If you thought Middle Eastern cuisine was only about falafel and hummus, think again. To get a taste of diverse food flavours from the zone, drop by the Waterside Cafe in Hyatt Regency where chef Mahmoud Alravosh of Grand Hyatt Aman is hosting a Middle Eastern food festival till November 20.
The festival brings traditional dishes from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Saudi Arabia that will all be part of one lavish buffet spread. Middle Eastern food is primarily sour or mildly spicy in terms of flavours. There is a lot of lime juice, tomato puree and Arabic spices that go into cooking the food, so it leaves that sort of tangy flavour on the palate, said sous chef Mahmoud, who has worked in the kitchens of star hotels like Four Seasons and Grand Hyatt in Jordan.
For a light start, help yourself to the egg plant-based Moutabal cold meze or the classic pita bread with an array of dips like a creamy hummus (picture above), baba ghanoush, dry yoghurt sauce and cucumber feta dip. The more adventurous ones could try the likes of dry Lamb Brains garnished with chopped parsley, a Lebanon delicacy or even the Chicken Liver doused in olive oil.
In the mains, the juicy Lamb and Beef Shawarma is a must try, the combination of tender meat wrapped in crispy bread is a tasty treat. There is also the baked Fish Harra stuffed with walnuts, charcoal-grilled Chicken Sawani, Lamb Mansaf and the Fish Sayadia Rice that make up the non-vegetarian buffet. Lamb and beef are the most popular meats that we cook with but for this festival we have also included chicken and fish, added the chef.
Non-meat eaters can start with a lentil soup and move on to hot mezes like Cauliflower with Tahina Sauce that is best enjoyed with saffron rice, Stuffed Zucchini and Potato Mofarakeh. Sweeten your palate with a choice of the ever-popular Baklava pastry that is crusty with a filling of chopped nuts, honey syrup, buttery almonds and pistachio.
In true Middle Eastern style, diners will be entertained by belly dancers who will move to the tunes of lilting Arabic music. Available for lunch or dinner, the buffet is priced at Rs 1,950.
An ingredient you always cook with...
Tomato puree, yoghurt, dry yoghurt; these three ingredients are essential in enhancing the flavours of Middle Eastern food.
Five favourite Arabic spices...
That would be the five Cs — cumin, coriander, clove, cinnamon and cardamom.
A street food that has been your favourite...
Juicy lamb falafels; you get them everywhere in Jordan.
Where have you tasted the best Middle Eastern food?
I remember having the tastiest Chicken Shawarma in this small restaurant in Syria.
One signature dish that you love cooking...
Stuffed Vine Leaves with Lamb on a bed of Saffron Rice.
Top tips to keep in mind while cooking Middle Eastern cuisine...
Always cook Middle Eastern food in olive oil. Add lots of lemon juice or freshly squeezed lemon zest for those sour flavours. Garnish with chopped parsley for seasoning.