Where did it Come from?

Am doing a project at work on bakery products, and it really hit me! why don’t I write my next article on popular breads in #Saudi? In this article you will learn where the bread we daily eat came from! A delicious #sensorial #history

If you spent your childhood in Saudi, you must remember going with Daddy to this small yet heavenly aromatic shop; has a “built in the wall” oven.. on the other end of the oven is a crowd of people (just like you, Daddies and children) looking at the oven! waiting for the brownish beauties to come out, the happy ending to this story is just a joyful fight over picking your freshly baked and warm breads and fill them in your bag. Dose this pleasant fight bring you any flashbacks? Are you thinking of Samouli? Ever asked yourself where did it come from?

First things first, how to say bread in Arabic: Khobez (Kho’ Be’Z) خبز. This is the most common name in Saudi. Common name in the Western region is: Aish عيش.

Samouli

60 years ago, a Somalian baker came to Jeddah and opened his “Al-Somali bakery shop” introducing this long spongy brown colored, easy to tear by fingers from the middle breads. He never thought this bread will be Saudi Children’s favorite take to school snack! (there is a casual Saudi rab song says: The kids wants Samoli!العيال يبون صامولي yes it is this popular). Stories says the name came from Essa AlSomali who brought it to us (Somali – Samouli) and some say it comes from the Italian Semolina bread – Either way we are super grateful to Mr. Al-Somali. In Kuwait & Iraq they call it Samoon (might be from the Turkish or Greek name SOMUN), in Egypt: Feno.

Super moist and soft (nothing like Baggett despite the similarities), Though the top layer looks brown, but it is not a hard crust. Spongy sweet with hints of milky flavor. The bestie of this bread is Spreadable cream cheese, or as we call it cheese in cups (جبن كاسات). It goes from children’s snack to adults snack by adding a cup of Tea with mint to the mix

One of the greatest innovations that satisfies millions of Saudis is L’usine cheese sandwich. Traditional L’usine Samouli moist soft bread, filled with Almarai spreadable cream cheese. Convenient choice for all ages honestly. Give it a try and share with me your thoughts!

Tamees

Tammez in Farsi (means clean), Came all the way from Afghanistan to Saudi Arabia ages ago through Pilgrims, and became very popular ever since and never left our breakfast table. Tamees bakery shop is designed to sell only Tamees bread, opens at 5 AM with a long cue of people from all society classes waiting already. Tamees is the best companion for Foul on breakfasts- Specially Friday breakfasts (our official weekend), it is also a common breakfast in Ramadan in the Western region – like daily ritual meal.

Fun Facts: Fact 1- it still hold it’s price as 1 SAR despite all the tax changes happening in the country. Fact 2- It never arrives home in one piece (whoever is brining it home, has to have few bites)

Tamees is a wide flat bread, that has small holes all over it; it’s randomly shaped. The texture is a mix of Crunchy crust and moist crumb. It puffs in certain areas of the surface forming big empty bubbles. Very basic bready taste, with hint of low sweetness. The crunchy texture when it’s a little bit dry makes it taste like unsweetened biscuits. What makes it distinguish in my opinion is the size; Among the many varieties of flat bread around the world, it is the only one blessed with such a diameter. Originally, no many ingredients are added to it; very recently new variants are becoming popular, such as: Biscuit Tamees (dry extra crunchy version), Sweet Tamees (rock sugar, sesame & ghee are added), Cheese Tamees (filled with shredded orange cheddar cheese)

Flat Breads

Flat breads are very common in Saudi regardless if its made in the middle eastern way (from Levant cities or Egypt) called Arabic Bread (Pitta), or the Asian (Indian) way – Naan thin breads. Usually used as the carrier for vegetable stocks, and to accompany most of our meals. Thicker flat breads are more common in Saudi. Every house in Saudi has its own preference for the flat bread consumed on daily basis, usually there is a bakery shop in the neighborhood that the family deal with for +10 years. These breads are not intense in flavor, as their usual consumption is with food, not sweet, not bitter weak bready flavors present.

Future Trends for Bakery Companies

Zaatar & Sumac Babka from @Baking10_

Bakery segment is growing radically in the past 5 years. It is an area that Saudi consumers are always curios to discover more about, whether it is a renovated local product or completely a new non local product (such as Babka – very trending in Saudi now!). Try @Baking10_ shop on Instagram

Saudis are experimenting at this stage of their lives! Go crazy as much as you can: put out new flavors, new blends, unexpected ingredients (and you will find yourself all over social media)

With the increased awareness among Saudis, the more demand for products to meet their needs; such as: Gluten free, High fibers low carbs, Vegetarian/ Vegan options, fortified products. The key here is AVILABLE + AFFORDABLE, and I promise you; you’ll sell like you never did!

It’s time for you to share below, which breads have you tried in Saudi, do you know other types other than the listed in this article?

This Article is dedicated to my manager who inspired me with the it, thank you very much Mr. Mark McCormack. Special thanks to Rashodkhon Nasirov who is always looking forward reading my articles, and encouraged me to write again after a very long time. Elham Mohammed, my sensory panelist and the woman I relay on for all the historical references. And My Mentor all the way from New York Dr.Howard Moskowitz

References:

  1. The oldest cuisine in the world cooking in mesopotamia – Book
  2. http://www.alwasatnews.com/news/1063747.html
  3. https://bit.ly/3foLoIP
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afghan_bread

Companies/ Brands mentioned in this article: Almarai, L’usine, canyon bakehouse, Perfectly Crafted, Dave’s Killer Bread

SAUDI’S EATING BEHAVIORS DURING COVID19 PANDEMIC

Saudi’s Eating Behaviors During Covid-19 Pandemic

No doubt, eating habits around the world change from time to time! But the Corona virus precautionary measures almost immediately changed virtually everything, everyone, everywhere, most clearly and dramatically in those countries which legally banned social eating, so-called ‘going out to eat.’.

Saudi Arabia was one of the first countries to do so, acting with foresight in terms of their precautions. Long story short, here in Saudi, we started to work from home immediately on mid-March. Shortly thereafter, there was partial curfew followed by complete curfew during April, with some few exceptions. I am writing this article exactly one day before we go back to partial curfew and gradually going back to our “NEW LIFE” end of May 2020.

Being part of all of this, was an experience that I cannot summarize in one word! But one thing for sure, it changed us all! Despite all the changes, I will focus on my area of expertise “FOOD”.

We Saudis became virtually connected more than ever. With the pandemic ‘gift’ of such unexpected, extra time at home, many people tried new activities, a popular and not unexpected being experimentation with foods. Everyone seemed to be experimenting with “preparing foods & drinks”. Many social platforms recorded highest usage in years. Not surprising, a closer look at the category explored most reveals that it was FOOD, FOOD, FOOD. The internet gave the stay-at-home Saudis virtually unlimited access to video recipes, food blogs, even ingredients to order online.

How did all of that affected Saudis “Eating Habits”?

I spoke to 50 people, who are couples or live with their family. This structure is the predominant one in Saudi. I spoke with males and females, young adults, around ages 25-38.  The data from these interviews allows me to present the findings in the form of a synthesized “Qualitative Chat”.

  1. Scheduled Eating Time:

Now that everyone working from home, no one has an excuse to miss the mealtime with the family. That lead to more family ‘quality- times’, encouraging families to prepare meals together

2. Meals No…Snacks YES:

The number of meals did not increase dramatically. But…, on the other hand …; snacks did! All kinds of snacks: homemade, on the shelf snacks, healthy, unhealthy. Mainly savory snacks, not the sweet ones. Many reported reducing their consumption of sweet of desserts and sweet snacks.  Main meal … 2 per day on average, snacks …  4-5.

3. Nothing is Impossible!

Saudis know all the secrets now! With all the experimentation have been going on at home, they discovered that they can make everything at home: bread, coffee, desserts, Chinese food, French bakery! This ‘discovery’ (there all along!)  will play an important role in the awareness in the future and the behavior towards take out & food delivery. Few reported two or more deliveries a day. Many reported one, or even no deliveries during the curfew time 

4. Body Changes:

Believe it or not! Many lost weight (an average of 2-3 kilograms). It is believed that the weight loss comes from the fewer calories in home-cooked meals compared to the calories in fast food and ready to eat foods. Some maintained their body exercise and lost even more than 3KGs. Very few gained weight, typically the older population who exercised less, and in fact had far less bodily activity. with less body activity

5. Buying Behavior

Saudis purchased more frequently than they did before. The one-shopping-trip per week appeared to be not frequent enough. The grocery shopping expedition increased from one to two, and often to three times. The sizes that were purchased increased as well, so the Saudis bought more, and more frequently. Groceries costed more, yet the absence of other opportunities to spend on food, especially restaurants and cafes, balanced that increase price of groceries. So, no budgeting issues seem to have emerged, or at least if they emerged, they were not deemed relevant.

6. Smarter restaurants

one of the popular trends by Shawerma House restaurant

Even though restaurants and cafes were negatively influenced by the pandemic, they did not stop inventing, even though forced to think “inside” the box – yes inside. The restaurant’s started their own trend, “Make at Home Boxes”. Simply all ingredients sent to you in a box, all you got to do is to prepare them yourself: Burgers, juices, coffees, doughnuts, barbecue. All hygienically packed and delivered to your door

7.    Make way for the Influencers

Our Homemade Maamoul contribution

An additional fact we can’t deny was the HUGE impact from social media influencers during this time. It was very telling to discover that ‘everyone’ seemed to be in sync with a trend, and preparing certain recipes at certain times, as if guided by a common ‘social spirit.’  Who sets the trend, who becomes the common social spirit? The answer soon became obvious: “Influencers”. These influences engaged their follower. Whatever the influencers requested, by posting the idea or even the recipe, the asked their followers to make and then they re-share their followers attempt. The influencers were most influential in driving certain preparation methods such as barbecuing & grilling. And, to add to their success, they were most influential driving the preparation of particular products such as, Lemon cake, sour dough, Arabic Bread, Dalgona Coffee, Eid Mamoul, Cheese platter, etc. 

Caricature about how all of Saudi prepared the same item

What’s next?

 Saudis will definitely be different consumers after this period of their lives! They learned too much in a very short time to hold on to their past habits. The pandemic changed them, forcing them to look around the world of food. The awareness is much higher about food quality and ingredients, and how easy many recipes are made. So, are Saudi going to be the same once everything is back in business? I don’t think so. Younger Saudis might go back to their old habits with no changes, but not the older ones, the ones who have discovered the joy of preparing their own food (captured in this article)

Food & drink producers must think deeply what to innovate next to satisfy these consumers. They will be very difficult to please. With the tax changes in Saudi plus now they know how cheap is to prepare a recipe, prices must be a point to consider as well. The “NEW NORMAL” in Saudi will not be the same. Your products should not be the same either. The opportunity is yours; the time is now to discover this NEW NORMAL for your products and food services.

References:

Very grateful for my overseas mentor Dr. Howard Moskowitz for reviewing this article. I would also like all of those who participated in the whatsapp Survey

Winter in Southern Saudi

In Southern Saudi the winter is really cold; due to many cities located above mountains. The South is always cloudy, you feel you are flying between the clouds heading to to mountain tops! it is a dreamy region with many green lands crawling down from the top of mountains down to the lowest points of the valleys.

The weather is very nice in Summer too! it is considered number 1 summer detestation locally, and known for the expensive rentals over summer season as well. As it is cool in the afternoon with peaceful cold breeze in the evening.

As a result to it’s location and Terrains, they have their very distinguished and unique dishes (savory & sweet). I am more aware of the sweet winter dishes, and that’s what am going to write to you about in this Article!

What can best warm our bodies during cold, maybe wet rainy days too? True! FAT, FAT, FAT! Speaking of that, it is a will known region for producing pure Cow/sheep Ghee. Also very famous in producing Honey, they even have types of honey not produced anywhere else in the world; with specific texture properties that suites their dishes and storage conditions.

The sweet dishes are considered as meals! they could be eaten any time during the day; preferably morning or lunchtime. They will make you super full for many hours later, BUT! you will be drowsy for sure; so keep some coffee around. Most of them are prepared with same foundation ingredients but differ in the additional ingredient which will play an important role in the : 1-Texture, 2- Color, and of course 3- Flavor.

Foundation ingredients are: Brown or White flour, Ghee & Butter, Milk or Laban (drinkable yogurt). Question, why some are so white and some are so brown? Read the following 2 most popular dishes to know the answer

Areekah

Areekah is the brown one, as it is made by brown flour. Simply mix water with flour, knead them together and then bake them in the oven for 20-30 minutes. Once baked then knead them again to form a softer dough. During this time, boil your ghee & butter until you see them turning white and bubbly, if it makes the whole house smells like heaven, then it is ready to be used. You will put your dough in a plate with a hole in the middle to pour the butter. Pour some honey, and decorate with some dates. It is chewy in the mouth, sweet, doughy with ghee notes; These all together are very difficult to describe even for me!

Mabthooth

The white one! The reason is the dairy and the white flour. Personally i prefer the Laban it will give the sourness & saltiness without the need to add them as ingredients. Basically, add the flour to the Laban, mix them, then cook them for 30 minutes on low heat. The texture will get thicker (slightly thicker than béchamel sauce). Ghee & butter preparation is same as mentioned above. Once cooked, you will pour some in a plate and also pour ghee & honey on top of it. Now this one is eaten with a spoon. It is sweet (lactose sweetness + honey sweetness), sour & salty, lumpy a little bit but dissolves in the mouth quickly, and rich in fattiness for sure!

Eating Experience

The most fun part about these dishes is the eating experience itself. for Areekah, you will try to form small bowl from the dough, then dip it in then ghee with honey. Yes it will be dripping everywhere, but i promise you, it’s so fun!

If you are visiting Riyadh soon, contact me i could suggest some amazing places serves these authentic dishes

Stuffed Leaves, yum or not?

Have you been somewhere in the middle east, Turkey or Greece and came across stuffed leaves or vegetables? What were your thoughts?

Did you want to eat them or not? In this article i will make sure to list all reasons why you should not miss them the next time you see them!

Turkish or Greek?

Many articles i came across suggests that stuffed leaves and vegetables are something of a novelty, and certainly a delicacy for the Ottomans! was initially reserved for the Sultan’s table. Over time it extended more, and became very popular as an item of Mediterranean cuisine and surrounding regions.

This is a very popular dish in the Arabic and Saudi table! So how did we know about it? during the the period of Ottoman rule over Egypt in the 14th century, many eating habits were transferred to Egyptians and many items were added to the Egyptian cuisine, stuffed leaves and vegetables were one of those

In Turkish “Dolma” refers to the stuffed dishes – dolmak (to fill). Many historians claim that it was discovered and first severed in the Dolmabahçe Sarayi the famous palace in which it name means Filled-in Garden” and the idea of the Dolama was in way similar to the palace concept!

In Greek dolmades. In Arabic (hardest to pronounce as usual hehe) : Maah’shi or Mahaashi as plural.

Enough with History and origin already!

Now let me tell you about the stuffing types. There are 2 different stuffing methods: stuff and roll moist leaves Or hollow out heart of vegetable to leave just the skin and stuff it.

For each type there is a standard stuffing interesting, and because this poor stuffed leaves traveled across the world they are seasoned differently in every region.

Main stuffing ingredients could be: either Rice or Groats (Borgol), Minced meat, green leaves, cooked with clear stock or tomato stock, seasoned with the local spices.

for the stuffed vegetables, there is no pre-preparation needed, as for the leaves (grape & Cabbage) they need to be pre-cooked or soaked before they are ready to be used.

Now comes my part, allow me to delight you with the description of these delightful stuffed thingies!

Photo from my Kitchen

Stuffed Cabbage

In Arabic: Mah’shi Malfoof or Corumb. As you can see in the picture from my kitchen, it looks greenish and shiny! whereas without cooking it will be very dull and mat.

It is usually cooked in water and some cumin for 15 minutes; and yes it smells very strong! it has that silage sulfury aroma so be prepared- i was never aware of that until my sensory team told me so, am very used to the aroma-

You can define the flavors as you want, meaty or brothy, green or grassy, you just add or remove ingredients as you desire the overall flavor to be! i like it lightly seasoned with spices but intense in green fresh aromas (this comes from dill, parsley and tomatoes).

Cumin is an important spice to add! Some cook it in tomato sauce, am not fan of this method! Always eat it hot, you must try it. It is an experience you will love or hate.

Stuffed Grape Leaves

In Arabic: Waraq Enaab. Now this is very popular in the ladies societies and gatherings in Saudi! Comes in many sizes, seasonings, and toppings.

In some countries like Egypt it is considered a main course, in other countries it is either an appetizer or even served with tea and pastries.

The driver for it’s popularity is Unique Sourness, when the leaves and rice filling are cooked with lemon they deliver a unique profile of cooked sourness.

The grape leaves flavor is: Dry Herbal, Dusty, Henna like – don’t look for any grape notes there are none 🙂 – Olive oil blends very well with the leaves and lemon

Again, there are many ways to prepare & season it: spicy, pomegranate molasses, garlic, with meat minced or big parts. But again, i like original flavor, green lightly seasoned and extremely Sour!

Unlike Cabbage, Grape leaves are very acceptable even if you are trying them for the first time. Careful!! it is addictive

Stuffed Vegetables

This is officially a dish not an appetizer. Vegetables popular for stuffing are: Eggplant (white and black), Pepper (all colors), Zucchini, Potato, and Onion (the harder to stuff).

Usually it is cooked with chicken stock mixed with tomato sauce. Same stuffing for Cabbage can be used. The most wonderful fact about this dish is, the stuffing will taste different in each vegetable, even the stuffing mouth-feel will perceived different, in some it will be moist and viscous, in others will be slightly dry and less viscous.

If you want to take it to another dimension, try adding minced meat to stuffing, and cook it with Meat broth! Oh boy, am hungry now 🙁

So next time you come across any of these, stuff your tummy with them!

Have you ever tried any of the stuffed goods in this article? Tell us about your experience

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