Halal Consumer - Issue 27 - page 13

Nothing brings people together as food does, and when it’s comfort food, the accom-
panying rush of memories are almost as heady as the flavor of melt-in-your-mouth
goodness. The longing for comfort foods can be that much stronger when you’ve
moved half way across the world. When it’s a dish that’s been passed down through
generations of immigrants, you realize that food has more staying power than most
cultural traditions. Where there is an immigrant population of significant size, it’s only
a matter of time before there’s a grocery store, and soon after restaurants, fulfilling
those cravings, serving memories on a platter.
Soup, Glorious Soup
In speaking with first, second, or third generation immigrants
from geographically far-flung Afghanistan, Sudan, Algeria,
Morocco, Russia, and China, soup, in all its glorious forms, often
made it as a number one comfort food. It really shouldn’t have
come as a surprise, especially given the time of year!
Chicagoan Rachid Belbachir, who is Algerian by birth, cannot
forget the
harira
made by his mother and sister, despite near-
ing thirty years in the United States. A rich, hearty, delicious
soup made of meat, vermicelli, root vegetables, chick peas, herbs
like parsley and cilantro, and spices such as coriander, cumin,
turmeric, and red chili powder, it is to the Algerian soul what
chicken soup is to the American. It’s exquisite, whether made in
a slow cooker or a pressure cooker, and a winter treat.
“My mom makes it when we have guests or special occasions,”
reminisces Belbachir, “and it’s often made in Ramadan, more
than any other time. It brings back memories of weddings and of
Ramadan, where we come together to eat as a family.” Recipes
for it vary, says Belbachir, and while his wife, born and raised
in the US, has mastered many other Algerian dishes, “after 25
years of marriage, she’s almost getting the
harira
right,” he says.
“You have to have a hand for it.” The ingredients are found eas-
ily and Belbachir and wife Nancy live close enough to Devon
Avenue in Chicago (known for its cultural diversity) to make
Fresh Market their shopping destination.
Ibrahim Kutum, a resident of neighboring Carol Stream, Illinois,
has memories of
fufu
, which looks like mashed potatoes and is
served hot with a soup of lamb meat and spices. Great for dinner or
lunch, it’s an everyday food back in Sudan. Made of nutritious
sorghum, this gluten-free cereal grain flour is mixed with water and
gently brought to a boil, stirring all the while until it is solid. “You
prepare the
fufu
first and then serve it with the soup,” says Kutum.
Sourghum flour hasn’t been the easiest for him to find in Chicago
and, though he tries to make it with other kinds of flour, it just
doesn’t come out right, says Kutum. “My mother and sister make it
back home and I miss it because we grew up with it. The different
types of soup it’s served with make it very delicious. You can change
the soup on a daily basis, but the
fufu
remains the same.”
Sometimes, there isn’t even a soup. Kutum continues, “When we
were little, my granddad used to make
fufu
himself. However,
instead of soup, he served it with fresh goat milk and that was
very good. You can also serve it with cow’s milk or sheep’s milk,
but it has to be fresh.”
Abu Daoud Café is Chicago’s only Sudanese restaurant and in
Ramadan they offer
iftar
(meal to end the fast), making it quite
the culinary experience. It would be very surprising if they
served fresh goat milk with
fufu
, though!
Kung Pik Liu was born and raised in Hong Kong before moving
to the US at 19 for college. Now a resident of Corning in upstate
New York, her comfort food is Chinese soup noodles, a street
food. “It’s hard to find in the USA, especially as a halal version,”
she says. “Our marketplaces in Hong Kong have a special section
for food vendors. I grew up on it, always having it when I went
with my parents to the market for groceries. It was a fun time.”
Since she is originally from Southern China, her version of
Chinese soup comprises rice noodles, vegetables, and a protein,
Winter 2013
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