‘This is what a Syrian grandmother’s kitchen smells like.’ Honestly, if that sentence doesn’t make your mouth water, then we don’t know what will. Now, if you’re a fan of Syrian food (which you should be, by the way, as it’s awesome), then you’ve probably enjoyed – albeit somewhat abashedly – the increasing number of Syrian food outlets run by refugees around Cairo – from the shawarma kiosks in Zamalek to the restaurants dotting the whole 6th of October neighbourhood now known as ‘Little Damascus’.
While many foodies know about the food outlets run by the 6th of October community, less attention has been paid to the growing refugee community in Obour City. This is one of the reasons why Zeit Zeitoun came to be: this Syrian catering service is based in the suburb and run entirely by Syrian cooks of the highest calibre, maintaining premium standards of hygiene and quality, and following traditional Syrian recipes handed down from generation to generation of female cooks.
The business is run by a Syrian resident of Cairo and caters to all neighborhoods three times a week, focusing on large orders initially until they expand.
‘This is the kind of food you would get if you a visited a home in Damascus, Aleppo, Homs or Lattakia, where food is at the centre of social relations,’ they write on their Facebook page amid photos of mouth-watering, delicious concoctions like Fattah (vegetarian and meat versions available), Kibbeh, Frikkeh (cracked wheat with chicken), Kabab Hendi, Shish Barak, Ouzi (rice, pulled meat and peas in dough), and, of course, the usual fatayer options.
‘[Zeit Zeitoun] is authentic and it's cooked in a home, […] and cooking, for these Syrian ladies, becomes an art rather than a chore; a job with high standards that they know they should apply: hygiene, taste and quality consistency. And it generates income: an everyday task becomes a piece of teamwork that brings in money [for their households].’
Honestly, they had us at Fattah. And what better time to try Zeit Zeitoun than during Ramadan and the seasonal influx of hungry relatives to our tables?
Even better, the fact that this start-up focuses on the quality and experience of the food rather than market itself as a social cause or charity (though there’s nothing wrong with that), pays testament to their commitment in, first and foremost, providing Obour City with some truly delicious authentic Syrian cuisine. Though buying their food will help Syrian refugee households, Zeit Zeitoun doesn’t try to pull on you heartstrings, giving these skilled Syrian cooks a dignified source of income based on their supreme quality of food rather than focusing exclusively on their very unfortunate circumstances.
(All photos courtesy of Zeit Zeitoun/Facebook)