Upon entering Dhahran’s Tamimi Markets, known locally by its former name, Safeway, you’ll see Quantum Specialty Coffee directly to the left of the entrance.
One of the things I craved most after returning to live in Dhahran after nearly a decade abroad was boba. I struggled to find a good spot locally, so decided to try to make my own — a time-consuming and messy process.
When Quantum Specialty Coffee opened up, I had hope that I could once again sip my favorite dessert in a cup. I could purchase my groceries at the store and then take a boba to-go to sip in the car on the way home after shopping.
The first time I tried Quantum’s brown sugar boba, it wasn’t a smash hit. The tapioca balls were knotted into one large goopy mess in the bottom of the cup and I had a hard time getting the balls to emerge from the milky liquid.
I thought maybe it was just bad luck so gave it another shot. Since then, they have immensely improved their preparation and now it’s enjoyable. The ration of milk tea to boba is now better, too. It isn’t too sweet nor is it too lumpy. You just need to make sure to shake it a bit before starting on your boba drinking journey.
They have also introduced such boba flavors as watermelon, grape and matcha. I tend to go for the more classic cups.
What is cool about this spot is that they also sell a variety of the popular Eastern European braided bread, babka, in flavors such as the more typical chocolate and cinnamon, but also with a regional twist in varieties such as zataar and cheese.
They also serve hot and cold sandwiches, cookies, bagels — as well as the usual coffees you'd expect. They have the lattes and the cappaccions and the like from a selection of beans.
What is also unique about this cafe is that each visitor is handed a free bottle of water upon ordering. You can sip it and stay hydrated while you wait for your custom drink or your food item.
Visit @quantumcoffeesa on Instagram for more details.
Review: Bylsan, locally made herbal feminine hygiene products
Updated 04 October 2023
If you are looking for a vaginal wash that is gentle, safe, potentially healing and locally made, try Bylsan. Formulated by former King Fahd Medical City researcher and gynecologist-turned-entrepreneur, Dr. Ahmed Al-Badr, the product has been approved by the Saudi Food and Drug Authority.
Made with myrrh and lavender extracts, the 200 ml bottle has clear liquid inside that lathers nicely without feeling heavy or sticky. The product is free of sulfates, silicone, parabens, and artificial fragrances.
Acting as an acidity neutralizer, the wash is suitable for daily use. Its main aim is to help cleanse the sensitive area and reduce the risk of infection. It is safe for new mothers to use post-surgery and promises to help relieve delivery pains.
Al-Badr told Arab News: “Leveraging my background in research and gynecology, I meticulously formulated Bylsan wash with a deep understanding of women’s intimate health needs.”
“Knowing the lack of such products and through scientific investigation and clinical expertise, I ensured that Bylsan not only meets the highest standards of safety but also addresses specific gynecological concerns effectively.”
Al-Badr is committed to creating a line of products to advance “women’s well-being, combined with a strong research foundation,” and said he has 15 new products in the pipeline. His only hurdle, so far, has been securing funding.
Available at Whites for SR90 ($24), the price tag is a bit steep compared to similar imported offerings on the shelves, but it is well worth a try.
With a vibrant presence on social media, Al-Badr has become a pioneer in normalizing conversations about women’s body health and creating products to support them in the Kingdom.
For more information, check out their Instagram @bylsanksa.
JEDDAH: Roll and More serves up Indian street food in a fine dining setting with modern decor. Located in Jeddah’s Hira Street, the restaurant’s ambience is cozy and comfortable. While I anticipated an all-Indian musical playlist, the eclectic soundtrack added a unique touch to the dining experience.
For my appetizers, I selected the fried samosas, which were generously stuffed with spiced potato and served with two sauces: a zesty chili mint yogurt and a sweet, tangy tamarind sauce. I also ordered the butter shrimp tacos, which came drenched in a rich sauce infused with Indian spices.
My main course was flavorful biryani rice infused with an aromatic blend of nuts and Indian spices paired with the chicken butter masala — a tender and mouthwatering delight — accompanied by two slices of buttery naan bread.
I also indulged in the grilled shrimp roll — a generously sized tortilla loaded with tomatoes, lettuce, and some special Indian sauce to complement the shrimps.
To quench my thirst, I could not resist the fresh mango lassi. This refreshing beverage provided a welcome respite from the spices, though its thick and creamy texture might prompt you to order a glass of water.
The dessert — caramel French toast served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream — was a true delight and stole the spotlight from the rest of the meal. The contrasting textures and flavors created a delightful symphony for the taste buds.
Roll and More also offers an array of options for group dining, including rice bowls, roll boxes, and taco boxes, making it a perfect choice for gatherings and parties.
The friendly and efficient staff further enhanced the overall experience.
For more information, visit @rollandmoreksa on Instagram.
Recipes for success: Chef Steven Gibbs offers advice and a delicious seafood recipe
Updated 29 September 2023
DUBAI: Chef Steven Gibbs likes to laugh. Throughout our interview, Gibbs — the executive chef of Scott’s Riyadh — jokes and smiles. But underneath the jovial exterior is a serious mind focused on serving a great experience to customers.
He also likes crab, which makes him an ideal fit to head the Riyadh branch of Scott’s, the hugely successful London-based seafood restaurant.
Gibbs began his career at another London hotspot: the legendary theatre eatery The Ivy, under the restauranter Des McDonald, and has worked at several other high-profile eateries, including Gordon Ramsey’s Verre in Dubai, London’s Soho House, and event production and catering company Urban Caprice, before his move to Riyadh.
Here, Gibbs talks co-cooking, mellowing with age, and burning toast.
Q: What’s your top tip for amateur chefs?
A: If you’re cooking at home, for a dinner party, for instance, I’d advise asking someone to do it with you. It makes it a more enjoyable experience. And if I was cooking for three or four people, I’d definitely want someone helping me.
What was the most common mistake you made when you were starting out?
I think most chefs burn toast a lot. (Laughs.) It’s very common during service. When I worked at The Ivy, we used to have eggs Benedict on the menu and I used to burn the English muffins all the time; I’d put them on the grill and just forget them.
What one ingredient can instantly improve any dish?
I’m going to go back to when my dad used to cook. He was a terrible cook; he was so bad that I developed a phobia about mashed potatoes — I couldn’t eat them until I started working in restaurants. So, salt and butter. That’s all I can say.
What’s the most common issue you find in other restaurants when you go out to eat?
Sometimes, I think people try too hard. Like, if the server is a little shy or unsure, it adds a bit of humanity to the experience. I never criticize — I don’t do reviews; I prefer a casual approach.
When you go out to eat, what’s your favorite cuisine/dish to order? And why?
I don’t have a favorite cuisine – I like all food. But my favorite ingredient is crab, so I’ll say anything with fresh crab and peanuts.
What’s your go-to dish if you have to cook something quickly at home?
I’m getting old so I’m trying to stay in shape and not have carbs. Usually, my go-to dish is a cheese omelet with a fresh tomato salad. You can’t beat that.
What customer behavior most annoys you?
Honestly, people are people. Everyone has different tastes. I think because I’m getting old, I’m never shocked and I don’t get annoyed.
What’s your favorite dish to cook and why?
I’m from the UK, where it can get quite cold. So I like slow cooking meats, like lamb shoulder or beef cheek or short rib. It takes a lot of skill, a lot of precision, and, when it comes out right, it’s really satisfying.
What’s the most difficult dish for you to get right (whether on your current menu or not)?
Probably pastry — cakes, meringues, eclairs... I can do some, but it’s the most difficult thing to get right because it takes more time, more precision… the weight needs to be right, the oven… there are a lot of things that need to come together.
As a head chef, what are you like? Do you shout a lot? Or are you more laid back?
I don’t remember ever losing someone from a kitchen because of me. I think I’m laid back. I never shout at people, but I do like people to be honest in the kitchen.
Chef Steven’s prawns with chilli jam, apple and green papaya salsa
INGREDIENTS (serves four):
For the jam: 1 tblsp corn oil; 1 red onion, roughly chopped; 70g fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped; 60g fresh red chili, roughly chopped; 10g dried red chili or chili flakes; 60g garlic, peeled and crushed; 90g caster or granulated sugar; 40g brown sugar; 400g fresh or tinned tomatoes, blended; 100ml rice wine vinegar; 40ml fish sauce
For the salsa: 1 green apple, core removed and finely chopped; ½ green papaya, green mango or firm orange mango, peeled and finely chopped; 1 long red chili, deseeded, finely chopped; 50g spring onion, finely chopped; 20ml mirin; 20ml rice vinegar; 40ml olive oil
For the prawns: 100ml corn oil; 16 good size prawns, peeled and de-veined (just the mid-section, or the head and tail if preferred); 80g butter, diced; 2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped; a handful of washed, chopped fresh parsley
For the jam: Lightly heat the corn oil in a heavy-based saucepan. Add the onion, ginger, garlic, and chilies, and cook on a low heat (the ingredients should not change color) for five minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and allow to simmer for about 45 minutes, until the jam is thick and glossy. Remove from the heat, allow to cool for about 15 minutes, then blend to a smooth consistency in a food processor. Leave in the fridge until required.
For the salsa: Mix all the ingredients together. Season with salt and freshly ground white pepper and leave to stand until needed.
For the prawns: Heat a skillet or frying pan. Add the prawns four at a time and cook for one minute on each side, then move to a flat baking sheet. Repeat until all the prawns are cooked. In the same skillet or pan, add the butter and garlic and cook until the butter is bubbling. Add the chopped parsley and a squeeze of lemon and pour over the prawns. Spread some chili jam on to the plates, add the prawns and finish with the apple and papaya salsa.
Saudi Arabia’s senior citizens on a mission to promote exercise, hiking
Abdulrahman Al-Bani, a team member, told Arab News: “The Southern Travelers Team was established on the 88th Saudi National Day. At that time, we walked from Baljurashi to Abha in southern Saudi Arabia”
Updated 24 September 2023
MAKKAH: A group of elderly Saudi travelers is touring the globe to promote sports and the idea that everyone should participate in them on a regular basis to prevent diseases.
The experienced hikers range in age from 61 to 79 years old, and practice their activities year-round, most notably on public holidays. They have scaled numerous summits throughout the world.
They believe that one must exercise regularly, especially hiking, to strengthen the heart and promote good health.
Abdulrahman Al-Bani, one of the founding members of the Southern Travelers Long Distance Team, told Arab News: “The Southern Travelers Team was established on the 88th Saudi National Day. At that time, we walked from Baljurashi to Abha in southern Saudi Arabia.”
He added that on the 89th National Day the group walked a long distance from Abha to Baha and from Baha to Abha the next year. They walked from Abha to Dhahran Al-Janoub on the 91st National Day.
“On National Day 92, we made a trip along a path we called ‘Qyam and Shamam,’ which is a path similar to some European countries. It was 242 km long and passed through ancient villages, museums, and tourist attractions such as parks, mountains and valleys in the beautiful Asir region.”
The team has also started commemorating the Kingdom’s Founding Day with walking trips. Al-Bani explained: “Two years ago, on Founding Day, we walked from Baha Province to Makkah Province, passing through the migration trail from Makkah to Madinah. We made another trip from the Jazan Governorate in southern Saudi Arabia to the last governorate in Baha Province, a distance of 420 km.”
He explained that the team tours all regions and governorates of the Kingdom, holds events and encourages practicing sports through setting an example. It currently consists of 10 members.
One of the valuable aspects of their excursions has been developing a community and getting to know each other. “We got to know each other in walking and hiking activities. The team came together and became harmonious and consistent with each other. We carry a national and societal message to citizens and residents of Saudi Arabia,” Al-Bani added.
He pointed out that the Ministry of Health spends billions to treat diseases such as narrowed arteries, heart disease, diabetes, and cholesterol. These huge amounts of money could be saved if people walk for at least half an hour a day.
“We aspire to be a good role model for young people and the elderly when we walk in cities, parks, and villages,” Al-Bani said, noting that team members “do not suffer from any diseases, not even diabetes or high blood pressure, thanks to the continuous physical effort that they are always keen to do, despite the fact that most of the team members are close to 80 years of age.”
Al-Bani added: “This week, in just one day, the team covered a distance of 21 km in Al-Soudah Mountains, which rise 2,400 meters above sea level. We have extensive experience in walking and hiking. We have become professional, but our message to everyone is do not exhaust yourself. Just exercise regularly.”
He noted that the group had trekked summits such as “the Himalayas, Everest, Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, Africa, and the Elbrus Mountains, which are the highest peaks in Europe and Russia.”
He added: “We walked on the Mont Blanc Trail in France, Italy, Switzerland, and the Western Highlands as well in Scotland. The group also climbed the highest peak in the Arab world in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco — Toubkal.”
Where We Are Going Today: ‘Aleppo’ a Syrian restaurant in Riyadh
Customers will enjoy a variety of flavors on Aleppo’s menu including shishbarak, yabriq, and farika, which are all popular Syrian dishes
Updated 24 September 2023
Aleppo is a Syrian restaurant located on Prince Mamdouh Bin Abdulaziz Street in Riyadh. This eatery provides a selection of authentic Syrian dishes but with an interesting twist on some of the original recipes.
Aleppo’s historic interiors, ambiance, musical playlist, and paintings by notable Syrian artists hanging on the walls all transport guests to the city of Aleppo, with its historic buildings and ancient passageways. The restaurant has created the perfect recipe for a great time with family and friends, while also satiating the appetite with delectable food.
Customers will enjoy a variety of flavors on Aleppo’s menu including shishbarak, yabriq, and farika, which are all popular Syrian dishes. If you are a fan of kebabs, you will find a variety to choose from, including kabab halabi, popular among regulars, and kabab tahinah, which is mixed with tahina sauce and other spices. Other appetizers on the menu are hummus, tabouleh, and kubbah.
One of their best items is dolma with meat, a specialty in Aleppo. It is cooked with meat unlike the usual way of making dolma where many cook it with olive oil.
The place is a bit small and finding a parking space can be challenging especially early in the evening and during peak hours. Thus, it is recommended to avoid going to the restaurant during those times to save yourself some time, and visit during lunch hours or for a late dinner.
The restaurant opens every day from 12 p.m. until 1 a.m., except on Thursdays and Fridays where they extend the time for one more hour.