Meet the Saudi chefs and food bloggers demystifying the kitchen for millions on social media during Ramadan

Hatoon Al-Toukhi, a Saudi chef specializing in Italian cuisine. (Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 17 April 2023
Follow

Meet the Saudi chefs and food bloggers demystifying the kitchen for millions on social media during Ramadan

  • Saudi chefs take to social media during Ramadan to share easy, innovative recipes

RIYADH: Social media platforms are a go-to recipe finder for millions of people around the world, including Saudis looking for iftar and sahoor recipes.

Food bloggers have reported a surge in followers during Ramadan, encouraging them to create innovative, easy to cook recipes.

Alaa Alkhathlan has more than 100,000 subscribers on Instagram at @iberryki and over 600,000 on her YouTube channel at @Berry Kitchen where she spreads her passion for cooking and Saudi food.




Fig snack by Alaa Alkathlan @iberryki on instagram. (Supplied)

She said: “Being committed to the things you love makes you inspired. I enjoy creating delicious recipes and inspiring videos that are easy to follow. Anyone who wants to be a good cook must do it repeatedly until they succeed. Sooner or later, they will.”

Yahya Al-Jaber from Jeddah has racked up more than 27,000 followers on his Instagram account @yahya.aljaber.

He said: “I believe that the field of cooking is a beautiful and creative world in which you can navigate and be creative and different, each in its own way.

Watching one recipe can lead to another recipe idea, or one can find inspiration from a snapshot of the three- minute video clip.

Yahya Al-Jaber, Food blogger

“Watching one recipe can lead to another recipe idea, or one can find inspiration from a snapshot of the three-minute video clip. Inspiration is an important and highly effective factor in improving the quality of performance, development, and excellence.”

Al-Jaber grew up watching cooking programs on TV and then trying them out. At first, the results were not always successful, but through trial and error he found a way. During Ramadan, he creates content that is quick and simple to follow.

Afnan Al-Ghamdi has 2.9 million followers on Instagram at @afnan1993.




Fries with dip by Yahya Al-Jaber @yahya.aljaber on instagram. (Supplied)

One of her followers, Sara Ali, said: “She has the most easy and creative way of cooking. Her recipes are so simple yet unique. Every Ramadan it has turned into a ritual for me to constantly follow her and dig in for some new ideas for cooking.”

Fatimah Ahmed, from Jeddah said: “Most of the food bloggers share the food products they use to make the dishes. It gets so easy for us to follow and motivates us to try our hands at creating those recipes.

“They inspire and get us hooked to their pages especially during Ramadan when we are searching for easy and innovative recipes every day.”




Social media has given the opportunity to explain the recipes in the most methodical and quick way. (Supplied)

Ahmed’s favorite food bloggers to follow in Ramadan on Instagram are Wejdan Mohammad (Wejdan_mohammad_1), Hadeel Bokhari (hadeel.bokhari), and Mohammed Inani (Moe_inani).

Another food blogger, Ahmed Saeed, said: “I learn a lot from other food bloggers and chefs around the world. Social media has given the opportunity to explain the recipes in the most methodical and quick way, in turn making it simpler for understanding.”

He practices his recipes several times before presenting them to his followers.




Chef Jouhainah. (Supplied)

Saudi chef Haifa Alshammari, who is based in Al-Khafji, runs a catering business from home via Instagram at @delicious_kfj. With more than 5,500 followers, she said: “I used to watch cooking videos, then decided to make these dishes myself.”

She noted that social media was a useful tool to promote her business as customers could watch her meal preparations.

One of her most popular dishes is pasta with mushroom and chicken. Here is the recipe: Boil the macaroni. In another pot, add butter and chicken breast (cut into small pieces) and leave it on a low heat for seven to 10 minutes.




A dish by Chef Haifa Alshammari. (Supplied)

Add mushrooms, thinly sliced onions and zucchini, carrots, and bell peppers. Stir over a low heat for 10 minutes. Add sliced black olives, cooking cream, a pinch of black pepper, salt, a little Parmesan, and mozzarella cheese. Then add the boiled pasta.

Hatoon Al-Toukhi is a Saudi chef with 15 years’ experience in Italian cuisine. Married into an Italian family, she learned how to cook authentic Italian food from her mother-in-law.

She runs workshops in Jeddah teaching Italian cuisine using recipes from her Instagram account.

Al-Toukhi said: “I try to offer something unique, having specialized in authentic Italian cuisine.”

She has more than 28,000 followers on Instagram at @hatoonaltoukhi which meant she had to constantly innovate to keep them engaged. “For influencers, Ramadan is our season, a time for innovation of recipes and videos. Through my accounts, I give alternatives to recipes, and I teach recipes that are easy to make.”

On the difference between being a chef on social media or in a restaurant, she said: “It’s different because I choose what I cook on social media. I choose the recipes. And I go authentic.”

For example, she pointed out that the Italian way to make fettuccine alfredo is quite different to the mainstream method. “Italians don’t use cream or add chicken to their pasta,” she explained. Here is her recipe done the Italian way:

For the pasta dough, use two cups of flour, four fresh eggs, and a pinch of salt. Mix the ingredients together and let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes. Roll out the dough and shape it to the size of fettuccine in the pasta machine and sprinkle it with a little flour so that it does not stick together.

To make the sauce, use two tablespoons of butter, one cup of grated Parmesan cheese, two cloves of garlic, and one stick of rosemary. Melt the butter, add the garlic and rosemary, and fry them a little until the rosemary turns brown. Remove it from the butter so as not to burn it.

Boil the water, add salt, pasta, and let it boil for two minutes or until it floats on the surface of the water. Remove the pasta from the water and mix it with the butter, keeping aside the boiling water of the pasta to use in the sauce.

Add some salt to the pasta, half the amount of the Parmigiano, and some boiling water and stir the pasta, then add the rest of the cheese and water again until the consistency of the mixture becomes creamy.

Mom-of-three Jouhaina Alhoumaidan studied cooking in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and is specialized in French cuisine. She is now working at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Malaysia and runs cooking tutorials on Instagram at @jouhainaalhoumaidan.

She started in 2017 by sharing healthy recipes from home. After that, she decided to study cooking to develop her skills. She believes a cook must follow specific rules when working at a restaurant such as delivering dishes for customers at a specific time and manner. “Working at restaurants is challenging.”

Working on social media was more flexible giving chefs the freedom to be creative, she said.

“I received so much support from people when I started. These people helped me gain more confidence through their trust in my skills. I felt the obligation to give back,” she added.

Alhoumaidan pointed out the need for chefs to continuously experiment with new flavors to improve their style of cooking and techniques.

 

 


Dhahran Art Group presents diverse works at 70th show

Updated 17 sec ago
Follow

Dhahran Art Group presents diverse works at 70th show

  • Themed ‘Araaqa: Deep Rootedness,’ the artists presented works in various media inspired by their culture, heritage

DHAHRAN: For four days this week, the lavender carpet was rolled out in front of the iconic Ad Diwan Hall in the Aramco compound leading into the 70th annual Dhahran Art Group show which concluded on March 2.

During the show, the Aramco community came together to listen to live piano, enjoy tasty hors d’oeuvres and mingle with local artists showcasing. This year’s theme was “Araaqa: Deep Rootedness.”

Among the participants was Jordanian artist Suad Sami, a familiar face in the local art scene. Armed with a degree in interior design and an insatiable desire to further her creative passions in every form and medium, she completed a jewelry design course 13 years ago, which inspired her to create a small collection of carefully-curated and thoughtfully sourced stones.

Jordanian artist Suad Sami is among the artists who presented works at the 70th annual Dhahran Art Group show which concluded on March 2. (AN photo)

After teaching art classes locally for a time and realizing she would rather make art than teach it, Sami took a leap of faith and invested in herself by become an entrepreneur.

Arab News spoke to Sami a decade ago when she was only a few years into her jewelry business. At that time, she was known for her horoscope pieces.

As an artist, you always want to sprinkle in a bit of your essence into your pieces, something that is distinctly you.

Suad Sami, Jordanian artist

“I design pieces that can be worn on an everyday basis which is simple yet extravagant, casual yet fancy, simple yet extravagant enough to complement women’s beauty and enhance their style,” she told Arab News in 2014.

Serene Rana. (AN photo)

Fast-forward to 2024, she feels she has evolved and improved on her craft — but her inclination to design elegant bespoke pieces in a sort of curated capsule collection remains. She unveiled two necklaces at the Dhahran Art Group’s annual fine art show.

Discussing one of her jewelry designs on display, she told Arab News: “The sword has been a well-known tangible symbol of strength for Arabs. I designed this one specifically for Founding Day and wanted to bring in something new to the table — not something already available in any shop.

“I always strive to design something timeless and unique, not something the eye has seen. As you know, the gold market in Saudi Arabia is huge so I needed to make something to stand out. As an artist, you always want to sprinkle in a bit of your essence into your pieces, something that is distinctly you.”

Art by Serene Rana. (AN photo)

Also, in an artful symbol of solidarity, Sami showcased a series of paintings she crafted showcasing tatreez, the Palestinian-style stitch. She also showcased paintings of birds perched on a bench.

The Dhahran Art Group show is a cornerstone of the local art community, and to Sami it is about more than just showcasing her works. “I love art in all its forms. My daughter is also a designer and used to display her work alongside me at this show in the past. She moved to Dubai now and became a mother and couldn’t be here today — but I’ll keep the tradition going,” she said.

Because of my heritage — I’m from Afghanistan — I wanted to make art that would reach people and would give meaning and change the way people think.

Serene Rana, Artist

Serene Rana, a towering eighth-grader, found out about the show through her mother, who bought her a small set of acrylic paints and a fresh white canvas a few summers ago. Rana found it to be a fun way to pass the time and to express herself.

Jordanian artist Suad Sami is among the artists who presented works at the 70th annual Dhahran Art Group show which concluded on March 2. (AN photo)

At 13-years-old, this was her first big show. She told Arab News: “I think I’m the youngest one here, so it’s kind of intimidating, but at the same time, it feels like I belong here.”

The self-taught artist proudly displayed multiple paintings as people stopped by to ask her about her process and what each piece meant.

“I had a dream and it kind of looked like this — it was in the galaxy so I painted that,” she said of one of her paintings.

Jordanian artist Suad Sami is among the artists who presented works at the 70th annual Dhahran Art Group show which concluded on March 2. (AN photo)

Her early works were mostly void of people but soon after, she started to insert more of her emotions into the pictures.

“I first painted a landscape; it was like a fairytale almost. But as I kept progressing in my art, I realized that because of my heritage — I’m from Afghanistan — I wanted to make art that would reach people and would give meaning and change the way people think,” she explained.

Her pieces, inspired by pop art and surrealism, represent her journey navigating the delicate and dramatic space balancing teen angst with female empowerment and everything in between.

“I was influenced a lot by the pop art style. I feel every color has a certain emotion, so when I want to convey sadness and when I want to convey anger, I use a different color,” she added.

It took Rana about a year to paint the canvases on display, and she is already planning for the next show.

“I think a lot of these pieces hanging here were influenced by my culture — the cultural richness — but I want to go back to solidifying that one idea. I think in my next painting, I would want to go to my heritage more,” she added.

There were also a wide variety of artists on display of both genders, some seasoned figures like Sami and others new-time artists, like Rana. The diverse works ranged from paintings, large and small sculptures to accessories and mixed-media pieces.

As in the previous 69 iterations, the group show was curated locally by the Dhahran Art Group and each participating artist had the option to include a for-sale sticker on their displayed work.

 


MDLBEAST launches Beast House for music enthusiasts in Diriyah

MDLBEAST on Sunday inaugurated Beast House, a members-only club in Diriyah, Riyadh. (Supplied)
Updated 03 March 2024
Follow

MDLBEAST launches Beast House for music enthusiasts in Diriyah

  • As part of its overarching strategy, MDLBEAST aims to venture into music venues, strengthening the Kingdom’s music ecosystem
  • Beast House, an innovative hub in Jax District, fosters talents, offering a creative space for artists and music enthusiasts

RIYADH: MDLBEAST, the leading Saudi music entertainment company, on Sunday inaugurated Beast House, a members-only club in Diriyah, Riyadh.

As part of its overarching strategy, MDLBEAST aims to venture into music venues, strengthening the Kingdom’s music ecosystem. This includes boosting production capabilities, empowering talents, and curating immersive musical experiences globally.

Beast House, an innovative hub in Jax District, fosters talents, offering a creative space for artists and music enthusiasts.

The club includes a cutting-edge recording studio, production rooms, designated spaces for workshops and music seminars, and a versatile stage for concerts and musical events.

Beast House provides four membership tiers, each with unique benefits. The studio membership, designed for creative individuals, grants access to recording studios and specialized programs to enhance musical skills, fostering engagement with the vibrant creative community.

Ramadan Al-Haratani, CEO of MDLBEAST, said: “Our aim is to establish innovative spaces and a supportive community that (empowers) musical talent and cultivates production capabilities, providing creative individuals with an inspiring environment to transform ideas into captivating music experiences.”

MDLBEAST will unveil new music venues, showcasing innovative ideas and pushing boundaries in the music scene while fostering creativity. In collaboration with NEOM, the company is creating a modern beach club on Sindalah Island, and additional venues are slated for 2024.


Saudi date industry targets East Asian markets, says official

The value of Saudi Arabia’s date exports increased by 14 percent in 2023. (NCPD)
Updated 03 March 2024
Follow

Saudi date industry targets East Asian markets, says official

  • Kingdom’s date exports hit $390m, marking a 14% rise in 2023

RIYADH: The value of Saudi Arabia’s date exports increased by 14 percent in 2023, reaching SR 1.462 billion ($390 million), compared to SR 1.280 billion in 2022, according to a report released by the National Center for Palms and Dates.

By the end of 2023, the number of countries importing Saudi dates had reached 119. The total value of date and date by-product exports increased by 152.5 percent since 2016, from SR579 million in 2016 to SR1.462 billion in 2023, with a compound annual growth rate of 12.3 percent.

The rate of increase in 2023 compared to the previous year and the market entry of about 120 countries “mean a lot to us,” while the cumulative annual rate (12 percent annually) — compared to the base year 2016 — indicates that “we are steadily entering global markets and expanding steadily as well,” said Dr. Mohammed Al-Nuwairan, CEO of the center.

Date exports to Singapore recorded an 86 percent increase in 2023, while South Korea saw a 24 percent increase, and France experienced a 16 percent increase.

Currently, more than 20 Saudi companies are approved by Chinese customs, and this is reflected in the expansion of the Kingdom’s exports of dates to China. There is a focus on East Asian markets more clearly than other global markets, Al-Nuwairan added.

Dr. Mohammed Al-Nuwairan, CEO of the National Center for Palms and Dates. (Supplied)

He told Arab News that Saudi Arabia is not limited to exporting dates only, “but rather the export extends to include date derivatives such as molasses, pastes, and others, which enhances the presence of exports from the sector outside Saudi Arabia.

“East Asian countries are receiving attention from Saudi exports of dates, especially to Singapore, situated in the heart of countries targeted for exporting dates and their derivatives, such as Indonesia, Malaysia, and also China in particular. What supports this is the high demand for Saudi dates, which possess high nutritional values and production quality,” Al-Nuwairan added.

He expects the growth rate of date exports to increase, “or to remain stable at least,” in the next five years.

Al-Nuwairan pointed out that there is a significant trend from local and international partners to invest in the sector, especially concerning plastic wood derived from palm trees, and date products such as powder, molasses, pastes, and vinegar that can be derived from dates.

The date derivatives can be used in various products such as dairy, bakery, ice cream, and confectionery factories.

“We are currently engaged in serious discussions with large international food companies to include date derivatives in food industries,” Al-Nuwairan said.

He affirmed the concerted efforts between Saudi date producers, exporters, and government sectors to support marketing activities in targeted countries. This includes participation in local and international exhibitions, trade missions, facilitating export procedures, and collaborating with the private sector under a joint strategy, all under ambitious and supportive leadership.

Al-Nuwairan emphasized that efforts are ongoing to enhance the presence of Saudi dates worldwide, noting that Saudi date exports have witnessed significant increases in many countries. He pointed out that date exports to China increased by 121 percent last year compared to 2022.

Through its strategy and partnership with the private sector, the National Center for Palms and Dates aims to achieve its strategic objectives, with Saudi dates being the first choice for consumers globally, according to Al-Nuwairan.

The center implements several initiatives, including increasing national exports of dates and their derivatives, improving agricultural and industrial practices to enhance production quality, providing marketing services, and necessary information about the sector, and empowering the sector, he added.


Saudi authorities seize 1.3m Captagon pills in Jeddah

Updated 03 March 2024
Follow

Saudi authorities seize 1.3m Captagon pills in Jeddah

RIYADH: Maj. Marwan Al-Hazmi, the Saudi General Directorate of Narcotics Control’s spokesperson, has announced that the Kingdom’s authorities have seized about 1.3 million Captagon tablets in Jeddah, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The directorate’s officials, in collaboration with the Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority, thwarted an attempt to smuggle 1,298,886 highly addictive and illegal amphetamine pills, which were concealed within a shipment of electric ovens at Jeddah Islamic Port.

Authorities apprehended the intended recipients of the shipment in Riyadh and Jeddah, a Sudanese national and a Saudi citizen.

Initial statutory procedures have been completed, and both individuals have been referred to the Public Prosecution.

The Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority also thwarted two attempts to smuggle more than 63,000 Captagon pills hidden in two vehicles coming into the Kingdom through the Al-Haditha border crossing.

One vehicle contained more than 41,000 pills and the authority, coordinating with the General Directorate of Narcotics Control, arrested five intended recipients.

The authority said that it was enhancing customs control over the Kingdom’s imports and exports, in coordination with the General Directorate of Narcotics Control, as bodies concentrate on cracking down on smuggling operations.

The authorities have called upon the public to report all information regarding drug smuggling or selling by calling 911 in Makkah, Riyadh, and the Eastern Province, and 999 in the rest of the Kingdom. Alternatively, contact by email at [email protected].

Reports of suspected cases of drug smuggling are treated with strict confidentiality. Financial rewards are offered for information leading to arrests.


New scheme to promote Saudi comedians

Updated 03 March 2024
Follow

New scheme to promote Saudi comedians

RIYADH: A new initiative to uncover and promote emerging Saudi comedy and theater talents has been launched in the Kingdom.

Turki Al-Sheikh, chairman of the General Entertainment Authority, said the body would be backing the Comedy Factory project, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The authority aims to create a supportive environment in which up-and-coming young comics can develop content reflecting the Saudi identity and community issues, with guidance from industry experts.

The Comedy Factory is part of a series of initiatives organized by the authority to boost the country’s entertainment sector and will include workshops, training courses, and competitive events.

To register for the chance to join the scheme visit https://sauditheaters.com/ar.