Ugur by Aziza:  A fusion of Uyghur culinary traditions with a touch of Saudi Arabia

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AN photo by Nada Hameed.
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AN photo by Nada Hameed.
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AN photo by Nada Hameed.
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Photo courtesy of Instagram: @ugurfood
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Photo courtesy of Instagram: @ugurfood
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Photo courtesy of Instagram: @ugurfood
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Updated 05 January 2024
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Ugur by Aziza:  A fusion of Uyghur culinary traditions with a touch of Saudi Arabia

  • Uyghur cuisine has gained a significant following in Saudi Arabia’s diverse expatriate communities

Ugur by Aziza, nestled in Jeddah’s Al-Nahdah district, offers a distinctive fusion of Uyghur culinary traditions with a touch of Saudi Arabia.

Renowned for showcasing the natural flavors of individual ingredients, Uyghur cuisine typically features a delightful combination of meats, seasonal vegetables and handmade dough, all served alongside rice.

Drawing parallels with the preferences of other Asian-Muslim communities, Ugur has a culinary tapestry that transcends borders, with many Uyghur dishes showing influences from various Central Asian ethnic communities.

The restaurant has a vintage ambiance, meticulously adorned with details inspired by the vibrant and festive Uyghur culture. The interior design reflects a deep appreciation for the cultural aesthetics of the Uyghur people.

The menu has the iconic Laghman, a well-known Uyghur dish comprising boiled handmade noodles crafted from wheat flour, with a stir-fried medley of mutton, onions, peppers, tomatoes and seasonal vegetables.

Also available is Samsa, which are lamb pies roasted in a traditional tunur (clay or metal cylindrical oven), and Polo, a Uyghur rice dish with mutton, fried onions, thinly sliced carrots, raisins, chickpeas and almonds. This is served with three spicy sauces and yogurt to cool the dish’s heat.

Ugur by Aziza provides additional services including customized open buffets for corporate events and special occasions.

Uyghur cuisine has gained a significant following in Saudi Arabia’s diverse expatriate communities, and among citizens who appreciate the Central Asian flavors.

During the holy month of Ramadan, Ugur by Aziza offers a special iftar on the second floor, providing diners with an array of dishes, and an ambiance that mirrors Uyghur attire, traditions and arts. For more information visit Instagram @ugurfood.


Where We Are Going Today: ‘FistikLava’ in Jeddah

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Updated 26 February 2024
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Where We Are Going Today: ‘FistikLava’ in Jeddah

  • During Ramadan, FistikLava will offer takeaway boxes of borek pastries, special baklava, ⁠and iftar. Deliveries can be ordered via the Jahez app

A taste of Turkiye is on offer to breakfast diners at FistikLava in Jeddah’s Al-Rawdah district.

The restaurant’s owners have drawn their inspiration from the vibrant Balat district of Istanbul.

Among traditional Turkish dishes included on the menu are borek, pide – which includes options such as beef cubes, mix beefy cheese, and double cheese – and baklava, all freshly made.

The Istanbul and Trabzon breakfasts, a spread of savory and sweet dishes, are a popular choice with customers as is simit – a type of bagel – paired with shakshuka; eggs and tomato cooked together in a skillet.

The borek, a traditional layered pastry made from filo pastry and a filling, comes in several varieties including spinach, minced beef, or cheese, all of which can be washed down with Turkish coffee or tea, among other drinks.

During Ramadan, FistikLava will offer takeaway boxes of borek pastries, special baklava, ⁠and iftar. Deliveries can be ordered via the Jahez app.

More information is available on Instagram at @fistiklava_ksa.

 


Where We Are Going Today: L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele in Jeddah

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Updated 25 February 2024
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Where We Are Going Today: L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele in Jeddah

  • L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele is more than a mere dining spot; it embodies a 150-year legacy of commitment to mastering the craft of pizza making

L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele in Jeddah is a slice of Italy brought to Saudi Arabia. Tucked inside Le Prestige Mall on King Abdulaziz Road, this pizzeria is a haven for pizza-lovers seeking an authentic Neapolitan experience.

As soon as you step inside, you are met by "L’italiano" playing in the background, the aroma of freshly baked pizza, and a feeling of Italian charm. The walls are adorned with pictures of Francesco Zimone, the legendary proprietor, and prominent individuals who have savoured the taste of Da Michele’s masterpieces, setting the tone for an unforgettable dining experience.

Established in 1870, this pizzeria remains faithful to its traditions, serving pizzas with thin dough, crispy edges, and high-quality toppings. I chose a half-and-half pizza with margherita on one side (fresh tomato sauce, basil, and cheeses) and tartufo on the other, which had delicious truffle cream and mozzarella. Watching the pizza roast in the brick oven heightened the anticipation.

The flavors were sensational, prompting me to plan a return visit. To round out the meal, I had saffron risotto with Parmesan cheese and a delightful strawberry mojito with a tinge of lemon.

Of course, no Italian meal is complete without dessert. Their tiramisu paired perfectly with a shot of espresso, completing the culinary journey on a sweet note.

L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele is more than a mere dining spot; it embodies a 150-year legacy of commitment to mastering the craft of pizza making.

For updates and more information, check their Instagram @damichele_sa.

 


Where We Are Going Today: ‘Half Million’ cafe

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Updated 24 February 2024
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Where We Are Going Today: ‘Half Million’ cafe

  • Half Million also has a wide selection of tempting baked goods on display, all made fresh daily

Need a quick beverage before venturing back into congested city traffic? Look no further than Half Million, a specialty coffee cafe and one of the most popular spots for coffee lovers.  

Half Million has branches around the Kingdom in Riyadh, Jeddah, Sharqiyah, and even in London.

Aside from specialty coffees such as V60, iced drip, cold brew, and signature coffee, Half Million also offers iced lattes, cappuccino, iced cereal lattes, pistachio lattes, and other beverages for those who prefer milk with their coffee.

We also tried their popular hot chocolate and dark chocolate winter drinks, which has become a London branch fad. The dark chocolate is less sweet than usual and costs SR16 ($4.27).  

Half Million also has a wide selection of tempting baked goods on display, all made fresh daily.

A choice of desserts is also available, including pistachio eclairs and brownies, as well as savory delights such as cheesy and zaatar croissants.

The cafe gets its name from the amount of money the project was launched with when two friends decided to leave their hometown of Riyadh and set out on a trip to start their own business.

Filled with determination, they marched into the business world with capital of only SR500,000. However, with the support and encouragement of their local business community, their dream became a reality.

Most Half Million branches are open around the clock. They also deliver via apps such as Hunger Station and Jahez.

For seasonal specials and updates, check out their Instagram @halfmillion_sa.

 


Saudi Arabia’s citron season returns with its own culinary heritage

Citron is a versatile fruit that has found its way into many Saudi traditional dishes, juices, and drinks. (SPA)
Updated 23 February 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s citron season returns with its own culinary heritage

  • Mubarak Al-Khanajer, a farmer in Wadi Al-Dawasir, told Arab News: “The citron fruit belongs to the citrus family, and it is usually harvested in January and February, making it a winter fruit that the locals are accustomed to in this season”

JEDDAH: In winter, citron, known as etrinj, returns to Saudi homes from the Kingdom’s farms, bringing with it myriad health benefits and a distinct flavor that in some regions has crafted a culinary tradition of its own.

The fruit is farmed in Jouf in the north, Wadi Al-Dawasir in Najr, and Al-Ahsa in the Eastern Province.

Part of the larger citrus family, citron particularly thrives in Jouf due to its favorable climate, water availability, and fertile land, making it one of the region’s most prevalent trees alongside olives and palms. Citron also stands out as a key agricultural crop in Al-Ahsa farms.

Citron is a versatile fruit that has found its way into many Saudi traditional dishes, juices, and drinks. (SPA)

Mubarak Al-Khanajer, a farmer in Wadi Al-Dawasir, told Arab News: “The citron fruit belongs to the citrus family, and it is usually harvested in January and February, making it a winter fruit that the locals are accustomed to in this season.”

HIGHLIGHTS

• Citron is farmed in Jouf in the north, Wadi Al-Dawasir in Najr, and Al-Ahsa in the Eastern Province.

• Farmers sell it with prices ranging from SR15 ($4) to SR20 for a basket of 10 to 12 fruits.

• In Jouf, locals enjoy citron tea during winter, prepared by peeling, extracting pulp, and infusing it in hot water with sugar, saffron, or without additives.

He noted that the success of citron farming in the region was due to climatic factors including temperature, relative humidity, light, and wind, adding that temperature was one of the most important factors determining the success of citron farming, in addition to the type of land, whether loamy yellow or heavy clay free from harmful salts.

Agricultural technician Abdulrahman Al-Sweis told Arab News that it was important for the crop to receive good agricultural care and be in a sunny area well-protected from the wind and planted in a spacious field.

Citron is a versatile fruit that has found its way into many Saudi traditional dishes, juices, and drinks. (SPA)

He pointed out that the citron fruit was popular for its qualities and was part of the Saudi cultural heritage, adding that there was more awareness about it now through social media.

He said: “Many have started using it as a treatment to face winter diseases due to its richness in vitamins that increase the body’s immunity.”

Gifting the fruit to relatives, friends, and neighbors during harvesting season has been a cultural tradition in the Kingdom. However, the practice has diminished as some opt to sell their harvest, driven by its increasing popularity owing to its significant health benefits.

Citron is a versatile fruit that has found its way into many Saudi traditional dishes, juices, and drinks. (SPA)

Coming in yellow, green, and occasionally orange hues, citron’s larger size, mild acidity, and delicious taste make it akin to a lemon. Packed with antioxidants, vitamins, fibers, calcium, zinc, selenium, manganese, and potassium, it boasts numerous nutritional and health benefits.

The versatile fruit has found its way into many Saudi traditional dishes, juices, and drinks. In Jouf and Al-Ahsa, residents relish preparing marisah, a mix of citron squares with chili, turmeric, mint, and optional additions of salt, dates, or sugar. Some enjoy it sliced or as a jam.

Mohammed Al-Masn, a farmer, said that some locals eat it or make a juice or jam from it. On the diversity of dishes that incorporate the fruit, he added: “The residents of the province do not make citron marisah as in some areas in the north of the Kingdom … they make Al-Wadma which is unique to Al-Ahsa.”

Citron is a versatile fruit that has found its way into many Saudi traditional dishes, juices, and drinks. (SPA)

Al-Wadma is a traditional Hassawi dish, made of dried small fish and citron juice, accompanied by radish, green onions, and lettuce. The fish is either ground or crushed before being combined with citron juice and pieces of citron. After letting it sit for some time, it is eaten with radish leaves.

In Jouf, locals enjoy citron tea during winter, prepared by peeling, extracting pulp, and infusing it in hot water with sugar, saffron, or without additives. Citron juices, featuring various flavors such as turmeric, ginger, and mint, are also popular.

While citron was traditionally not commercialized, recent years have seen some farmers sell it, with prices ranging from SR15 ($4) to SR20 for a basket of 10 to 12 fruits.

Al-Masn pointed out that the citron plant was also suitable for indoor cultivation.

He said: “Ensure the pot is positioned near a window receiving ample sunlight to maintain a temperature above 18 degrees Celsius. When spring concludes, the pot can be moved outdoors permanently and then returned indoors during autumn. This plant can also be seamlessly integrated into home garden settings.”

 


Where We Are Going Today: Riyadh’s Pierre Herme Paris

Updated 23 February 2024
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Where We Are Going Today: Riyadh’s Pierre Herme Paris

Visitors to the Four Seasons Hotel in Riyadh can get a taste for luxury from more than just the decor and surroundings.

At Pierre Herme Paris they can sample pastries and sweets conceived by French pastry chef Herme, known as the “Picasso of pastry.”

Among the most popular desserts are French macarons, and vanille cakes infused with exotic vanilla cream from Tahiti, Mexico, and Madagascar.

Dacquoise biscuits are adorned with crunchy hazelnuts, hazelnut flakes, thin layers of milk chocolate, milk chocolate ganache, Chantilly cream, and several ice cream flavors, while the pink rose macarons from Isfahan, Iran are filled with rose petal cream and raspberries.

All the pastries are lovingly prepared in the hotel’s kitchens and showcased in museum- style class cabinets.

One of the things that  impressed me about Pierre Hermé Paris is that it is headed by the Executive Pastry Chef Steve Thiery from France, who joined the global pastry-making operations in 2019 after honing his talents for a decade and
a half in pastry kitchens from French Polynesia to France and Morocco.