Flavours of Syria
Syrian cuisine is a blend of the cultures of civilizations that settled in Syria, particularly during and after the Islamic era beginning with the Arab Umayyad conquest, then the eventual Persian-influenced Abbasids and ending with the strong influences of Turkish cuisine, resulting from the coming of the Ottoman Turks. It is in many ways similar to other Levantine cuisines, so don't be surpirsed to find tabbouleh, falafels, vine leaves and baklava.
Syrian cuisine is often considered one of the most sumptuous of the Middle East. Situated on the spice route, Aleppo for centuries made its fortune by trading in exotic products, like spices. Aleppo pepper is the best example. Syrian cusiine is filled with scents and spices. Here's they're puchased by the kilogram Every table offers an assortment of little bowls filled with spices so that diners can season their dishes to taste:
A pinch of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cumin or sun-dried mint is sprinkled on dishes like a breath of fresh air, and there is chili paste offered in mild, medium and hot versions to spread on flatbread or to enhance grilled meats.
Syrians often begin the meal with a selection of appetizers, known as "meze", before the main course. These are little hot or cold dishes, eaten with Syrian flat bread or pita, spicy and aromatic to a greater or lesser degree. You'll have a choice between the mildness of hummus, the strength of muhammara and the perfume of za'atar.
Syria is renowned for its grilled meats and kebabs, but on holidays nothing replaces a leg of lamb served with freekeh, smoked wheat.
When it comes to sweets, they're purchased in the street from strolling vendors. There's a medley of desserts soaked in honey or syrup, flaky pastries made with pistachios, pine nuts or cashews.
Damas is known for its sorbets, but during the month of Ramadan, just before sundown, the inhabitants of Damas head out to buy their "naaem," a crispy fried pancake filled with dates or drizzled with grape or pomegranate molasses, from street vendors who prepare them in pots of hot oil on every sidewalk.
Note: Most of the photos were taken on the menu at the Damas restaurant in Montreal on Van Horne. If you live in the area, you can enjoy authentic Syrian cuisine at the restaurant in the evening. To inspire you or for take out, https://restaurant-damas.com/.
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