Where We are Going Today: Asrar Al-Nakha

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Updated 22 May 2022

Where We are Going Today: Asrar Al-Nakha

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  • The most exciting aspect of this restaurant is that it features dishes with authentic tastes that people grew up eating at their mother’s table

Sometimes you long for the food that your mother used to prepare when you were growing up. Luckily, Asrar Al-Nakha restaurant in Jeddah will transport you back to those days.

Hijazi mothers manage Asrar Al-Nakha, and every meal they serve is like a warm hug.

The restaurant specializes in homemade saleeg, a well-known dish in Saudi Arabia that consists of rice mixed with milk and boiled chicken.

Biriyani, the traditional Indian dish made from rice and chicken, is also on offer.

Asrar Al-Nakha has an unmissable dish consisting of steamed potato balls with a crispy texture and served with distinctive sauces.

There is also a selection of samboosas suitable for gatherings, such as beef, cheese, chicken, and spring rolls.

Of course, stuffed and rolled vine leaves are another familiar favorite dish from the region and at Asrar Al-Nakha they are a must-try.

The restaurant serves musakhan, a Palestinian dish made of sumac chicken and caramelized onions that look like spring rolls. This appetizer is a winner.

Desserts are not available, but on seasonal occasions like Eid, the restaurant has a special Hijazi sweet treat called debyaza made from nuts and qamaruddin.

The most exciting aspect of this restaurant is that it features dishes with authentic tastes that people grew up eating at their mother’s table.

And its slogan - “The secret of luxurious taste in the hands of women” - is no lie when it comes to the taste of its traditional plates.

The team specializes in buffets and can serve hearty spreads for any home event.

Another distinctive feature of the restaurant is its express and singular nature. It has no tables, only does takeout, and only has one branch in Jeddah in the city’s Al-Marwa district.

For more information about the restaurant, find it on Instagram @flavors_secrets.


Saudi nutritionist uses his weight loss journey to inspire others

The weight-loss milestones of 24-year-old Salam Farid Aazam has been a motivation for many wishing to achieve their weight goal.
The weight-loss milestones of 24-year-old Salam Farid Aazam has been a motivation for many wishing to achieve their weight goal.
Updated 17 August 2022

Saudi nutritionist uses his weight loss journey to inspire others

The weight-loss milestones of 24-year-old Salam Farid Aazam has been a motivation for many wishing to achieve their weight goal.
  • Durham University graduate talks up need for Saudi culture not to conflate its famed generosity with food

RIYADH: Unhealthy food and fitness habits are on the rise among Saudi youth, and maintaining a healthy weight has become a concern.

The weight-loss milestones of 24-year-old Salam Farid Aazam has been a motivation for many wishing to achieve their weight goal.

Aazam’s priority is maintaining a healthy lifestyle. He lost 25 kg through his balanced habits, which have been cultivated through his educational experience in human nutrition and behavioral science.

Now, he has a mission to help others bury their weakening cycles of poor habits.

FASTFACTS

• Salam Farid Aazam’s priority is maintaining a healthy lifestyle. He lost 25 kg through his balanced habits, which have been cultivated through his educational experience in human nutrition and behavioral science.

• Now, he has a mission to help others bury their weakening cycles of poor habits.

Aazam created his consultation platform, Sehha W Salam, two months ago.

“Sehha W Salam is a platform that’s trying to improve the overall health of people in society through personal consultations tailored to them,” Aazam told Arab News.

“Consultants will try to enhance the behaviors and nutrition of people who come. They will try to understand the issues people are struggling with,” he said.

Qualified consultants create an in-depth case study of clients’ issues. Nutritional meal plans, exercises, and a combination of behavioral consultations are then applied, with prices dependent on how complex a case is.

“I am a registered associate nutritionist from the Association of Nutrition in the UK. I might recruit more qualified people with both qualifications in behavioral science and nutrition,” he said.

“The most convenient way of reaching me is through Instagram which is @sehhawsalam. Consultations will be held virtually over any video meeting platforms, or we can do it by visiting each other.”

Aazam started his journey in the UK after high school. He was inspired to study nutrition because he was overweight during his adolescence.

“I thought of studying nutrition because I used to be overweight (at) around 13 years old. I was suffering from it. It affected me in terms of confidence in myself, my general well-being, I was shy, I was not socializing in general. I thought ‘I need to make a decision because I am not who I am’,” he said.

“I stayed at home all the time and played PlayStation and video games. I used to eat a lot, all the time, and I was unaware of my health. I used to play center back, the defending position in football, from primary school until I was 14. My colleagues and football team members (then) told me I need to play as a goalkeeper — I am not giving a bad impression of being a goalkeeper, but it’s usually given to people who don’t give a good impression of running. I was feeling rejected,” he explained.

Website surfing and Instagram accounts with nutritional information were the first source of awareness for Aazam’s weight loss, before expanding his passion for nutrition at university.

“I chose Kingston University. I did my bachelor’s of science in human nutrition, and I was one of the top students in (the) university,” he said.

Azam complemented his bachelor’s with a master’s degree in behavioral sciences at Durham, one of the UK’s leading universities.

“We learned a lot about behavioral aspects of psychology. Choice architecture is a concept that looks at whether items are on an eye-level,” he said. “Changing the position of these unhealthy food products affects people’s choices. They crave these foods when they see it.”

Losing weight was difficult at first for Aazam, especially without surgical intervention. His focus on food quality, avoiding fast food, and exercising gave a positive turn in all aspects surrounding his life.

“After I lost weight, I couldn’t describe how comfortable I felt. I started socializing, anticipating. I became very confident in myself. I started joining societies, leading them, going into positions of trust, and all of that. Nutrition can help people achieve their best,” said Aazam.

Generosity is a key component of Saudi culture, and Aazam believes that generosity and showing appreciation should not always be correlated with food — gratitude can be expressed in many ways. Food for him is not always for pleasure, but instead, mostly for survival.

“Saudi society is generous and we conflate it with food. I see people providing a generous quantity of food to guests, and they are treating it as generosity, which isn’t always healthy,” he said.

“Today’s doll-like body standards can be dangerous,” he added.

Aazam said he places an importance in a Hadith that translates as: “No man fills a container worse than his stomach. A few morsels that keep his back upright are sufficient for him. If he has to, then he should keep one-third for food, one-third for water and one-third for breathing.”

He greatly appreciates the Kingdom’s efforts in looking out for the health of people in Saudi Arabia.

“I am really glad I am helping my country. Saudi Arabia is doing a really great job at the moment, especially in the health field. I am very proud to be Saudi, and I also look forward to improving my community and taking pride in doing so,” he said.

 


Award-winning Bahraini chef Tala Bashmi looks to reinvent Gulf cuisine

Award-winning Bahraini chef Tala Bashmi looks to reinvent Gulf cuisine
Updated 12 August 2022

Award-winning Bahraini chef Tala Bashmi looks to reinvent Gulf cuisine

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

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. 

Fusions by Tala in the Gulf Hotel, Manama. (Supplied)

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.

Tala Bashmi's Seabream Carpaccio. (Supplied)

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. 

RECIPE: Chef Tala’s pan-seared faskar with vine leaf risotto

Ingredients

90g Faskar fillet; salt; pepper; 30g butter; 3g thyme; turmeric (optional); 150g of Arborio rice; 20g onion (finely chopped); 70g vine leaves; 10g lime juice; 10g parmesan cheese; cooking oil; vegetable stock or water

 

Instructions (fish):

Pat your fillets to dry them. Season with salt, pepper, and turmeric (optional).

Heat a non-stick pan to almost smoking point. Add 2 tbsp of oil per fillet.

Place the fillet (skin side) with a weight on top.

Cook for one minute, until skin is golden-brown. 

Turn the heat to low, add thyme and 10g of butter. 

The residual heat will finish cooking the fish (time depends on thickness of fillets)

 

Instructions (risotto):

On low-medium heat, melt 10g butter in a pan, add onion, sauté until translucent. 

Stir rice into the mix.

And one ladle of veg stock (or water) at a time, making sure broth is fully absorbed.

Meanwhile, blanch the vine leaves in hot water for one minute or until softened. Finely chop.

Cook risotto for 20 minutes, stirring regularly. It should be al dente, but creamy.

Add remaining butter, cheese, vine leaves, salt, and lime juice. 

Serve hot.


Review: Sleep app Loóna will give you a restful night

Review: Sleep app Loóna will give you a restful night
Updated 12 August 2022

Review: Sleep app Loóna will give you a restful night

Review: Sleep app Loóna will give you a restful night

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.


Where We Are Going Today: THAT Cafe

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Updated 09 August 2022

Where We Are Going Today: THAT Cafe

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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.


Where We Are Going Today: Chatime

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Updated 07 August 2022

Where We Are Going Today: Chatime

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  • They offer interesting fruit-mixes in their teas too, such as mango, grapefruit, lemon, and peach passionfruit to go with green and black tea

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.