April 08, 2015

Oum Ali: Perfect Saj Manakish...

Non-smokers friendly

You meet people sometimes who strongly affect you one-way or another… Oum Ali is one such person. Rare… and I was lucky enough to have come across a simple and unpretentious lady during the Beirut Cooking Festival a while back. Em Ali is a hard working woman, whose confidence oozes through her smile, as she prepares one wrap after the other... 

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With the help of her children, Em Ali knows that her preparations cannot be compared to others around her. Em Ali made me fall in love with Saj wraps. Her wraps are rich in white cheese mix with fresh thyme, labneh, spices, keshek… Simple as her wraps may sound, the intensity of good taste comes a surprise in every bite. 

Some time passed by and I found Em Ali again. Walking around Souk el Tayeb on a sunny Saturday morning, I came across a booth that stood out from the others. It was Em Ali's. Expect to wait more than 20 minutes to be served because the line at Em Ali’s stand is never a short one. While there, try the special spicy labneh wrap with a mix of fresh greens from the village. Unique!

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Not only that but the ‘lady of the souks’ also prepares two special items each and everyone should try: “Kecheck el Foukara” and “Debsella”. These two items are so good that I decided to give them a review of their own.

  • Keshek el Fokara: Although simple to make, Keshek el Fokara is super rich in taste. Simply bulgar wheat (borghol) mixed with salt and olive oil in a bath of water. You won't feel the borghol. Tender like kechek, you’ll enjoy a strong eruption of spices. Prepared in balls like labneh balls, this innovation is better enjoyed with tomatoes and wrapped in a sandwich of simply appreciated with a fork. Green, red or white, the content is the same, it’s the spices that differ. 

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  • Debsella: Wait, close your eyes and try to feel the ingredients. Don’t be put off by the dark color and firm consistency. Eat it as is or spread it on a piece of Lebanese bread and allow the experience to begin. It’s a local innovation in my opinion, a healthy creation that could easily replace your Nutella cravings. This is how good it is. In this jar you’ll find apple molasses, cocoa and walnuts. A distant taste of molasses, an adequate sweetness and a strong cocoa punch, while the walnuts crunch in style. I bought four jars and took home. My kids loved them. Found at Souk el Tayeb every Saturday, this spread is some else – a local wonder. 

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Today we’re celebrating the launch of our first box in which we chose to have two items from Em Ali. If you have subscribed to The BOX, then you’re in for a treat. Let me know what you think.

Not only that but Oum Ali is now the queen of Souk el Akel. Not to spoil the surprise, check out some of her creations and head down to Souk el Akel for some extraordinary treats courtesy of Oum Ali. The new Pumpkin mankousheh or Mankoushet Anthony are both to die for.

Categories: Tasty Discoveries




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