Popular Foods in Damascus Countryside

Damascus Countryside is an agricultural governorate with excellence. Due to its geographical location and climate diversity it produces a variety of fruits, vegetables and grains. The mountainous region of Zabadani, Sarghaya and Bloudan, relatively cold are famous for their cherry, apple, peach and fig trees where as the region of Wadi Barada, a little bit warmer, is famous for its almond, apricot, walnut and prune trees. Douma, located north east of Damascus proper, in a plain region, is famous for its vineyards, olive groves, walnut trees and vegetable orchards. The common agricultural products of the governorate in generalare grains, wheat, barley, beans, lentils and check peas.

This variety of agricultural production helped the people of each region to excel in certain kinds of foods. The residents of Zabadani are experts in making cherry and apple marmalades and conserves, as well as in drying other fruits, such as fig, and apricot to be consumed in snowy winters. They are famous also for making apple vinegar which is well known for its healthy advantages. And because the region is mountainous with very fresh air, people tended to produce the Zallough honey universally known for its energetic influence which heals fatigue, stress, and male impotence.

Both, the regions of Douma and Qalamoun are known for their products:

molasses, raisins, and Qamareddin (apricot fruit pressed and dried ) and for the Saleeba sorbet, a refreshing drink prepared from grape juice.

The regions of Qatana and Douma ,also, are famous for their olives of all kinds and for pickled olives used as a main element on the Syrian table and of course for olive oil. The Qalamoun region, famous for its grains, is well known for its Cracked wheat (Burghul) and Kishk, as well as for molasses and dried fruit; figs and raisins.

This variation in agricultural products help the people of every region in the governorate to prepare special foods prepared in social and religious events or for daily consumption. In the Qalamoun region for example wheat is plentiful, hence people excelled in making special kind of cake locally called Aqras, literally translated as discs because of the circular shape of its pieces. Aqras is made from flour kneaded with fat, milk and sugar, with sesame or nigella seed, shaped in discs or squares or triangles and baked. Some people stuff it with dates.

The people of Qalamoun excel, also, in making kishk. A very delicious food prepared from Burghul(cracked wheat) soaked in milk and yoghurt for several days, dried in the air until it becomes hard, then it is ground to become like flour. Kishk is a basic food for all the people of rural Damascus since it is easy to prepare, easy to digest and rich with healthy elements. Usually it is consumed in cold winter days at breakfast or supper.

Families of a quarter or a neighborhood help each other in preparing Kishk, which requires the efforts of several women to prepare, in turns one after the other. When a family finishes preparing its supplies, it usually gives those who helped samples of its products, as a token of gratefulness and friendship, something that helps strengthening social relations among families of the neighbourhood.

How to prepare kishk: Kisk is consumed in several ways:

Fresh kishk :After soaking burghul in milk and yoghurt, and before it is dried, it is mixed with walnut chopped onion, dried mint and then drenched with olive oil. It is preferable to be eaten with black olives.

- Kishkieyeh: is prepared from dried kishk. Olive oil is heated in a pan, then a chopped onion is added until it reddens, then we add ground red meat (some people prefer it with no meat), then kishk flour is added ( quantity depends on the number of eaters) with little water until it becomes like pudding. Preferably eaten with thin bread baked in wood furnace, Tannour).

- Kishk soup: is prepared from (a cup of lentil, a cup of kishk powder with about a liter of water heated until lentil soften, then a chopped onion is baked in olive oil until it reddens and added to the soup. A little dry mint is sprayed over. It can be eaten as a soup or with shreds of bread soaked in the soup. Because Douma and the Qalamoun region has a distinguished species of grapes they excel in making foods and sweets from grapes juice and molasses:

- Molassis sweet: Molassis is mixed with sugar and heated until it takes a hard consistence, then spread in trays and covered with pea nuts, walnuts or almonds, or, rolled with large pieces of walnut, and left to cool and harden to be consumed later

- Aseeda: is prepared from margarine and flour cooked together, flavored with ground anise and fennel seeds and sweetened with molasses and then poured in cups and topped with almond and walnut.

- Malban: usually made from large pieces of walnut, pierced and fixed on a very thin rope with knots. Grape juice with some sugar and starch are heated until they have a gelatin consistence, then the walnut rope is dipped in the juice and drawn several times with a space of time enough to allow the juice stuck on the rope and walnut to dry, until a thick layer is accumulated on the rope. Then walnut ropes are dried in the air and kept to be consumed in winter time.

- Tweitat: Flour is kneaded with margarine, oil, and sugar and left to rest for about 3-4 hours. In this time walnut is crushed and mixed with sugar, cinnamon or fennel and orange flower water. Small and thin diskettes are made of the yeast ,stuffed with walnut mixture and closed in crescent shapes by pressing the edges, then either fried or baked .

- Qamareddin: is a very famous product usually consumed in Ramadan, the fasting month of the Moslems , because it has a large amount of glucose, it supplies fasting people with energy for long hours.

Qamareddin is prepared from pressed apricot spread on wooden boards in thin layers not more than 2millimeters thick and dried in the air. When dry, slices are packed in cellophane and kept to be consumed in hot summer days.

- Preparing Qamareddin: Slices of Qamareddin are shredded in small pieces and soaked in water for 3-4 hours, then either solved by hand pressing or in an electric mixer, with sugar added as desired, until it changes into a sorbet. It is in served in glasses or in bowls after Ice cubes being added.

Speech about foods of Damascus Countryside is endless, especially when tastes and experiences, and sometimes requirements are various. What we have offered is a little from a long list of foods always prepared from local natural materials and products with no chemical additions.



Adapted by: Haifaa Mafalani