Expat Kitchen Visit :: Syrian Delights


FROM: Syria
LIVING: South Korea

When blessed with a sudden vacation we were finally able to venture a few hours away to visit our dear friend from Syria who works in the countryside near Icheon.  We have known him for a number of years, but we had yet been able to steal away an entire day to eat with him in his home.   Since he loves to cook, we couldn't wait to see what was in store for us.

Our friend lives in a typical bachelor, one-room apartment similar to what many English Teachers live and although he loves to cook, he doesn't usually cook for himself so he was excited to have visitors so he could enjoy some of his favorite foods.


Various Dishes we can't name

We started with what you saw above, it is a traditional breakfast food from his region.  It is a mix of nuts and spices that is eaten with bread and olive oil.  You take the bread, dip it in olive oil, and then dip it in the mix.  It's hard to describe it - specifically because we don't eat anything like it in the states - but we would say it was nutty, easy to eat, and fragrant.  This dish was sent from his area of Syria and is not available elsewhere.

After that we moved on to what you see below, that is hard to see in the dark bowl.  This was spiced pickled mango.  This is available for reasonably cheap in international markets across Korea.  This was very strong and so good on bread.  Not for the faint of hear though.  You have to love strong spices, which we do.  We like it on bread that had been dipped with a bit of olive oil.  It was almost like eating meat; hearty and filling.

After that we moved on to this sweet treat that is also usually eaten for breakfast which had also been shipped from Syria.  This is Tahini, sugar, and marshmallow.  No not the white balls for smores, but the real flower that the original marshmallow came from.  The treat was soft, sweet, and nutty.  You couldn't eat much, but it was so smoothy and comforting you just wanted to keep nibbling away all afternoon.

After that he brought out the star of the meal: a strong, earthy, traditional goat cheese sent from Syria.  He told us beutiful stories of his father's love of the cheese and how they prepared it and kept it back home. He said that in Syria they buy the cheese once a year and keep it in a brine of salt and sesame.  It doesn't not need to be refrigerated.  You just scoop out what you need, rinse it and eat it.  

For the main course he made used rice cakes to make a fusion dish that was like a gnocchi or pasta.  We were very inspired and will try something like this at home as well. It melted in your mouth.  We listened to stories about how his mom worked all year to prepare the foods for the family, carefully preparing all of the staples through out the year.

The final course was a delicious steak rubbed in spices with onions, peppers, and garlic.  It was delicious. So very, very delicious and we ate it while he told us stories of his father's "meat charisma" and how he learned to chose the best meat for each dish.  These stories made every bite taste even more delicious than the last, and it was already as tasty as it comes.


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