Syrian food combines the sophistication of European cuisine with the excitement of eastern spices, and it is Syria's culinary contributions that have been the greatest influence on modern Arabic cuisine. Dishes from Syria provide the framework for the exotic cuisine recognized internationally as Arabic.
Many traditional Syrian dishes are simple preparations based on grains, vegetables and fruits. Often the same ingredients are used over and over, in different ways, in each dish. Yogurt, cheese, cucumber, aubergines, chick peas, nuts, tomatoes, burghul and sesame (seeds, paste and oil) are harmoniously blended into numerous assorted medleys. Parsley and mint are used in vast quantities as are lemons, onions, garlic and olive oil. Pita bread is served with all meals for dipping.
Pastries are stuffed with vegetables and vegetables are stuffed with meats. Meat may be made into nuggets then cooked over charcoal. Presentation is always artistic: even the most basic dish is beautifully garnished with a sprig of parsley here and a dab of yoghurt there and olive oil to cover the food.
Typical Syrian meal starts with mezze - this can be an elaborate spread of forty or fifty hors d'oeuvres or simply a salad and a bowl of nuts. But it is always a social occasion when friends and family gather to enjoy appetizers and conversation before lunch and dinner. A meat, (lamb is the favorite meat) chicken or fish dish follows with salad and rice.
Meals are usually followed by a hot drink of Arabic Coffee, or Shai (tea) along with fruit, booza (ice cream) and a dessert. Syrian pastries are delightful, they are usually honey soaked pastries with nuts, raisins, or cheese. Baqlawa is filo dough baked with nuts and covered with honey. Halawat al-Jibna is a syrup topped doughy pastry filled with booza or cream cheese.
Sahtan (Bon Appetité).