Tag Archive | quantities

To Begin: A Warning on Arab Cooking Styles

I excitedly started typing up the first recipe to put on this blog, only to stop abruptly at the beginning of the ingredients list. Chicken. “But how much chicken, exactly?” would be the question. Well, as much as you want to use. “But how much exactly, for this recipe?” Well, I really don’t know. ┬áBecause when (most) Arab women cook, they never use specific quantities of ingredients. “Use as much as you need,” “put in enough salt” or “add a bit of turmeric” are the kinds of responses I get when I ask “how much [x] do you put in?” There is usually an assumption of everyone having a certain level of basic cooking knowledge. On the other hand, there is the understanding that each person’s different conceptions of good flavor is what dictates the quantities of the ingredients. That is why the same dish can taste very different from one household to the next. “And in the end, cooking is spirit,” my cousin once told me. “The spirit you put into your cooking is what makes a dish successful, even if it’s as simple as making rice!”

I grew up with that style of cooking being the norm, and so that’s how I cook too. I feel that is how cooking should be; I can’t imagine measuring in “a teaspoon and a half” of vinegar for a salad dressing, for example. My experience is that you just need to go with your instincts and what tastes good :)

So here is my warning: I will try as much as possible to use specific amounts for the ingredients in the recipes I post on this blog, but sometimes I will just have to be a bit vague. When that happens, keep up a good spirit and just use whatever and however much makes the dish taste delicious! And sahtain w 3afyeh..

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