Food and Instagram have always had a beautiful matrimony even way back in 2010 when the platform was first launched. The very first photos that were posted were of a dog and a bowl of Mexican soup. That was the beginning of the growth of food culture on Instagram. Today, food reviewers, chefs and general foodies abound and generate millions of food-related posts.
In the Arab world our culture is very much intertwined with food and we’ve all seen our mums question, “what should I cook today?” It can be tough to come up with new ideas and they may revert to the classic life saving dishes of chicken pane (fried chicken) and macarona bechamel (oven cooked pasta). Yet, eventually, it can get boring. Instagram can really help and that’s where Arab Instagram chefs can come in handy, churning out recipe after recipe and adding a new spin on old classics. To give you some inspiration, we have put together a special collection of some of our favorite dishes made by talented Arab chefs across the region.
Fattah Kebab Hala (Egyptian Kebab in a pot)
Taking the traditional braised onion beef chuck steak usually served with rice and turning it into a fattah is how Egyptian chef and food reviewer Ramy Soliman transformed a classic dish into a unique gastronomic hybrid. The idea came from when Soliman was enjoying his kebab hala and wanted to get the last of its delicious sauce, so he picked up a piece of baladi bread (Egyptian flatbread), dipped it and took a bite. He knew he was on to something and decided to make his new take on the classic.
Starting with a bed of baladi bread soaked in a beefy sauce (the fattah portion), he topped it all with the rice, braised beef, potatoes and tomato sauce (kebab hala portion). To try out this recipe, you can check out his channel @ramysoli where he was able to amass 251k followers.
Gazelle horns (Moroccan Almond Cookies)
Sticking to her Moroccan roots, Nargisse Benkabbou, an Instagram chef based in London is devoting her channel to Moroccan cuisine and culture. With over 67.6k followers, her channel @mymoroccanfood is helping to spread all things Moroccan especially the lesser known dishes that deserve recognition. Gazelle horns are a prime example.
These almond based cookies are usually served during small gatherings like tea time or bigger occasions like Eid. Its a fun recipe especially as it will require you to roll up your sleeves for when you shape the almond paste dough into their signature curved moon shape. Then you’ll get to roll them on a bed of roasted sesame seeds and bake them for a few minutes. Not only will you get to enjoy their rich almond taste but you’ll also savor hints of orange blossom and cinnamon. Its an overall great dessert for any sweet tooth.
Meghli (Lebanese Rice Pudding)
A mother of two, Lebanese influencer Sarah Yassine Fawaz shares snippets of her life while whipping out Middle Eastern recipes on her channel @mamas.joy. With 301k followers, she loves to showcase her passion towards Lebanese cuisine while at times tapping into her comedic side as she dons a sheer colorful sultana costume while preparing some of her dishes.
Adding a Lebanese touch to an already well-loved dessert, the infamous rice pudding, Fawaz takes viewers through the multistep process of making the Lebanese spin-off known as Meghli. This unique version of rice pudding is a celebratory dessert as its usually made during certain occasions like when a new baby is born or during Christmas. Infused with the woody and spicy flavors of cinnamon as well as a hint of licorice from the added caraway, the rice itself has a unique blend of spices and herbs giving it that signature brown hue. Atop it are an assortment of peeled pistachios and almonds as well as shredded coconut. To save you time when making it, you can buy peeled pistachios and almonds from any nearby grocery store.
Maftoul (Palestinian Couscous)
Joudi Kalla, a Palestinian chef and activist is bringing her voice and talent for food on several platforms including her Instagram channel @palestineonaplate with over 171k followers and her website. On her channel you can find her speaking up about Palestine, including her recent video where she voiced her frustration over Israeli superhero Sabra being cast in an upcoming Marvel Film. Yet, she also dabbles in the kitchen where she further celebrates her home of Palestine through her delicious recipes.
Showcasing Palestine’s rich diversity in food, Joudi introduces viewers to Maftoul, a Palestinian couscous dish. In this version of the Moroccan classic, Joudi adds round semolina balls of couscous onto a bed of caramelized onions and then incorporates in some hummus. The whole mixture is then soaked in the flavored stock that the couscous was originally cooked in, upping the rich flavor profile of the entire dish. Pieces of juicy chicken are then added on top as the final component. This is a great savory dish to have on occasions and especially large family gatherings.
Sambosak (Kentucky Fried Chicken Style)
Kuwaiti chef Bader Alshayji doesn’t just love to cook, he also loves to taste his unique dishes; in the end of all his videos, he’d take a big bite and nod his head knowing he nailed his dish. His Instagram channel @chefbjs is all about re-invention as he re-creates several Arab dishes into creative alternatives. With over 1 million followers, viewers excitedly wait to each new dish he would come up with.
To channel his creative prowess, you can try making one of his more experimental dishes, a Finger Licken’ Good take on the classic sambosak. If you made a recent order of a big bucket of KFC’s fried chicken as well as their onion rings and have a few to spare, you can actually use them as a filling for your sambosak. In his video, Alshayji shreds a few pieces of fried chicken and onion rings in a bowl, mixing them with shredded cheese, mayonnaise and barbeque sauce and then he stuffs the entire mixture into the triangle shaped pastry. Its an interesting concept worth trying out especially if you like to step out of the box when it comes to food.
Om Ali Tres Leches (Egypt & Mexico Duo)
Giving a second nod to Egypt’s Ramy Soliman, his channel doesn’t just experiment with savory Middle Eastern dishes, it also has a sweet tooth. Bridging the gap between Egypt and Mexico, Soliman made a new take on two classic desserts, Tres Leches and Om Ali by bringing them together into one dish.
For the Om Ali portion, he baked a sheet laid with puff pastry then when it came to the Tres Leches mix (a cake soaked in three types of milk), on a stove, he mixed together vanilla, full cream, evaporated and condensed milk to fulfill the trio of milk required for the recipe. He then crumbled and spread a layer of baked puff pastry in a casserole dish which he then drenched with the Tres Leches mix followed by another layer of puff pastry. Its a smart combo as it highlights the best parts from both desserts, the milk trio and the bread.
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