Demand for local Saudi dish balila rises during Ramadan

Demand for local Saudi dish balila rises during Ramadan
Short Url
Updated 30 April 2022

Demand for local Saudi dish balila rises during Ramadan

Demand for local Saudi dish balila rises during Ramadan

JEDDAH: Balila is a popular Arab dish, widely spread among Arab societies, especially in the Levant, Iraq, Egypt, and the Hijaz region of the Kingdom.
The dish consists mainly of boiled chickpeas, cumin, vinegar, pickled cucumber and other spices.
It is often sold on carts by street vendors who roam neighborhoods, or can be found near local shopping malls.
Arab News spoke to Abeer Sinan, 55, who has been making and selling the dish for around a decade.
She said balila is consumed at other times of the year as well, but the dish gains in popularity in the holy month.
“The Hijaz region is famous for balila, and it is associated with beautiful memories especially in Jeddah,” she said.
“Every year in Ramadan, the balila season really begins in Qabil Street in Al-Balad,” she added.
The vendor usually wears traditional Hijazi attire like an ommah (scarf), vest, and foutah (a garment wrapped around the hips), and chants witty phrases about the product to attract customers.
Sinan said the benefits of balila are plenty because chickpeas are wholegrain and loaded
with minerals.
“Don’t you see the Levants eat chickpeas all the time? The first thing is that these are whole grains, they are not peeled or anything. All their components in them are known to help in losing weight and reduce sugar in the blood,” she said.
“It also supports the digestive tract, contains many vitamins and minerals that give the body strength and increases energy and activity, and also improves the mood,”
she added.
She said while every balila maker gives their own twist to recipes, most do try to present it in its most traditional way.
“Of course, balila is great
when it is presented in its traditional form. It is visually pleasing. I always try to present it in its traditional way as much as I can,” she said.
Although balila’s popularity rises during Ramadan, Sinan plans to open a shop that sells the dish all year round.


Luna Reef brings unique cuisines from around the world to Jeddah’s dining table

Luna Reef brings unique cuisines from around the world to Jeddah’s dining table
Updated 29 June 2022

Luna Reef brings unique cuisines from around the world to Jeddah’s dining table

Luna Reef brings unique cuisines from around the world to Jeddah’s dining table
  • The chefs from each restaurant are working hard to move their locales to a more permanent spot
  • Hoping to be part of already growing collection of superb restaurants in Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: Luna Reef Restaurants, located inside the Jeddah Yacht Club, has brought together five restaurants, each boasting authenticity and class and offering the best view of the sea in town: Italian restaurants Madeo and Le Vesuvio, French fine-dining restaurant Le Comptoir De Nicole, Sri Lankan eatery Hoppers, and pizza place Emmy Squared Pizza.

The chefs from each restaurant are working hard to move their locales to a more permanent spot so they can be a part of the already growing collection of superb restaurants in the Kingdom.

Daniel Lewis, the executive branch chef for Emmy Squared Pizza, said that they are always open to trying new things. The pizza parlor recently came up with the “Loaded Ronni” pizza, given the Saudi predilection for pepperoni pizza.

The pizzeria is a must-try for those who enjoy comfort food. The pizzas are baked in a square tin tray that is coated with brown butter. The spongy dough pairs sublimely with the mozzarella cheese, baked to golden perfection.

FASTFACT

French restaurant Le Comptoir De Nicole gets its name from old French; the word “comptoir” today is used to describe a casual, relaxed dining setting.

“In America, they call this kind of pizza a pie, and if you speak to an Italian chef, they are going to tell you it is not a pizza. However, the quality of the ingredients that we use is what matters the most. We get ourselves the best ingredients that we can globally, so that is what sets us apart from the run-of-the-mill pizza,” Lewis said.

Some of the ingredients used in the pizza are shipped here from Italy to ensure they are the best in the market. The chef said that they were still working to put a Saudi twist on things.

“I have some Middle Eastern experience, but this year I am going to dive much deeper into the culture and try to adapt some of our recipes and offerings to the people here. While doing that, we still want to maintain the award-winning standard that we have set.”

When asked about his favorite aspect of the restaurant, he said it is a perfect setting for groups: “It is all about sharing. It is very relaxed.”

Madeo, for its part, does not just represent Italian food but the legacy of an Italian family. It is owned and run by Alfio Vietina and his wife Elvira Buffoni. For over 35 years, they have been creating recipes and plan to hand them down to the coming generations.

For Madeo, the main idea is not to put a twist on Italian food but to remain consistent and deliver the same food in Jeddah as is served in their branch in Los Angeles.

FASTFACT

The square pizza trend caught on with mechanics in Detroit, as they would keep screws and other smaller components in similar tin boxes; later, they would take them home and bake pizzas in them.

“We must follow the recipe, and every day we try and make the best version of it. We are very excited to give our guests an Italian fine-dining experience,” said Davide Figliolini, executive chef of Madeo.

The restaurant has kept its food simple yet delicious, so it appeals to all palates.

Customers of French eatery Le Comptoir De Nicole, meanwhile, say it is the “perfect place to fall in love” with its beautiful view of the nightly fireworks. It presents the signature dishes of Nicole Rubi, who has managed to capture the spirit of Nice, located on the French Riviera, in her culinary creations. Their burrata fraiche and Wagyu beef tagliata are among the restaurant’s best sellers.

Head Chef Joginder Dham said: “The coast of Jeddah is the perfect setting for the bright and cheerful Comptoir de Nicole. I am happy to bring Mediterranean classics to the Red Sea.”


Saudi Arabia investment gives yoga a new twist

The Saudi Yoga Committee aims to increase the number of yoga centers and studios in all cities of the Kingdom. (Supplied)
The Saudi Yoga Committee aims to increase the number of yoga centers and studios in all cities of the Kingdom. (Supplied)
Updated 26 June 2022

Saudi Arabia investment gives yoga a new twist

The Saudi Yoga Committee aims to increase the number of yoga centers and studios in all cities of the Kingdom. (Supplied)
  • Training academies, modern studios to promote sport in Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: Yoga — an ancient art, science and sport combined — is getting a modern twist as Saudi Arabia begins planning specialist academies and training institutes to cater for the growing community of devotees in the Kingdom.

As part of the 8th International Yoga Day, the Saudi Yoga Committee, in cooperation with the Ministry of Sport, launched its own page on the Nafes platform to encourage investment in yoga by opening halls, academies and institutes to train instructors, and to speed up the issuing of licenses for studios and centers.

“Due to the strong demand for yoga in the Kingdom, the committee aims to increase the number of yoga centers and studios in all cities so that it is easier to access and practice yoga,” said Nouf Al-Marwaai, president of the Saudi Yoga Committee.

HIGHLIGHT

As part of the 8th International Yoga Day, the Saudi Yoga Committee, in cooperation with the Ministry of Sport, launched its own page on the Nafes platform to encourage investment in yoga by opening halls, academies and institutes to train instructors, and to speed up the issuing of licenses for studios and centers.

Al-Marwaai said that these services and centers are concentrated in the main cities, but growing demand has recently been noticed in southern regions in Asir and Abha, in the north in Tabuk and Hail, and in the west in Makkah and Madinah, Yanbu and Rabigh, as well as in smaller cities such as Al-Aflaj and on the outskirts of the Riyadh region.

“They all have a community of yoga instructors and practitioners,” she said.

Nouf Al-Marwaai, president of the Saudi Yoga Committee.

Al-Marwaai said that the committee has launched other initiatives to promote yoga sports in Saudi Arabia.

“In addition to registering yogaasana players in the Saudi Yoga Committee, and issuing licenses to yoga trainers and teachers in cooperation with the Ministry of Sport on the Nafes platform, we are also inviting all yoga practitioners to participate in the first professional yogasana competition in the Kingdom,” she said.

“The aim of the competition is to create a platform for yoga professionals in the Kingdom, and expand the concept of yoga tournaments and competitions, as the Saudi Yoga Committee cooperates with International bodies such as the Asian Yogasana Sports Federation and the World Yogasana Sports Federation to form local, regional and international championships.”

The competition will be a traditional yogasana competition, consisting of three compulsory poses. The first three winners will be honored with financial prizes and will be added to the Saudi Yoga Committee as professional players.

Entrants simply post a 10-second video while holding the pose on Instagram or Twitter, mentioning the Saudi Yoga Committee account and the following hashtags #Saudi_Yoga_Competition.

Al-Marwaai said that the competition will encourage the practice of different types of yoga.

The competition began on June 21 and results will be announced on July 3.

“The Saudi Yoga Committee expects a great response to these initiatives due to a large number of yoga lovers, practitioners and trainers in the Kingdom,” she said.

Recently, Al-Marwaai was a guest of the Embassy of India in Riyadh, while Saudi Yoga Committee CEO Ahmed Al-Saadi attended a ceremony at the Indian Consulate in Jeddah.


Is there a future for psychedelic treatment in Saudi Arabia?

Saudi well-being practitioner and psychedelic integration specialist Haya Al-Hejailan. (Supplied)
Saudi well-being practitioner and psychedelic integration specialist Haya Al-Hejailan. (Supplied)
Updated 25 June 2022

Is there a future for psychedelic treatment in Saudi Arabia?

Saudi well-being practitioner and psychedelic integration specialist Haya Al-Hejailan. (Supplied)
  • Haya Al-Hejailan wants to open a clinic and to see Saudi pioneer in psychedelic research

RIYADH: Psychedelic researcher Stanislov Grof once wrote that “psychedelics, used responsibly and with proper caution, would be for psychiatry what the microscope is for biology and medicine or the telescope is for astronomy.”

To many, this may sound like an outlandish claim, but now more than ever, it is proving to be true and may very well become a frontier in practicing medicine.

Saudi Arabia was enduring a mental health epidemic and the psychological strains of the pandemic exacerbated that. People are finding themselves desperate for ways to cope. One of the most recent psychotherapy methods in the region, albeit stigmatized, is psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. A recent study published by Neuropsychopharmacology showed that the substances were proven to achieve positive long-term mental health effects and their efficiency, safety and tolerability in treating major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and certain addictions.

I get more people contacting me asking me how they can receive this treatment, and it’s really heartbreaking to tell them, I’m sorry, but you’re gonna have to wait. It’s not available yet.

Haya Al-Hejailan, Saudi well-being practitioner and psychedelic integration specialist

It is also associated with enhancing creativity and problem-solving, according to an article published by the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs in 2019.

While the stigma around mind-altering substances, both in the region and globally, is unavoidable, researchers and scientists argue that if these drugs are regulated and used purely for medicinal reasons, what is the harm?

The term “psychedelics,” a class of hallucinogens, comes from the Greek words “psyche,” meaning the mind, and “delia,” meaning manifesting. The psychoactive substances are meant to alter the mind and create an alternative cognitive perception.

Psychedelics are classified into classical, which includes lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), psilocybin (commonly known as magic mushrooms), mescaline and others, and non-classical, such as methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA or ecstasy) and ketamine.

“(They’re) really great tools for us being able to understand the brain and the study of consciousness better,” Saudi well-being practitioner and psychedelic integration specialist Haya Al-Hejailan told Arab News. Her work centers on psychedelic research and the treatment of borderline personality disorder.

This point may seem counterintuitive: How can addiction be treated with a substance that may cause another addiction? But psychedelics are, in fact, anti-addictive in nature.

“They have anti-addictive properties, meaning they don’t constitute physiological addiction, but one can become psychologically addicted to anything,” said Al-Hejailan, refererring to non-substance addictions such as coffee or mobile devices.

However, the use of psychedelics can pose certain dangers, making it crucial to undergo treatment strictly under professional medical supervision, which can only be accessible through clinics. Psychedelic therapists are trained to create a controlled environment for patients undergoing psychedelic therapy, with sessions prior to administering the treatment dose to identify any red flags or possible risks that would otherwise create a larger margin of error. Patients who self-dose could potentially be subject to health risks, retraumatization, depersonalization and dissociation.

“I get more people contacting me asking me how they can receive this treatment, and it’s really heartbreaking to tell them, ‘I'm sorry, but you’re gonna have to wait. It’s not available yet,’” Al-Hejailan said. “But I’m optimistic with highlighting the word ‘yet.’”

An article published by The Lancet showed that most antidepressants are ineffective and can be harmful to adolescents and children.

In an attempt to fulfill that medical need, several research efforts and trials have been unertaken to evaluate alternative routes, such as psychedelic-assisted therapy.

A study published by the National Library of Medicine found that small IV doses of ketamine can have positive, long-lasting antidepressant effects in patients. Although the scientific research regarding psychotherapeutic psychedelic use in the region is insufficient, Saudi Arabia has been easing its way into their use use for other purposes. Last year, the Saudi Journal of Emergency Medicine published a paper describing a successful case of refractory status epilepsy, a life-threatening condition, in a child treated with a single dose of ketamine.

Despite its growing popularity in mainstream media, psychedelic science is one of the cutting-edge neurosciences, yielding insufficient research compared to other sciences. The 1950s saw the first English-language report published on LSD, and research continued into Richard Nixon’s US presidential term, ending in the 70s. However, research efforts were quickly banned under the justification of the war on drugs as a public enemy declared by the US president. However, it was supported by other factors, such as the lack of funding for psychedelic research and failed medical trials, according to an article published by the Cambridge University Press.

That area of medicine was considered niche until recently. In 2017, MDMA was given “breakthrough therapy” designation by the Food and Drug Administration, meaning it was granted an expedited review process. In 2018, the FDA granted a group of psychiatrists researching psilocybin-assisted therapy for treatment-resistant depression the same status.

In the same year, Michael Pollan’s book “How to Change Your Mind” created a public space for people to think differently about psychedelics and the consciousness expansion of the mind. Ketamine was granted the same status a year later. Arguably, that is when psychedelics hit the mainstream, although its resurgence into clinical research and trials resumed in the 1990s.

“(Before that) I was met with a lot of skepticism. People literally thought I was talking about something that’s crazy,” Al-Hejailan said in reference to discussing psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy before 2018.

“There’s a lot of interest, enthusiasm and curiosity that I’m met with now when I talk about my work.”

With a master’s in applied positive psychology and coaching psychology from the University of East London, Al-Hejailan’s work also includes positive psychology integration and psychedelic education, providing training in psychedelic therapy and ketamine-assisted psychotherapy. She also co-directed and co-produced a documentary titled “Psychedelic Renaissance,” centered on the reemergence of the psychedelic movement globally and its cultural significance.

Al-Hejailan said that raising awareness about psychedelic studies was the first step in creating a regional environment that allows for alternative psychotherapy methods.

“I think we need to, in general, focus more of our energy and attention on psychoeducation, educating the public about mental health and well-being. The more we do that, the more people are likely to continue becoming accepting and interested,” she said.

Future steps to normalize the use of psychoactive drugs include active training for clinicians and therapists on their uses and benefits and eventually establishing specialized clinics and research centers.

“My goal is to have presentations specifically on psychotherapy and to meet with therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists and other physicians, and policymakers at some point. To show them what’s happening abroad, what the science shows and to discuss how we can replicate this here in a safe way that respects our culture and that respects our specific or unique needs,” Al-Hejailan said.

“I really want to open a clinic and research center here. Me and my colleagues would very much love to see Saudi pioneer in psychedelic research in the region, and maybe globally.”


From world firsts to rare nods, chefs of Dubai’s Michelin-starred restaurants celebrate big wins

From world firsts to rare nods, chefs of Dubai’s Michelin-starred restaurants celebrate big wins
Updated 29 June 2022

From world firsts to rare nods, chefs of Dubai’s Michelin-starred restaurants celebrate big wins

From world firsts to rare nods, chefs of Dubai’s Michelin-starred restaurants celebrate big wins

DUBAI: From the world’s first unlicensed restaurant to be awarded a Michelin star to one of the rare Indian eateries to get a nod, Dubai is now home to a host of Michelin-starred dining spots.

Arab News caught up with a number of the restaurants’ chefs to find out how they plan to celebrate and whether this means the heat in the kitchen is about to get hotter.

The chefs of 11 Woodfire, Torno Subito, Tresind Studio, and Armani/Ristorante, which all gained one star, described how it felt to be internationally recognized after it was recently announced that 11 restaurants in Dubai received a Michelin star — nine places won one star, while two restaurants received two stars.

11 Woodfire’s chef Akmal Anuar

 

 


The restaurant, located in Jumeirah, is the first unlicensed eatery to win a Michelin Guide star.

Its chef Akmal Anuar described the achievement as “huge.”

He said: “For me being Muslim, and to achieve this and to be on stage with everybody else, proves that nothing is impossible. I feel overwhelmed. I am very, very happy.”

Anuar plans to celebrate the milestone with his team next week.

“We will shut down one day and buy a cake. We will sit down, have a motivational speech, and get ready for the new era. This (win) wasn’t just me; it was my team. They all worked very hard for it,” he added.

11 Woodfire offers dishes such as black Angus steak, jumbo prawns with brown butter, Japanese eggplant, and Chilean sea bass, while priding itself on being committed to zero waste and following sustainable practices.

Torno Subito’s chef Bernardo Paladini

 

 

 

 


Chef Bernardo Paladini’s intention with Torno Subito, located in the Palm Jumeirah, was “to have fun and to open an audacious Italian restaurant with great food, quality ingredients, and vibrancy.”

He said: “In all honesty, this completely caught us by surprise. We really did not expect it and it is a result of four years of hard work. I feel elated, excited, and proud. I still cannot believe it.”

The chef gave credit to his team and pointed out that the award was not just for him, but for the hardworking staff that helped him on a daily basis.

Being a Michelin-star restaurant will not make Paladini change the concept of his eatery, or the prices.

“We will stay true to the roots of Torno Subito and maintain the restaurant’s identity. Pressure is good and we are very conscious of what it means to have a Michelin star and will do everything to maintain it,” he added.

Paladini’s recommendation to diners is to try the restaurant’s tasting menu which includes all of its signature dishes such as cocktail di gamberi, rock lobster roll, and Japanese beef.

Being an internationally recognized cook, the chef’s top tip for amateur cooks was to experiment. “Everyone can cook good food, but when you are able to show emotion and passion in the food, this is what makes all the difference.”

Tresind Studio’s chef Himanshu Saini

 

 

 

 


Not many Indian restaurants have Michelin stars and that is what makes Nakheel Mall's Tresind Studio’s chef Himanshu Saini proud.

He said: “It feels surreal. Being among the few Indian restaurants in the world to have a star is a great feeling. We strive to break perceptions and showcase Indian food with a different perspective.”

The recognition has fueled up the chef and his team who now feel motivated to work harder. He wasted no time and immediately celebrated the award with his team after the Tuesday awards ceremony event at the Dubai Opera.

Talent may be important for chefs, but Saini pointed out that hard work beats it. “Work hard because that is the only way you can evolve as a chef,” he added.

He noted that the bar of expectation from his diners had now been raised.

“It is a good thing because it only motivates us and keeps us on our toes to keep evolving,” he said.

Tresind Studio has previously won the art of hospitality gong at the inaugural Middle East and North Africa’s 50 Best Restaurants 2022 awards by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

 

 

Armani/Ristorante’s chef Giovanni Papi

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by GIOVANNI M. PAPI (@gsupapi)

 

Armani/Ristorante restaurant is at Dubai’s Armani hotel.

The eatery’s chef Giovanni Papi said he feels “extremely proud and emotional as a Michelin star is a dream that each chef chases.

“We knew that Armani /Ristorante was invited for the Michelin guide revelation but (weren’t) sure about the outcome for our restaurant. But I feel confident that we are delivering the outstanding service and culinary experience at Armani/Ristorante all the time,” he told Arab News.

The restaurant, which dishes up modern Italian cooking in a luxurious atmosphere, is known for its signature dishes such as agnolotti del plin, a pasta typical of the Piedmont region of Italy, fish dish filetto di scorfano and agnello al mirto, a lamb dish.

If you plan to book a table at the newly crowned Michelin-starred restaurant, the chef suggests the signature chlorophyll risotto and Sicilian red prawns, along with the Armani/Ristorante La Sfera dessert.

 


Lebanese chef Alan Geaam: From below zero to hot property in France’s culinary scene

Lebanese chef Alan Geaam: From below zero to hot property in France’s culinary scene
Updated 25 June 2022

Lebanese chef Alan Geaam: From below zero to hot property in France’s culinary scene

Lebanese chef Alan Geaam: From below zero to hot property in France’s culinary scene
  • The Tripoli native arrived in France in 1999 with 30 Euros. He now runs a Michelin-starred restaurant

PARIS: Chef Alan Geaam has two flags sewn onto the collar of his white coat: The Lebanese — representing his homeland, where his love of cooking began — and the French, symbolizing the fact that Paris has been his adopted home for the past two decades, the city where his dreams came true.  

Geaam grew up in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli during Lebanon’s disastrous Civil War. His mother’s cooking provided some respite from the horrors.

“Despite the war, my mother was always cooking over a pot, adding spices, and the smell of the food would emerge,” Geaam tells Arab News. “Everything that we lost in the war was compensated with my mother’s cooking.” 

In 2017, Geaam opened Restaurant Alan Geaam. (Anthony Rahayel)

From a young age, Geaam had high ambitions. “French food is internationally famous. I would see it in magazines and on the television, and I said to myself that someday I would go to Paris and learn,” he said. “Some children want to go to the moon or be Superman. I wanted to learn about cooking in Paris.”

Within his family, some members of which were engineers or doctors, there was skepticism about Geaam’s career choice.

“I told my mother that I wanted to become a chef,” he says. “(I explained that) in France, a chef is very respected, like a lawyer or a doctor.”

Geaam finally made his life-changing move to the French capital in 1999, when he was in his twenties. It was anything but easy. He traveled by himself, he didn’t speak French, he didn’t know anyone, and his visa was valid for just seven days.

“I had 200 Francs — that’s 30 Euros — in my pocket,” Geaam recalls.

Alan Geaam is a fine-dining concept that presents Lebanese cuisine in a sophisticated French style. (Anthony Rahayel)

He landed his first day job cleaning out workshops, in which he also slept. At night, he worked in a Lebanese snack bar, helping out and learning from the chef, until one day things took a turn.

“The chef didn’t come to work and I said, ‘This is my opportunity.’ I jumped right into cooking and did the service,” said Geaam. 

Over time, Geaam’s situation slowly improved. Aside from his professional growth, he received a residency permit and started teaching himself French by reading books. He also changed his name — from Azzam to Alan. “It was easier for people to pronounce,” he says. “Honestly, I didn’t have confidence in my story. I didn’t learn at school and I was ashamed of that. Eighteen years later, I broke that barrier and I’m proud of my story.” He adds that he hopes others will find inspiration in that story.

Geaam’s Qasti Shawarma & Grill is a casual diner. (Sadik Sans Voltaire)

“I was a young Lebanese man with no money and no education,” he says. “I started from zero — even below zero. All of us can reach our goals, but we need to wake up in the morning, work hard, and not give up.” 

In 2017, Geaam opened Restaurant Alan Geaam, a fine-dining concept that presents Lebanese cuisine in a sophisticated French style. The following year, something of a miracle happened. “I got a phone call at 6:30 and they told me, ‘Welcome to the Michelin family. You got a star this year,’” he said. 

In the country that has the most Michelin-starred restaurants, Geaam claims he is the first Lebanese chef to have his restaurant attain the most-coveted honor in the gastronomic world. The French press has taken note too; Geaam has received mentions in Le Figaro and Libération.

Hummus at Qasti Bistro. (Suppplied)

“It’s a dream to open a restaurant, but what’s even nicer is when you open a restaurant that gets a Michelin star,” he says. “It’s proof that your food is delicious and you’re clever.”

Geaam has also set up a number of casual eateries in the city’s third arrondisement — Qasti Bistro, Qasti Shawarma and Grill, and Saj, la Galette Libanaise — as well as a small food store, Le Doukane, providing products imported from Lebanon, combining to create what Geaam calls “a Lebanese neighborhood.”

With its authentic Levantine flavors and generous hospitality, Qasti Bistro has proven very popular and is often packed with customers munching on warm shawarmas, falafel sandwiches, or hummus.The wavy blue patterns of its interior are reminiscent of the Mediterranean waters off Lebanon.

Geaam clearly likes to keep busy. Aside from his Parisian enterprises, he recently launched a new branch of Qasti in the coastal town of Marseille. With an autobiography/recipe book in the making as well, it seems Geaam’s story is only just beginning.