Category Archives: food

What Did You Eat This Ramadan?

During Ramadan, our foodie family has been taking turns cooking iftar meals. These past couple of weeks of making old favorites and trying new recipes has been absolutely fun. Here are our top three dishes that I hope inspire your cooking as we near the end of the holy month.

Nothing beats Mama’s cooking! I mean, she’s the one that has truly inspired us kids to be the foodies we are today. We can’t go through the holy month without Mama’s delicious kushary. A popular Egyptian street food dish that consists of rice, lentils and pasta that’s drizzled with garlic marinara sauce, and topped with crispy fried onions.

What makes my mama’s take different than most traditional takes is that she makes the typical Egyptian rice with vermicelli noodles and uses two kinds of pasta, both spaghetti and salad macaroni. If this isn’t carb heaven, it’s not kushary.

For Mother’s Day dinner, my brother Samy took a risk from his usual steak and curry dishes to make a slow cooked brisket. Alongside all the fixings, it came out pretty good! We’re talking baked potato, roasted tomatoes, garlic and corn as well as a side of sauteed asparagus for good measure.

The meat was tender and seasoned to absolute perfection. Kudos to my brother because I can’t wait for the encore!

Speaking of encores, when I make something the family loves, I’m usually almost asked to remake it. Now when my nephew raved for days about my crispy chicken tenders and waffles -from scratch might I add- I couldn’t say no when he asked for more chicken.

Thus I combined two of his favorites that I’ve made for the family throughout Ramadan into one simple dish. Crispy chicken tenders atop Parmesan penne pasta. I use boneless chicken breasts, cut into four pieces each and use seasoned breadcrumbs. As penne pasta is one of my favorites, I love coming up with varying recipes for it. This one however has always been a favorite with the family, with a light fresh tomato sauce with cheese cooked in the sauce as well as garnished on top.

Who can say no to more cheese? And I’m lactose intolerant!

Do share in the comments what’s a dish you must have in Ramadan? What’s a dish you tried for the first time? What’s a favorite you’re favorite dish to cook up?

SF Sundays – Top Ten Musts for 2020

It’s February, can I still say Happy 2020? Probably not but I’ll say it anyways… HAPPY 2020!

It’s actually been a bit busy for me, with my full time work, side projects and recent certification exam (long story, short, I like to keep learning!). However, I have been making a list of all the things I must see, do and eat in the Bay Area when I realized, does everyone else know about these sweet delights in our backyard?

What must we see, do and eat in the Bay? Here are a few off the tip of my very long list for 2020:

50 Years! I can’t be the only one that didn’t realize there is a fantastic museum that encompasses our history as a state just off the Lake Merritt Bart Station in Oakland. The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) is a fantastic space housing local art, history and culture with beautiful collections and visiting exhibits. This year, the OMCA is on my must revisit list as it celebrates it’s 50th anniversary of not just being a fabulous museum, but a welcoming “gathering place in the heart of Oakland”.

Let’s Eat! Reem’s has been added to my must eat list after seeing the nonstop hype behind it. Even the local news was all giddy when it was announced that this Oakland staple was opening up shop in San Francisco’s historic Mission District. Like a typical foodie, I went to check out the menu and literally salivated. It’s also worth mentioning that this is an Arab American lady owned business. So I’m biased in thinking it’s up to the hype and I can’t wait to eat it all up!

Up Above the Clouds! Taking a hot air balloon ride has been on my bucket list for a while. In looking to tick it off my list this year, I’ve come to find out I can do just that in the North Bay’s beautiful Napa Valley. We are spoiled for choice, whether going up with a group or privately, for an hour or so. Regardless, you can head to Visit Napa Valley to see which option best suits you, as well as other things to do while you’re up there.

Broadway! One of the longest running shows on Broadway is roaring it’s way to the Bay! The Lion King will be showcasing for a limited time this summer at the Center for Performing Arts in San Jose. As this is a limited engagement, it’s on my must see list because tickets will sell fast. Especially since it’s happening right after Hamilton’s extended run in San Francisco. What? You haven’t seen Hamilton in the Bay yet? What are you waiting for? It’s now extended through May 31st so add it to your 2020 must see list!

Frida! The most anticipated exhibit of the season coming to the Bay has to be Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving. Thanks to the Frida Kahlo Museum (aka The Blue House) in Mexico City, Mexico, we here in the Bay will get to see some of her personal items along with some of her magnificent works of art. As a fan of this prolific artist, this exhibit is on my must experience list, with the accompanying lectures, docent talks and much more at the de Young Museum.

Jazz It Up! The music scene in the Bay last year has been absolutely amazing. So much so, I started 2020 by heading to SFJAZZ‘s annual new year concert series of the legendary trumpeter Chris Botti! This concert was just a peak into the amazing line up happening this season. I’m now a proud member and so should you if you don’t want to miss out on great shows like this…

Hole In The Wall! Did you know, there’s a Peephole Cinema in San Francisco? Blink and you miss it! Peephole Cinema San Francisco is located in the Mission District at 280 Orange Alley, looping silent short films for those who’d like to take a peak. Another one was just added at SFO’s Terminal 1, thanks in kind to the curator, Sarah Klein. If you’re a movie buff or at least appreciate the art form, then add this to your must see list.

Yummy Delicious! The two day Eat Real Fest in Oakland’s Jack London Square has announced it’s dates for the year. What makes this food festival exciting is not only the great food expected to be shared, but the celebration of sustainable local ingredients and the craft behind the dishes and drinks served. I missed last year’s festival so I’m looking forward to eating my heart out while checking out all the cooking classes and demos that are being planned as we speak. Yummy!

Under The Sea! From the depths of the seas, statues of a three headed serpent and a mysterious deity were found, possibly lying in shipwrecks for centuries. The LOST AT SEA exhibit now through March is only happening at the Asian Art Museum. This tops my list as this one of a kind exhibit is only happening in San Francisco through March. You’re welcome to join our InterNations Culture and Art Group as we time travel and explore these wondrous beauties in February.

Just For Laughs! I LOVE the stand up comedy scene here in the Bay! We are truly blessed to get some of the best up and comers as well as established comedians stopping by to make us laugh. Ali Wong and Trevor Noah ended 2019 by coming through with sold out shows! 2020 shouldn’t be any different, if not better. I personally can’t wait for Michelle Wolf‘s return to the Bay later this week. Later this season, Jim Carrey, Whitney Cummings and Ali Wong will be in town too, woohoo!

So what’s on your Bay Area list for 2020?

Disclaimer: This rant was not sponsored or paid for by any of the above mentioned entities unless otherwise noted. Any and all sponsored or paid rants are for time spent, never for a biased take or review. If you’d like me to check out a happening around town or a local eatery to rant about, please email ha@mshala.co.

Delicious Ramadan Eats from Around the World

Delicious Ramadan Eats from Around the World
By: Ms. for Blasting News
Originally Published May 26, 2018
Publication Source: BlastingNews.com

Journey around the globe to discover some of the delicious dishes served up during the holy month of Ramadan!

Ramadan is once again upon us, and Muslims are as excited as ever for the festive, holiday season! During the ninth month of the Hijri calendar, several dishes are cooked up around the world in time to break one’s fast. So let’s see what’s cooking!

Qatar

The land where many traditions are still practiced and new ones inspired by its diverse residents. Harees dates back to the 10th century with historical references to Prophet Mohammed’s (PBUH) dining habits.

Harees can be described as a wheat porridge. After simmering pre-soaked wheat in water, straining any excess water and mixing it into a thick consistency. Make it savory by adding meat and salting to taste. Make it sweet by adding cinnamon and sugar to the mix. It’s so versatile; it’s the perfect dish to start or end your iftar.

Maldives

Traditions as old as time is what makes Ramadan in the Maldives all the more unique and artistic.

The local flair is seafood, and tuna fish reigns supreme. The top local tuna dishes to be had during iftar would be gulha and kulhi boakibaa. Gulha are tuna fish balls, made with coconut, onions, garlic, and ginger. Mixed and rolled into a ball, then stuffed into a light flour dough and deep fried. Kulhi boakibaa are tuna fish cakes, with coconut, rice, ginger, curry leaves, chilies, lemon juice, and turmeric powder, and turned into a thick paste mixture. It spread into a pan and baked until lightly brown, cut into squares for all to enjoy. Fried and baked, the best of both worlds!

Iraq

Whats the best thing to be served when breaking one’s fast? How about sipping on some sweet aseer or juice during iftar! Iraqis will at times stock up on bottles of juices depending on the season as well as any long-lasting fruits to make fresh drinks at home. Some popular juice shops, such as Mishmish in Baghdad, have been open for over 50 years with Ramadan being their busiest season. What juices shine brightly during the holy month?

Pomegranate, grape, lemon, apricot and of course date juice top the list. These specific fruits all have great health benefits and of course, taste great!

Comoros

Being a festive season, Comoros serves it up! Anything from grilled manioc, fishes to fried bananas and couscouma. This simple savory treat is a thyme and butter chapati like crepe, extremely thin and light. After kneading the dough, it’s immediately divided into small pieces, rolled thin and pan fried to golden perfection. Crispy yet warm and soft, this savory treat is served with sweet tea. If there are any leftovers (ha!), it’s served as part of the suhour meal.

Egypt

From the festivities that take place, the popular TV shows and the variations of foods make Ramadan in Egypt unlike any other. The sweet served in almost every home after iftar is a platter of qatayef. Think of qatayef as sweet dumplings, starting off as a small pancake of sorts, stuffed with either sweet cheese or mixed nuts or both! It’s folded into crescents then fried until golden brown, topped with a light syrup and gobbled up!

Indonesia

During the feast to end Ramadan and welcome Eid El Fitr, the dish to be had is opor ayam. Opor ayam is a curry chicken dish originating from the central Java islands, with side dishes such as chili fried potatoes. To make this dish perfect, it’s all in the fresh spices and how they are grounded down and slightly roasted in a saucepan before they are cooked with the marinated chicken to serve up the perfect bowl of opor ayam.

The World

It’s understood that Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) taught Muslims to break their fast with dates and milk which has its health benefits. Dates and milk have just the right amount of natural sugars and vitamins to give your body a good energy boost. Those in dates travel to your liver and digestive tract faster than most other similar fruits which help to restart the digestive process. This is truly a delicious treat that Muslims all over the world indulge in during Ramadan.

What are your Ramadan traditions? Did we entice you to try any of these worldly Ramadan dishes?

by (article) and Emir Milinkic (video)
Publication Source: BlastingNews.com

Top 10 Healthy Eats in Doha

Top 10 Healthy Eats in Doha
By: Ms. Hala Abdoun for BQ Plus via Zomato
Originally Published: February 2017
Publication Source: BQ-Magazine.com

A new year, a new beginning, a new you! Self-improvement is the top resolution many of us make when we flip a page to the new year. This includes staying positive, being active and eating right.

If you love the food scene in Doha but want to start a healthy eating habit, that kale leaf won’t cut it. The latest collection on Zomato, Healthy Eating, has the top go to spots with delicious, healthy eats. Here’s the top ten rated healthy eats from the collection.

10. Crepeaway

Where: Al Muthanna Complex, Al Hilal
Rating: 3.5 / 5
Lowdown: If you have friends who aren’t really attempting to eat healthy this year, this spot will have you all breaking bread in peace. With a healthy section in the menu listing calories, protein, fiber and carb count, you can chow down at Crepeaway guilt free.

9. Al Jazeera Cafe

Where: Building 4, Katara Cultural Village
Rating: 3.6 / 5
Lowdown: Conceptualized by the Al Jazeera network, you can start your day on the right track. Enjoy your meal with the latest news, interactive setting and beautiful ambiance. Try one of the fruit smoothies, herbal infused teas or grab a bite knowing you’re doing good by your body and global farms.

8. Dine Smart Restaurant

Where: Lulu Hypermarket, Barwa City
Rating: 3.6 / 5
Lowdown: We all love to eat while we shop! And Dine Smart wants you to eat smart while you shop. Whether you’re craving Italian, Chinese, a sandwich or a simple salad, you can eat knowing you didn’t ruin your New Year’s resolution to keep it healthy and within budget.

7. Salad Boutique

Where: Aspire Park, Al Waab
Rating: 3.7 / 5
Lowdown: They aren’t just famous for those large bowls of salads anymore. This will be good news for your anti-salad eating friends of yours craving risotto, pasta or even a burger. You can dine within the bright ambience, lounging in the oversized chairs indoors or dine under the stars in this cool winter weather.

6. Which Wich

Where: Medina Centrale, The Pearl-Qatar
Rating: 3.8 / 5
Lowdown: Where the self-proclaimed “superior sandwiches” are made in the heart of The Pearl-Qatar. Grab a sandwich paper bag and like Aladdin, make wishes for the sandwich genies to grant on the spot. Feeling adventurous? Drop the bread and wish for a lettucewich.

5. Chef’s Garden

Where: Marwan Club, Education City
Rating: 3.9 / 5
Lowdown: The horses in close distance, the greenery all around, the healthy dishes on the table. Where else can you get all three but the Chef’s Garden? Next to the Equestrian Club, you can’t go wrong with the food or view as many of the foodies have raved about in their reviews.

4. Evergreen Organics

Where: Qanat Quartier, Pearl Qatar
Rating: 4.0 / 5
Lowdown: Co-founded by renowned Qatari foodie, Ghanim AlSulaiti, this vegan haven is all about eating and surrounding yourself with wholesome goodness. The very popular fresh pressed juices are now bottled up, so you can take a few on the go until your next visit.

3. Jones The Grocer

Where: The Gate, Dafna
Rating: 4.1 / 5
Lowdown: With a new healthy menu added to the original, it’s no wonder JTG has climbed up the ranks. Already a popular breakfast spot, this JTG branch is still a top favorite with a die-hard Doha foodie following.

2. Zaatar we Zeit

Where: Opposite Souq Waqif Art Center, Souq Waqif
Rating: 4.2 / 5
Lowdown: With many locations around Doha, the Souq branch tops the list for this popular Lebanese chain. This breakfast hot spot makes you feel all the good feels as you feast on a budget before shopping in the historic bazaar.

1. Meesh Me-Time Cafe

Where: Crowne Plaza Business Park, Najma
Rating: 4.5 / 5
Lowdown: The highest rated healthy eat in the collection is a spot with “me time” in its name. It’s that kind of attitude that’s captured the hearts of Doha’s inhabitants. Can’t go wrong with a cafe serving up all kinds of healthy goodness, from its fresh brewed coffee to its latest quick bites menu.

What are you waiting for? Download the Zomato app today and bookmark these restaurants to keep that healthy New Year’s resolution going strong!

All images courtesy of BQ Plus Magazine unless otherwise noted.

International Comfort Food

International Comfort Food
By: Ms. Hala Abdoun for BQ Plus via Zomato
Originally Published for the January 2017 Issue
Publication Source: BQ-Magazine.com

Winter is here! A relatively warm winter but, this is the season we crave something to make us feel all warm and fuzzy. It’s why they call it comfort food!

Let’s discover some of the world’s favorite comfort foods and where to get a taste of it.

Spaghetti Carbonara – Italy

Can’t start this list without the world’s favorite dish, pasta! And the one Italians call to for comfort is spaghetti carbonara. Originating from Rome in the 20th century, this dish has comforted the masses as it has evolved in different parts of Italy and in different forms of pasta.

Sticking with the classics, the spaghetti dish is made with eggs, cheese, bacon and seasoned with black pepper to taste. You can’t go wrong with a classic!

Slurp on some spaghetti carbonara at Lo Spaghetto in Al Saad.

Brioche Dorée

Where: Gulf Mall
Rating: 4.1/5
Lowdown: All things French and a little bit more when it comes to the offerings at Brioche Dorée. With a full menu on hand, you can indulge in a three course meal and coffee in a casual atmosphere. According to the foodies, it’s all about the breakfast and desserts.

Pho – Vietnam

Not only is pho the star of Vietnamese food, but it’s one of the most popular soup dishes in the world. Pho dates back to the 20th century and was introduced to the world through migration and tourism.

Pho consists of rice noodles, either chicken or beef, cooked in broth with a few herbs and seasonings. It’s all the basics in one pot!

Try a bowl of pho at The Rice Room in The Gulf Mall.

Poutine – Canada

Ask any Canadian and they’ll tell you that poutine is what warms their soul. Originating in Quebec in the 1950s, the word “poutine” is French for “mess”. Who knew messy can be so good? Canada did!

This messy street food quickly took over the nation with just three ingredients. Fried potatoes topped with cheese curds and gravy. That’s it!

Get messy with platter of poutine at Lord of the Wings at The Pearl-Qatar.

Pav Bhaji – India

Some say dosas, others say choles, we say, “can we have them all?” Indian cuisine is so beautifully diverse, we can’t pick just one. However, pav bhaji was the dish that stood out from almost every corner of India.

Potato based vegetable stew, all mashed together with fragrant spices and served with light, fluffy buns.

Get yourself some finger licking pav bhaji at Saravanaa Bhavan in Al Ghanim.

Koshary – Egypt

Talk about making something out of nothing! In the 19th century, whatever was leftover in the pantry at the end of the month, got all mixed together to make room for the new. And from there, koshary was born.

Today, it’s the ultimate comfort food in Egypt, sold from street carts to five-star restaurants. It started with rice, lentils and pasta topped with spicy sauce, vinegar and crispy onions. It has since evolved to include chick peas, garlic and oil.

Grab a bowl of koshary at Layali Al Qahira in Souq Waqif.

Macaroni and Cheese – USA

Whoever came up with this baked dish, thank you! Of course, this isn’t a historically American dish but it has become one over the last couple of centuries with the flood of immigrants altering their own favorite comfort foods.

With small pasta and a whole lot of cheddar cheese topped off with some bread crumbs and baked in the oven for about 15 minutes. The end result is crispiness on the outside and gooey goodness on the inside. This is why America is great!

Try a fishy take on the classic at Red Lobster in Fereej bin Mahmoud.

Kare Kare – Philippines

The thick stew of kare kare is another rendition of putting everything in one pot. Originating from Pampanga and spreading across the islands, kare kare is a stew like no other.

It starts with a base of stewed oxtail and can have anything from calf feet to leftover meat, and seafood to all kinds of vegetables. Thickened with rice and topped with peanut sauce, this stew brings the essence of comfort in a bowl.

Try a bowl of kare kare at Max’s Restaurant in Al Saad.

Harees – Qatar

Coming back to Qatar, many don’t realize harees has history. This simple wheat dish dates back to the 10th century as documented in ‘The Cooking Book’ by Ibn Sayyar Al Warraq. Many even say there’s evidence of Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) eating harees.

Harees is not soup, it can fall between a stew and porridge. After simmering pre-soaked wheat in water, it can be made savory by adding meat before it’s strained and beaten to a thick consistency then seasoned to taste. Make it sweet by excluding the meat and season with cinnamon and sugar.

Discover the flavors of harees at Muglat Harees Al Waldah on Salwa Road.

All images courtesy of BQ Plus Magazine unless otherwise noted.