Judeo-Iraqi fusion cuisine shares stories and culture through food – Food Tank
The Awafi kitchen, a Boston-based pop-up kitchen, combines Jewish and Iraqi cuisines to create historically rich and culturally significant cuisine.
Founded in 2017, the Awafi Kitchen functions as a space to share the traditions and stories of Jewish and non-Jewish Iraqis. “We saw an under-representation of Iraqi food, so we wanted to share our family history and recipes with others,” owner Anabel Rabiyah told Food Tank.
The Kitchen launched its first pop-up event in Boston at Mamaleh’s charcuterie which offers modern interpretations of traditional Jewish deli meats. The venue provided the perfect space to launch different interpretations of familiar Jewish dishes, says Rabiyah. “We were able to combine different stories of Jewish cuisine and people were very interested. “
One of Rabiyah’s dishes features an interpretation of matzo, which she bakes as a softer flatbread than the traditional brittle shape most diners are familiar with. She also uses dates as the base for her charoset – a dip typically made with wine, apples, cinnamon, and nuts.
Rabiyah explains that many of his recipes come from family members and other Iraqi Jews who fled Iraq in the years after Saddam Hussein came to power in 1979. The inspiration for his recipes, which represent a variety of regional flavors, is drawn from Kurdish, Turkish, Persian and other cultures.
Rabiyah also strives to share the story behind the dishes she serves. At each meal, she interacts directly with diners to share details about the traditions and ingredients that go into the food they eat.
Rabiyah told Food Tank, “Incorporating the stories into the meals is extremely important. It offers an opportunity to connect people to their heritage and to discover new cultures. “
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Awafi Kitchen has moved to a virtual environment, offering Zoom-based cooking classes open to people around the world. While Rabiyah says she could no longer interact with the eaters in the same room, it was important to her that the dining experience remained interactive. “We don’t want geography to limit the connections we can make,” she explains.
Going forward, Rabiyah says Awafi Kitchen is looking to expand its platform. “We want to create a base of story and story content for our meals and create a cookbook. “
Image courtesy of Annabelle Rabiyah