Traditional food in Syria
Mahshi is the name for a wide group of dishes which include a variety of vegetables stuffed with rice, vegetables, and meat. It is similar to dolma dishes, but the name is primarily used in Arabic, North African, and Eastern Mediterranean countries.
This internationally popular, beige-colored spread is traditionally made with mashed chickpeas, tahini sesame paste, lemon juice, and garlic. People across the world love hummus for its tangy flavor and the fact that it is filled with nutrients.
When served, it is typically dressed with a drizzle of olive oil, and is then used as a dip for vegetables or a flavorful filling for flatbreads such as pita. Even today, not much is known about its origins, although the earliest mention of hummus dates back to 13th-century Egypt.
Hummus is sometimes additionally enriched with spices such as cumin and paprika, and it can be garnished with anything from fresh herbs, cucumbers, and chopped tomatoes to olives, pine nuts, and hard-boiled eggs.
Oil-cured eggplants are a staple throughout Levantine and Middle Eastern cuisine. The dish is traditionally prepared with small-sized baby eggplants that are shortly boiled and stuffed with a flavorful mixture of roasted red peppers, walnuts, garlic, and salt.
The eggplants are then cured in olive oil and are traditionally enjoyed for breakfast, usually accompanied by labneh, vegetables, and flatbread, but they also work as a standard meze dish or a snack. Though their origin is vague, preserved eggplants are strongly associated with Syria.
Muhammara is a nutritious dip originating from the Syrian city of Aleppo. It is made with a combination of roasted red peppers, olive oil, and ground walnuts. The peppers give the dish a particular sweetness and smoky flavor, while ground walnuts make it texturally exciting.
Lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, garlic, and salt are often added to the dish. Traditionally, it was prepared in a mortar, but modern techniques usually mechanically blend the ingredients, so its texture might vary from grainy to smooth. It is usually served individually in small bowls or in larger plates, when it is consumed communally.
Freshly baked pita bread is the essential accompaniment to every muhammara dip - typically cut in triangles, pita is used as a utensil to scoop up this delightful spread. Muhammara is often a part of a mezze, served alongside baba ganoush, labneh, or hummus, but it is also often used as a dip for raw vegetables or a sauce accompanying grilled meat and fish dishes.
Qamar al-din is a popular Syrian beverage made from dried apricot paste. The paste is usually soaked in water overnight and the juice is strained the next morning. The juice is especially popular for breaking the fast during the holy month of Ramadan.
It is recommended to add some orange blossom water to qamar al-din and serve it well chilled.
Ballourieh baklava consists of a pistachio filling that is placed between two layers of shredded kataifi dough—similar to the one used in kunafah. This baklava variety is lightly baked because it needs to retain its typical white color.
When baked, it is doused in syrup and left to set, and it is then traditionally served cut into large squares. Although it is believed to have been invented in Aleppo, ballourieh baklava is commonly found in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, and Jordan.