in order to prevent thirst, hunger pangs and make the fasting period comfortable.
“Oats, eggs, wholegrain bread and fruit are all good choices,” she said.
When it comes to iftar for children, begin with fresh juice or water-rich fruits or dates.
“Avoid fried or oily foods when breaking the fast. Divide the evening meal into three parts, iftar, dinner and post dinner, to ensure the child has good opportunities to take in enough nutrition,” she said.
Dinner should be a balanced meal with healthy carbs, protein and vegetables. After dinner, have them eat a few nuts and a glass of milk before bed.
Children can be notoriously picky eaters, so remember the golden triangle: protein, fiber and healthy fat for a healthy meal.
Following these guidelines will ensure a healthy first fast. However, if suhoor is skipped or child is not eating well, give them a multivitamin to avoid any weakness or deficiencies, Saade said.
Dr. Shahid Gauhar, specialist paediatrician and neonatologist with UAE-based Prime Hospital, said: “Do not force children to overeat during suhoor or iftar. It is likely to result in indigestion, bloating and discomfort.”
Keep the sweets at bay. “Avoid high-sugar food since it will increase their cravings, and provide few nutrients but many unneeded calories,” he said.
Experts agree that knowledge is key to a successful fast. Explain the significance of Ramadan and observing a fast, so it is not just about mimicking grown-ups. Reward milestones, whether it is five hours or a whole day of fasting.
“Celebrate their first fast with family and friends, and reward them, said Gauhar.
Activity during Ramadan
Play is important for all children, even those fasting, in order for the brain to develop.
However, during the holy month, exercise and activity must be approached differently.
“Prepare activities to keep them busy during the day, but avoid those that need a high level of energy,” Gauhar said.
The restaurants in Saudi cities offering a taste of Persia on a plate
Restaurants in the Kingdom offer flavor-packed Persian dishes, including the national dish of Iran
Launched in 1999, the Persian restaurant Shaya has expanded to nine locations around the Kingdom
Updated 21 March 2023
RIYADH: Persian cuisine is popular around the world for its healthy, hearty and luxurious dishes.
The aromatic and flavorful cuisine includes perfectly cooked fluffy rice, grilled or stewed meat such as chicken, lamb, goat or fish, and vegetables that are enhanced by a variety of nuts, fruits, herbs and rich spices like cardamom, saffron, cinnamon, cloves, sultanas, berries and dried rose petals, among others.
Bordered by Iraq, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Oman and Turkemenistan, Iran comprises diverse ethnicities, with neighboring countries having a huge influence on its food.
Popular Persian dishes include ghormeh sabzi, chelo kabab, dizi, kabab koobideh, khoresht gheymeh, zereshk polo, tahdig, faloodeh and tulumba, among others.
Renowned Saudi food blogger Hisham Baeshen is known for his cooking videos on Instagram. With about 4 million followers, Baeshen makes dishes from around the world, including Saudi Arabia.
Baeshen said that he has cooked Persian food, with his favorite being the national dish of Iran — ghormeh sabzi, a stew prepared with meat and kidney beans with a side dish of zereshk polo, a mixture of white and saffron flavored basmati rice topped with barberries.
“I consider sabzi as the king of Persian foods. With a side order of zereshk rice, which I consider one of the staple dishes in Persian food,” Baeshen told Arab News.
Drawing similarities between Saudi and Persian cuisine, the blogger said: “I would absolutely recommend Saudis cook Persian food at home, because all the materials that you need for the Persian kitchen are available in the Saudi kitchen and the techniques used in cooking Persian food are not very different than the Saudi cuisine.
“Many people have tried Persian recipes and loved them. Honestly — very beautiful and delicious.”
Here are some restaurants in the Kingdom offering a taste of Persia on a plate.
Founded in 1990 in Bahrain, Isfahani has expanded its presence to eight locations across Bahrain and in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, with branches in Dhahran and Alkhobar.
Ahmed Alqaseer, vice president of Isfahani group, said that Isfahani started when his uncle, Elias, gave his father, Jalil Alqaseer, the business.
Ahmed’s father took it upon himself to learn more about Persian culture from top Persian chefs by visiting Iran and Lebanon.
“The most important thing for us is to explore and share is the quality of the food. We keep on tracking, developing and adding more dishes,” Ahmed said.
With many great options to choose from, chelo kabab remains by far the the most popular choice among diners.
“Chelo kabab is the dish that gets the most recommendations and gets sold out the quickest in Isfahani locations and food delivery applications like Talabat,” Alqaseer said.
Isfahani’s target for 2023 is to expand to new locations and focus on its design, ambience and food.
“I want the customers to have a great restaurant experience and taste, as if they are in another world. We keep on developing the food and getting new recipes all while maintaining the quality of the food. The new restaurant will have customers will feel like they are in a very modern Persian restaurant,” Alqaseer added.
Mohammed Abduljabar is the owner of Zahra Zad, one of the only Persian restaurants in Al-Qatif.
“We decided to open a Persian restaurant because we saw that there weren’t any in the city of Qatif. The people of the city love Persian food and we wanted to give them something to indulge in,” said Abduljabar.
The soft opening of the restaurant, which is adorned with paintings highlighting Persian culture, architectural style and clothing, took place in February this year.
“We try to capture the true essence and atmosphere of a traditional Persian restaurant through these paintings and decorations. We have all sorts of paintings that symbolize Persian society and dress. Additionally, we added Persian music to add to the ambience.
“I think before starting any project, it is very important for us to study the culture thoroughly so that project truly succeeds,” Abduljabar said.
He added that the most popular dishes are mixed Persian grills — a mixture of beef and chicken kabab — and kashk bademjan, a Persian eggplant dip.
To satisfy one’s sweet tooth, Zahra Zad offers saffron cake and bastani sonati, a rich pistachio ice cream with saffron and rose water.
Taking accessibility and inclusivity into consideration, Abduljabar has kept its ground floor exclusive to people who are unable to climb stairs.
To make the restaurant attractive for customers of all ages, Zahra Zad also contains a shisha cafe.
Shaya is another Persian restaurant with branches in Riyadh and the Eastern Province. Started in 1999, Shaya has expanded to nine locations around the Kingdom. The restaurant offers traditional Persian dishes such as kabab, sultani steak and morgh chicken kabab, among others.
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Where We Are Going Today: 'Maraya Social' restaurant at AlUla
Atherton provides a set menu of European cuisine with inspiration derived from AlUla’s local produce. Guests can enjoy the freshness of the farm-to-table experience
Updated 20 March 2023
If you are planning to visit AlUla’s many wonders, especially the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hegra, do not miss out on the nearby mirrored Maraya and its rooftop restaurant, Maraya Social.
The establishment is one of chef Jason Atherton’s newest restaurants and offers a refined experience.
Atherton, a popular British chef, opened his flagship restaurant Pollen Street Social in 2011 in Mayfair, and earned a Michelin star within six months.
The Social Company, Atherton’s group, has since grown into a globally renowned name, with a portfolio of restaurants now including Maraya Social.
Atherton provides a set menu of European cuisine with inspiration derived from AlUla’s local produce. Guests can enjoy the freshness of the farm-to-table experience.
Our dinner kicked off with a welcome drink, a sparkling ginger kombucha, and freshly baked rosemary focaccia with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil for dipping.
We then had seasonal vegetables served with uniquely flavored dips, an Italian salad made with tomato cubes, black olives, basil leaves, and shallots, followed by salted baked beetroot with smoked goat’s cheese and gel made from AlUla’s oranges.
Our main dishes were a salmon confit served with Moroccan couscous, a tender and juicy beef rib-eye steak with peppercorn sauce, and roasted cauliflower risotto with a pistou of green vegetables and parmesan.
For dessert we were served the AlUla date and banana pudding topped with spiced toffee sauce and crispy caramelized hazelnut and gold flakes that complemented the luxurious vibe.
Our feast concluded with a delightful cheesecake topped with lemon jelly and a layer of meringue.
Surrounded by mountains and the magnificence of ancient AlUla, Maraya Social’s spectacular outdoor ambience is relaxing, featuring a view of starry night skies.
Check out its Instagram @marayasocial for updates.
First European Food Festival in Riyadh takes visitors on a culinary tour of Europe
Saudi Arabian Chefs Association hosts contest for Saudi and international cuisine
The participating countries at the festival presented visitors with an assortment of culinary specialities
Updated 20 March 2023
RIYADH: Riyadh’s first European Food Festival brought unique flavors and experiences to visitors who embarked on a culinary journey of Europe in the heart of Saudi Arabia.
Organized by the EU delegation in Riyadh, in cooperation with the various embassies of EU member states, the Saudi Commission for Culinary Arts, and the Diplomatic Quarter in Riyadh, the festival took place on March 16 and 17.
The festival was kicked off by Jaap Ora, project manager of the EU Embassy in Riyadh. In his speech, Ora expressed his joy at the organization of the event, which brings together several European countries to share their culinary traditions with their Saudi friends.
He mentioned loyal hotel partners, including the Hilton Hotel, the Radisson Blu Hotel and others, and expressed his gratitude to all the partners including the Saudi Arabian Chefs Association, the Culinary Arts Commission, and Mayada Badr and her team for their generous support of the initiative and for bringing a Saudi element, namely Saudi coffee, to the event.
Ora told Arab News: “The idea of such a festival was born out of the mutual love shared by Europeans and Saudis for good food as well as our desire to show the diversity and quality of European food and share the richness and refinement of European cuisine available in Saudi Arabia.”
The idea of such a festival was born out of the mutual love shared by Europeans and Saudis for good food as well as our desire to show the diversity and quality of European food and share the richness and refinement of European cuisine available in Saudi Arabia.
Jaap Ora, Deputy head of EU mission to KSA
He added: “Countries share their culture among themselves. Those who come to Saudi Arabia from abroad admire the Saudi culinary traditions and hospitality. Tonight, we invite you to be travelers visiting Europe, experiencing the richness of European cuisine.”
The participating countries at the festival presented visitors with an assortment of culinary specialities.
Belgium delighted visitors with tender, lightly caramelized Liège waffles. The Czech Republic highlighted the best cronuts in Prague from the Oh Deer Bakery, while Denmark brought forth juice and cake with dried fruits. The Netherlands prepared Dutch waffles for festival-goers, a favorite among children.
French restaurant Chez Bruno presented risotto, pasta, and pizza, as well as cool lemonade with cucumbers, and elderflower syrup, which tastes a bit like litchi and is known for its medicinal properties.
Several prominent French bakeries were present at the festival, including La Grenier à Pain, La Vie Claire, Fareen, and Eric Kayser with croissants stuffed with frangipane or pistachio cream, savory croissants, madeleines, quiche, brioche, meringues, and macarons. The Crêpe House was loved by adults and children alike, who patiently stood in line and appreciated and enjoyed the festival atmosphere with its international colors and smells.
Italy was strongly represented with a wide variety at the Eataly stand, from lasagnas, cannelloni, pizza, and unbeatable gelato that brought the flavors and colors of Italy to the Kingdom.
Riyadh’s first European Food Festival brought unique flavors and experiences to visitors who embarked on a culinary journey of Europe in the heart of Saudi Arabia. The festival, which took place on March 16 and 17, was organized by the European Union delegation in Riyadh, in cooperation with the Embassies of the EU member states, the Saudi Commission for Culinary Arts, and the Diplomatic Quarter.
The Spanish pavilion, Azura Tour de Espana, conquered visitors’ taste buds with its paella. Halal versions of wine and beer also sparked curiosity.
A Flamenco group performed to a lively repertoire of Spanish songs, and the atmosphere of the festival was elevated by the warm singing and the graceful dancing.
The Delta Cafe from Portugal offered a variety of dome-shaped lotus cakes. The famous Portuguese music group Al-Manata, formed by Portuguese expatriates who met in Saudi Arabia, also presented a set of Portuguese songs.
Yasser Jad, president of the Saudi Arabian Chefs Association and a consultant for the culinary hotel industry, explained the association’s competition, held in conjunction with the festival, to Arab News.
“It is a two-day competition sponsored by Tamimi Market and Qasr Al-Awani. There are two categories, one for traditional and modern Saudi cuisine and one for international cuisine since the ingredients for it come from countries in the EU,” he said.
“The chef/candidate must present a starter and a main. They have one hour to finalize and present their dishes.”
He added that a jury of two will give a score based on pre-defined criteria that they had decided upon.