Metro Morning

Syrian chefs collaborate on traditional dishes, burgers for refugees

Two chefs, one from Syria and one from Toronto, will collaborate on both traditional and new dishes to raise money to bring two refugee families to Toronto at an event called Supper for Syria.

Old meets new in charity Syrian cook off

Two chefs share their dishes to bring Syrian families to Toronto. Ali Fallaha, on the left, is chef and owner of Reyan Restaurant in Mississauga. Sanjiz Matthews, right, is the sous chef at One King West Hotel and owner of Incredible Spice. (Brendan Ross/CBC)

It's a Syrian cook-off where the traditions of Middle East cooking meet new Toronto cuisine.

Two chefs, one from Syria and one from Toronto, will collaborate on both traditional and new dishes to raise money to bring two refugee families to Toronto at an event called Supper for Syria.

The Syrian chef, Ali Fallaha, will make a traditional dish, and then younger chef, Sanjiz Matthews, will put his own spin on it.

Fallaha is from Damascus, Syria, and arrived in Toronto in 2009. He runs an esteemed Syrian restaurant in Mississauga called Reyan.

"I want to help as much as I can, the Syrian people. My family is still there," said Fallaha. 

Matthews's Syrian roots extend back to the 4th century.

"In any culture, food brings people together," said Matthews, who runs Incredible Spice. 

"The different culture of food — how you prepare the same item in different cultures — that knowledge enriches your food," said Fallaha. "If they know my food and I know theirs, we can better understand each other."

​Matthews is trying out a Syrian burger. It starts with a talame bun — talame is soft Middle Eastern flatbread with a flaky inside. On the burger, he adds red onion, mint, coriander seeds and cumin. Then he adds beets.

Fallaha will prepare a more traditional Syrian dish called harra bi isbaou. It literally translates to "burn your finger" in English because it's usually prepared on an open flame. It's a vegetarian dish with lentils and fried bread dough, served with pickled cucumber.

"No home in Syria can make this dish for themselves only. It is tradition. Any family that makes this dish should make it big enough to share with neighbours," he said.

"That's why I choose this dish. To remind Syrians to be one family, not fight each other. Let us eat harra bi isbaou. Let us burn our fingers on this dish, instead of burn our fingers in war."

The money raised will help bring two refugee families to Toronto. It takes place on Sunday, November 29, at Wychwood Barns. See more here.

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