Location: The Middle East, on the east coast of Saudi Arabia
Population: 1.4 million
Geography: A small, mostly flat desert island nation
Signature flavours: Saffron, rice, seafood, cardamom, cinnamon, lamb, rose water
Bahrain is one of those teeny-tiny places with a very rich culinary tradition. Because it has been both a trading centre and an area colonized many times over, its traditional cooking is woven with aspects of Persian, Greek, Portuguese, and English characteristics, making it a colourful assignment for Eric.
Mumawwash: An aromatic mung bean fried rice, flavoured with turmeric, cinnamon, saffron, and lemon rind, and topped with shrimp and fresh tomato.
Prep and cooking time: 1.5 hours
Balaleet: Pan fried egg noodles in a sweet-and-savoury butter sauce, traditionally served as a breakfast item with egg on top.
Prep and cooking time: 40 min
Qahwa (Coffee): Brewed coffee spiced with saffron and cardamom.
Prep and cooking time: 10 min
The Shopping List
Rabba provided ghee and rose water for the balaleet. Eric’s other ingredients came from Bulk Barn (notably $10 saffron, which Eric has been dying to buy) and our great local Freshco.
Sometimes, for whatever reason, a recipe may not translate perfectly to our kitchen. This may be due to a difference in equipment or technique, specificities of ingredients, or even climate (in the case of ablo bread for the Togo assignment). We have to trust our kitchen know-how at times and reassess a recipe when needed. This was the case for the balaleet, which called for 1 cup of oil and 3.5 tablespoons of butter to be used on 4 ounces of pasta. It sounded like a lot to Eric, and even after cutting the oil by half, he still ended up with a very oily — albeit still fairly tasty — dish. The flavour was very unique, and the texture of the noodles was pleasant, but if we were to remake this dish, our cup of oil would be replaced by a tablespoon or two.
Eric also ran into problems with the mung beans for the mumawwash — they were still as hard as pebbles after the allotted cooking time. He had to triple the time to get them soft. In the end, the dish was delicious, though, with the primary flavours being turmeric and saffron. The shrimp on top were meant to be dried, but we have both found dried shrimp too salty in the past, so Eric opted to bake fresh shrimp. They were spiced with a little parsley, and they were juicy and meaty — the perfect topper for the mumawwash.
I don’t like coffee — even though I had to fake it for years when I worked at Starbucks — but this spiced coffee was exceptional. Eric served our cups with dates alongside, and we finished our Bahraini meal with hot coffee and sweet, sticky dates.
Disclaimer: I’m not a professional chef. I’m just a passionate cook with a curiosity for flavours I’ve never tried. For great recipes from gifted local cooks, follow the links above.