A great chef traces the history of Saudi Arabia’s new national dishes
RIYADH: The Saudi Ministry of Culture’s Culinary Arts Commission announced this month that the jareesh was chosen as the national dish of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the maqshush as a national dessert.
the jareesh it is a stew composed of cracked wheat, vegetables and a sauce, to which lamb can be added. the maqshush it consists of morsels of buckwheat topped with a mixture of ghee, honey, dates, molasses and sugar.
The Commission’s announcement is part of the National and Regional Dishes Narratives initiative, which aims to identify and showcase popular dishes that are part of the Kingdom’s culinary culture. This initiative will include research to find out which dishes best represent each region, the results of which are expected to be announced later this year.
In an exclusive interview with Arab newsRakan al-Oraifi, an internationally renowned Saudi chef, welcomed the initiative which, according to him, will highlight traditional Saudi dishes and put them at the forefront of the country’s culinary scene.
Mr. Al-Oraifi, a member of the World Master Chefs Society and founder of Kit Catering, says that jareesh it comes from the central region of Najd and that there are more than one variety.
“We usually cook it with laban (buttermilk), hence it is known as “jareesh white,” he explains. “We also have a second type of jareeshwhich comes from Hail (in northwest Saudi Arabia), and is red because we cook it with tomato sauce.
The unique taste of this dish comes from its filling of ghee, caramelized onions and lemon powder.
The choice of jareesh as a national dish reflects its popularity in Saudi society, the Culinary Arts Commission points out, and references to the dish can be found in heritage books dating back centuries. It is considered one of the most important dishes of Saudi heritage and is known as the “master of dishes”.
Rakan al-Oraifi says the main reason why the jareesh it is so popular is that people in the Najd region have historically eaten wheat rather than rice, as it was less resource-intensive.
“The jareesh it is a traditional dish that everyone likes, young and old,” he says. “The dish has many flavors; it’s quite salty, a little sour from the buttermilk, and you can eat it in winter or summer.’
According to the Commission, this dish is served to happy occasions and though it originated in the central region, it spread throughout the Kingdom.
the maqshush, meanwhile, is a dessert usually served for breakfast in Saudi households, and is made from wheat flour, ghee, and honey or sugar. It’s especially popular during the winter. According to the Commission, the history of this dish dates back more than a century and is often served with Saudi coffee.
Rakan al-Oraifi – who is also a member of the World Association of Master Chefs, the Culinary Guild of the Emirates, the Latin American gastronomic association Aregala International and the Association of Saudi Chefs – is delighted that this dessert, originally from Hail, is recognized .
“The maqshush it is also made of wheat,” he says. “We mix two kinds of flowers in the maqshush: white and brown.”
She adds that it’s a popular breakfast dish because the grain, ghee, and honey provide energy and strength.
In addition to their great popularity, the authenticity of their flavors and their importance in Saudi culture, i jareesh and the maqshush they were chosen as national dishes because they are simple to prepare with readily available ingredients, says the Commission.
Second Flavors of Arabiaa cookbook recently published by the Commission and Cassi editions, the maqshush it can be considered a combination of pancakes and bread due to its taste and texture. Its fluffy loaves are simple to make and were traditionally baked on a you knowa convex metal pan.
Word “maqshush” it means “he who takes the smallest portion or smallest pieces of food”which reflects the fact that the dish is made with simple and cheap ingredients.
Mr. Al-Oraifi has been crowned the best chef of Saudi Arabia three times. In 2021 he won first place in the culinary category at the National Cultural Awards. He was the chef of Suhail restaurant in Riyadh and AlUla, for which he created a unique and authentic menu.
He joined the Al-Khozama group in 2022 to create a contemporary Saudi menu for the Maiz restaurant in Diriyah, and recently moved to Paris to pursue advanced studies in French pastry.
This text is the translation of an article published on Arabnews.com