Syrian cuisine has elements in common with the cuisine of many Middle-Eastern nations, and so does not seem at all exotic to most Israelis. In addition, because Syria is a Moslem nation, where pork is never served and seafood rarely found, the Jews of Syria had little problem adapting this versatile cuisine to kashrut, the rules of dining to which observant Jews adhere.
For several centuries, the Jews of Damascus played a major role in the mercantile system of the nation. Many of these families enjoyed a highly developed cuisine and set such sumptuous tables that one l9th century visitor reported their cookery "to be second only to that of France." That may have been a bit of an exaggeration, but the recipes for the following dinner will serve to demonstrate the honesty, simplicity and subtlety of this cuisine, now a regular part of dining in many Israeli homes and restaurants.
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Sources: Embassy of Israel; Israeli Foreign Ministry; Ruth's Kitchen; Manischewitz; Rogov's Ramblings- Reprinted with permission.
Daniel Rogov is the restaurant and wine critic for the daily newspaper Ha'aretz. He is also the senior writer for Wine and Gourmet Magazine and contributes culinary and wine articles to newspapers in Europe and the United States.