Food that Nurtures the Soul
Arysha's Lebanese delights at our doorstep
Imran H. Khan
was once a very trivial question that many people sought hard
to answer, "Do we live to eat or do we eat to live?"
Even though it had boggled the minds of many people for many
ages, it does not bother much the present generation of food
freaks that happily go to restaurants and eateries and simply
eat for the 'pure joy of eating'. The equation for 'eating'
is directly proportional to 'cooking' because as we all know
something that's not too appealing we won't appreciate, as to
something that looks like it has been sent from above. Such
is the fine art that melts the hearts of men, the delicacy of
which can be judged from simply its aroma.
sync with the art of cooking, Arysha Catering Services Ltd.
located in South Link Road, Gulshan Avenue, Gulshan 1, recently
had a gala opening ceremony to welcome to its parlour a great
magnitude of food lovers of Dhaka. This is a restaurant from
Lebanon that had crossed many harsh lands to come to us with
a wide range of exotic, Middle Eastern food. What makes Lebanon
hell for people on a diet is the the fact that this country
specialises in a lot of items such as kebab (usually
plane lamb or beef with or without vegetables as garnish), kibbeh
(minced lamb meat with a form of wheat), shawarma (chicken
or lamb and a lot of other fillings within two breads), falafel
(fried chickpea balls served in pita bread), baba ghanouj
(eggplant and tahini dip) and much more. What makes
Lebanonese food so appealing is the fact that, "they only
cook it using garlic and olive oil which not only makes is healthy
but it tastes absolutely astonishing," says Shah Altaf
Hossain, one of the six partners who own Arysha. He goes on
to say, since we all love to eat we should refrain ourselves
from eating useless junk food that does more harm than good
and try to eat something nourishing. No points for guessing
his favourite place of nourishment.
means two clusters of ripe grapes side by side on a grape tree.
Once you are in Arysha, you may be a little taken aback with
the menu because most of the items will have a Middle Eastern
ring. Many items may look a little similar but even then, a
simple change in the filling or the 'frying mechanism' will
surely change the taste of the entire dish. Even though presentation
is by far one of the most important elements while a dish is
being served, texture and contrast plays a vital part in a meal's
success. Take for example something that is very creamy. This
item will unquestionably combine best with something that is
crispy (and vice versa). Maybe that is why 'potato chips and
ketchup' is a couple made in the (food) heavens. Arysha has
done well to keep the right amount of contrast to make each
dish perfect in terms of taste and appearance.
four-course meal would surely not be complete without the grand
finale of 'sweets'. Arysha has a fiesta of sweets to offer including
Boorma (a nutty sweet), Cream caramel, Maamoul
b'Ifustik (a biscuit form of sweet with soft crushed nuts
inside that just melts in your mouth), Maamoul b'Itamir
(a biscuit form of sweet with grape paste filling) and much
more still to come.
Head chef, Ahmad M. Hammoud, has come from Lebanon with two
assistants to train a team of fifty of the establishment's chefs
in Lebanonese cuisine. Hammoud, 30 years in the chef business,
is modest and says, "I'm not a chef. The word chef means
something really great. It's too big a word for a simple person
like me to carry." One bite of any of his dish, however,
tells another story. Each mouthful is sheer poetry.
from a family with 14 other siblings, he was always interested
in what happened in the kitchen. He would regularly "have
a finger in the kitchen", nagging his mother about her
items and always being critical about everything she cooked.
He always had a knack for cooking. A new cooking school had
opened in Beirut in 1967 and Hammoud was quick to enrol and
completed a three-year diploma. After graduating, he joined
Maerush Island, a popular tourist complex in Lebanon. He enjoyed
11 years of his life there and left when the war started and
since then, has always been on the move. He has been to Iraq,
Egypt, Athens, Dubai, New Zealand, Lebanon, Dubai and finally,
to Dhaka. He had been in Iraq for four years and was a cook
in the Al Rasheed Presidential Hotel. He used to cook for all
the VIP's which was quite challenging he says. "Everything
that the people ordered were special dishes and they all had
a lot of care put behind them to make them perfect. It was really
fun and I always had to be on my toes," says Hammoud. He
resigned when the Gulf war started.
favourite dish is homos and he feels very proud of
it as it is the asset of the Lebanese kitchen. Married with
two children, he has two dishes that are his own creation. Arysha
Chicken and Rodi Pasha, the latter being named
after his son. Rodi Pasha is simply minced chicken
balls, cooked in fresh cream and white sauce, but the final
creation has nothing simple about it. Though Hammoud's family
is in Dubai, nothing will keep him in one place for too long
because itís his passion to travel around the globe. All the
while, he is training chefs of different nationalities the secrets
of his land's cuisine, leaving not only his marks with the hundreds
that he has trained, but also with the thousand whose taste
buds he has enticed.
a wide range of healthy nutritious food, Arysha is the latest
addition to the range of gourmet cuisine available all over
the city. With their catchy slogan, "People eat to liveÖ
Some people eat to live longer", they hope to win the hearts
of the food connoisseurs of Dhaka and also make sure what they
eat is healthy, wholesome food.
by Imran H Khan