Award-winning Bahraini chef Tala Bashmi looks to reinvent Gulf cuisine
The chef patronne at Fusions by Tala trained in Switzerland at the Michelin-starred Prisma
She was recently named Best Female Chef in the Middle East and North Africa by 50 Best
Updated 12 August 2022
TORONTO: For 33-year-old Tala Bashmi — chef patronne at Fusions by Tala in the Gulf Hotel, Manama — modernizing Bahraini and Khaleeji cuisine feels like a “responsibility.”
Bashmi grew up in Bahrain, and actually began her career at the Gulf Hotel, before heading to Switzerland to train at Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois and the Michelin-starred Prisma.
She returned to Bahrain in 2014 and worked her way up through the ranks at the Gulf Hotel to eventually head Fusions by Tala, where she’s determined to reinvent Gulf cuisine. She was recently named Best Female Chef in the Middle East and North Africa by 50 Best.
“I always saw a gap for a different version of Middle Eastern and Khaleeji cuisine,” Bashmi tells Arab News. “I want to compete on a global scale by elevating our cuisine technically, visually, and flavor-wise,” she says.
Here, Bashmi offers some advice and a delicious fish recipe to try at home.
What’s your top tip for amateur cooks?
Don’t rush things. For the first two years of my career, I wasn’t even allowed to cook. It was purely preparation. I believe all young chefs should start that way and not jump the gun. When you rush things, you end up burning something. You (eventually) want to combine perfection and speed, but speed alone is not beneficial.
Also, there’s nothing more dangerous than a dull knife. A dull knife will slip and, most likely, cause injury. So, invest in a good quality knife and keep it sharp.
What's one ingredient that can instantly improve any dish?
I can think of a few. There’s olive oil. And invest in good salt — not iodized table salt! Whenever I travel, I always get salt that’s local to the region. I’m a firm believer in the fact that the simplest local ingredients can elevate or transform a dish.
What is your favorite cuisine?
Currently, it's Korean. The entire experience of making your own Korean barbeque is fun. With its fermented and pickled elements, it relies heavily on the traditional umami taste, which I enjoy a lot.
What is your favorite dish to cook?
I really enjoy cooking seafood, especially when it's fresh from the market. I love clams. I make a type of curry that has clams and local crabs in it, which you leave to simmer on the stove. When you cook all day, every day, you want to make your meals quick and tasty.
What’s the most difficult dish you prepare?
Desserts at the restaurant have a lot of elements and are relatively time-consuming. There is the cooking, chilling, setting, assembling, and layering. I’d say my lavender dessert — lavender sponge, blueberry jelly, white-chocolate mousse, and lemon crème brûlée — is the most difficult to prepare.
What are you like in the kitchen? Are you a disciplinary or are you more laid-back?
I was lucky enough to work under a second chef who showed me that you can be kind, gentle, and forgiving in this environment, without being disrespected. So, I follow his example. I don’t like to put people down because everyone learns differently. I want my team to feel happy, comfortable, and confident when they come into the kitchen. Patience and learning to deal with different personalities are important.
Review: Sleep app Loóna will give you a restful night
Updated 12 August 2022
Having good, uninterrupted, and peaceful sleep is essential for proper health because that is when the body is in recovery mode, a good sleep, or lack of it, directly affects the immune system.
A lack of good sleep has become a common problem with the overuse of mobile phones and poor lifestyle choices.
I found an app that improved my quality of sleep so much. Loóna introduces calming activities to keep and hold your focus long enough to slow down your racing thoughts. It takes you to sleepscape visuals with the theme of your choice: Oriental garden, fairytale castle, legendary temple, serene glade, a secluded harbor at night, or tranquil suburbs.
The sleepscape sounds are divided into five categories: Nature (campfire, rustling leaves, nighttime), water (rain, waves, river), wildlife (chirps, cicadas, whales), urban (coffee shop, humming downtown), and ASMR (vinyl crackle, cat purring, raindrops). You can choose your narrative style: Realistic, fairytale, sentimental, mysterious, nostalgic, and adventure.
After choosing the preferred themes and sounds for the customized sleepscape, you set your sleep schedule, your bedtime, and when you wake up. It counts your sleep duration and starts powering down for bed around your desired bedtime.
So, if you choose to have your bedtime at 10:30 p.m. Loóna will gradually relax your mind around 9:30 p.m. through a wind-down zone. At 10:30 p.m., you leave your phone, stay away from bright lights, and fall asleep to the sleepscape stories. When you wake up at 8:00 a.m., you gently transition from being asleep to being awake. I enjoyed the interactive and calming activity the first time I used it. It was a 15-minute dive into Chinese myths and legends where I focused on coloring paper lanterns, origami birds, the shrine, and the dragon. It quietened my mind.
I played a calming story afterward and dozed off to sleep.
When you enter the glass doors of THAT Cafe in Riyadh, one word comes to mind: serenity. If you’re looking for a new place to have intimate discussions with friends, work remotely or even spend some alone time with a good book, this is your spot.
THAT Cafe, which opened in January of this year, is a specialty-driven coffee shop offering a diverse selection of drinks inspired by both Saudi and Japanese culture, ranging from traditional Saudi coffee to Bom Ji lattes.
You’re met with an endless array of local and international drinks and a full menu of drip coffee — your choice of single-sourced or limited yield — that you can top off with any plant-based or dairy milk.
The iced Saudi coffee is an option you won’t easily find anywhere else, as is the iced Hojicha latte, a type of Japanese green tea.
On the Zen garden-style upper floor, the ambiance is set by the melodic sounds of oud playing in the background.
The sleek coffee shop design and workspace tables make it perfect for any purpose, whether that’s work or pleasure.
THAT Cafe’s dessert menu makes it difficult to choose just one option. A must-try is their muhalabiya cheesecake — a piece of Middle Eastern heaven bursting with the flavor of sweet rose water.
As you leave, you’re welcome to take a small packet of fresh coffee to try later — all you have to do is add water, and you can enjoy the taste of THAT Cafe from the comfort of your own home.
They offer interesting fruit-mixes in their teas too, such as mango, grapefruit, lemon, and peach passionfruit to go with green and black tea
Updated 07 August 2022
Bubble tea is my favorite drink whatever the season, and Chatime is one of the most popular bubble tea shops in Jeddah, with a branch in Jeddah International Market in Al-Rawdah district, and another in Corniche Center in Al-Balad.
Chatime offers a variety of milk teas, fresh teas, espresso, fruit teas, tea lattes, smoothies and juices, using real tea leaves.
The milk tea flavors include Chatime milk tea, pearl milk tea (with brown sugar as an option), taro milk tea, taro red bean milk tea, superior cocoa, grass jelly milk tea, jasmine green milk tea, winter melon milk tea, QQ milk tea, hazelnut milk tea, and cocoa hazelnut milk tea.
They also offer mousse in jasmine green tea, black tea, matcha, and chocolate.
Their fresh teas and refreshing juices include jasmine green tea, black tea, lemon juice, winter melon dew, and winter lemon juice.
Chatime also offers smoothies in different flavors, such as mango, passionfruit, coffee, matcha red bean, chocolate, banana and chocolate, peach, strawberry, and mango with banana.
They offer interesting fruit-mixes in their teas too, such as mango, grapefruit, lemon, and peach passionfruit to go with green and black tea.
Chatime also offers fruity, chewy toppings, including Taiwan mango, passionfruit, grapefruit, lemon, peach, grass jelly with milk, and winter melon with milk.
Their coffee options include superior blended coffee, americano, lattes, cappuccinos, and mochas.
My favorite drink at Chatime is the taro milk tea with tapioca pearls, because taro has such a unique, balanced flavor — not too sweet but not at all bitter. The tapioca pearls are satisfyingly chewy, and add so much to the experience.
Where We Are Going Today: Siblings Restaurant and Cafe
The outlet is open daily from 8:15 a.m. to 12 a.m., and until 1 a.m. on Thursdays and Fridays
Updated 05 August 2022
Breakfast is one of the most popular meals of the day for bringing families together, and Siblings Restaurant and Cafe in Jeddah is a well-known meeting place for brekkies, and brunch.
Established in 2019 by siblings Tarek, Ibrahim, Farah, Haneen, and Talal Naaman, the eatery offers a varied menu to suit most palates.
Located on Al-Imam Malik Road in the Red Sea port city’s Al-Rawdah district, the premises provide a relaxed environment to gather with friends and family, with white walls, wooden floors, tables, chairs, and mirror frames, and decorative pieces. Coffee and food are served by friendly staff using pink and blue mugs and plates.
My sister and I enjoyed a breakfast of black truffle toast; a brioche with scrambled eggs infused with truffle oil and a mix of mozzarella and parmesan cheese topped with fresh black truffle and black grape juice.
We shared the restaurant’s popular vanilla French toast for dessert, with a top-notch cappuccino.
The outlet is open daily from 8:15 a.m. to 12 a.m., and until 1 a.m. on Thursdays and Fridays.