Women refugees of Tayybeh: A Celebration of Syrian Cuisine wow with their fresh, fragrant, traditional fare

Syrian refugees make deeply flavourful feasts that Vancouverites can't get enough of

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      The women behind Tayybeh: A Celebration of Syrian Cuisine continue to knock it out of the park.

      The collective—which consists of six female Syrian refugees who are making their way in their new home by sharing their love of the food they grew up with—hosted its most extravagant pop-up dinner to date on May 26.

      Going by the name “Shades of Green” in a nod to Syria's harvest season, the event sold out in a record 14 minutes. It was held at the Norma Rose Point elementary school at UBC and featured more than a dozen colourful dishes, each drawn from the women’s cherished family recipe collections.

      There was mutabbal, which is a creamy smoked eggplant dip. and mhammara, a red-pepper dip with walnuts and pomegranate molasses.

      Guests (150 of them) also enjoyed makloubet bazalia, which is upside-down rice with slow-cooked beef and toasted nuts. There was a lentil and bulgur pilaf topped with caramelized onions and parsley.

      Mutabbal, which is a creamy smoked eggplant dip, was one of several dishes at Tayybeh's most recent dinner.
      Gail Johnson.

      Hummus was prepared in a bread pudding, layers of pita bread smothered in hummus then topped with chickpeas, home-made yogurt, tahini, and olive oil.

      There were stuffed vine leaves, tabbouleh, fattoush, and freshly baked saaj bread.

      Other Syrian specialties included:

      - Tableh: bulgur wheat with chopped peppers, tomatoes, green onions, and pomegranate molasses

      - Mahshi Malfoof: Slow-cooked cabbage leaves stuffed with bulgur wheat, pomegranate molasses, and spices,

      - Maaloubeh: Slow-cooked rice and aubergine topped with lean ground beef and almonds.

      One of the chefs, who is an avid baker, made cookielike baklava rounds called the Lady’s Bracelet. They weren’t overly sweet and the pastry was perfectly feathery.

      Even though Ramadan is now under way, the women are still going strong.

      “Our ladies are determined to make a sustainable income to support their families,” says Nihal Elwan, the Cairo-born, Arabic-speaking Vancouver resident who spearheaded the formation of Tayybeh. “They are incredibly resourceful and hard-working. So despite having to fast from sunrise to sunset--without even water--the chefs of Tayybeh will not be slowing down at all. In fact, the catering service will be in full swing during the month of Ramadan. So despite their fast, with the days getting longer and the weather getting hotter, they persevere with a truly admirable work ethic.”

      Elwan, who is an international development consultant specializing in gender issues in the Middle East, also notes: “In some ways I see this as the most effective and moving development project I have been involved in.”

      No date has yet been set for the next pop-up dinner, but the group is aiming for the end of June. (It’s always looking for places to hold its buffet-style meals, too.)

      Their food can also be found at various events around town.

      Tayybeh will be at Eastside Flea this coming weekend and at the  Opening Gala of Indian Summer Festival on July 6.

      You can follow Tayybeh on Facebook.