Arabic sweets and their master pastr y chefs
The Food Heritage Foundation’s Zeinab Jeambey visits Lebanon’s main cities to highlight local pastries and their makers
Equal to our fanaticism for Lebanese gastronomy is our pr ide in Arabic sweets and desser ts. The legacy of our desser ts lies in the hands of master pastr y chefs, known as halwanji, who spend years perfecting a desser t recipe and r ise to fame with their sweet specialty.
Halawet a’rozz bi ashta by Haddad Pastry
A testament to the her itage of Haddad Pastr y Shop, the great grandfather’s work permit dates back to 1933. They star ted their business by specializing in jazariyyeh, sesame, hazlenut, pistachio or cashew br ittles; and r ice desser t filled with cream, named halawet a’rozz bi ashta, or better known as halawet shmayseh. The word shmayseh der ives from shams (sun), referr ing to the ver y low fire over which the r ice, sugar, water and rose water cook for seven hours, until they become a homogenous gelatinous mixture. The mixture is then formed into small disks, filled with cream and spr inkled with powdered sugar. Al Haddad exper imented with the recipe and created a version mixed with powdered pistachio nuts. This desser t is mostly consumed dur ing Ramadan and in summer, since it is light and contains no ghee.
Haddad Pastry Shop, 06 440174, 06 439093, Abu Samra, Dannawi Square, Tripoli
Halawet a’rozz by Halimeh Harmouche
For the past 30 years, Halimeh Harmouche has been working in the family business making dair y products, and specializing in halloumi cheese and jebneh chaghale, the sweet cheese used in her famous halawet a’rozz. Made of r ice, sweet cheese, sugar, water, orange blossom water and mastic, the process is labor intensive: all ingredients are pounded over a fire for two to three hours until the r ice and cheese form a homogeneous white mixture with an “out of this world” taste. Harmouche’s halawet a’rozz is special as she makes the cheese out of fresh whole milk brought from nearby farms.
Harmouche Pastry Shop, 06 435766, 71 654582, Tripoli
Tamriyyeh by Abu Adham
Mohammad Khafaja, also known as Abu Adham, is a master pastry chef in the dessert tamriyyeh, a skill passed down through his family. Mohammad’s grandfather mastered tamriyyeh in its birthplace, Nablos, Palestine. The dessert is originally made during Saints’ holidays and Assumption Day and was once sold in quarts (four cups) in front of churches. It consists of a thinly spread dough made from semolina, water and salt, cut into cubes and filled with a cooked paste of thick semolina, sugar, water, orange blossom water and mastic. It is then fried in sunflower oil and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Exempt from any dairy or animal products, it is vegan and can be consumed during Lent. In Palestine, people use the term moutammar, originating from the word tamer (meaning dates,) to refer to something roasted, grilled or fried to a golden color, thus the name tamriyyeh. Today, Abu Adham is the only pastry master chef in Lebanon specialized in tamriyyeh and has trained his nephew to continue the legacy.
Patisserie Ward, 03 915306 (Jul – Oct), Bhamdoun To tr y the delicacy all year around contact Abu Adham, 03 675901
The reshaping of ghraybeh by Sanioura Pastry Shop
The Sanioura family has built their reputation for pastr y making since 1859. The chefs at Sanioura explain that their ancestors were exper imenting with dif ferent ingredients when they came up with a “strange” dough, in Arabic, “gharibeh,” from which the name of the desser t, ghraybeh, was der ived. Later on, they remolded the dough into lozenge shapes, which were easier to fill with dates and pistachio and to pack for expor t to Syr ia and Palestine. The new shaped pastr y was called sanioura, af ter the family name of its master pastr y chefs. Made solely from ghee, flour and powdered sugar, sanioura pastr ies preser ve well.
Sanioura Pastr y Shop, 07 724157 Riad el Soloh Street, Sidon
Qazha by Patisserie Gondoline
Qazha is hardly known outside of Sidon, yet it is by far the healthiest of Arabic desser ts. Known as “the food of the poor” and usually homemade, qazha (also known as habbet al baraka in Arabic, and meaning nigella seeds in English,) is or iginally from Jerusalem, Palestine. It is made of corn flour, sesame, sugar, olive oil and nigella seeds ground to a paste and is black in color. Qazha is usually prescr ibed for breastfeeding women to increase their milk flow and for its health benefits for newborn babies, since it is r ich in good fatty acids. Ahmad Al Jouaidi, owner of Patisser ie Gondoline, renowned for its qazha, recalls how his grandmother of ten used to make it at home and conser ve it in large glass jars.
Patisser ie Gondoline, 07 725906, Wastani Street, Sidon; 01 858556, Bir Hassan - near Iranian Embassy, Beirut
The Sanioura family has built their reputation for pastry making since 1859
Haddad Pastr y. Photo: Elias Khlat
Halawet a’rozz. Photo: Elias Khlat
Abu Adham making tamriyyeh. Photo: Food Heritage Foundation
Sanioura sweets. Photo: Firas Sanioura
Homemade qazha. Photo: Firas Sanioura