What’s in a name? Well, with all due respect for Mr. Shakespeare: So much. At least that what the Arabic cuisine has to say, with the wide variety of dishes that hold some of the weirdest names ever. I wonder why is that! Maybe women used to invent things, and since they didn’t look so appealing and the ingredients were somehow irrelevant so they just preferred not to call them the conventional way, like “Marinated Chicken with Rosemary and Mushroom sauce” or some such name like those we read in the menus of Italian and Chinese restaurants.
One of the most popular Levantine dishes is 7orra2 isba3o, the literal translation of which would be Burner of his own finger. It’s very famous that the name seems to have grown on people, but looking at the translation now, you might start to think it’s quite ridiculous, especially that we don’t know the real reason behind such a name. This dish is made up primarily of lentils and dough. It may look like a mashed mess of vaguely related ingredients, but it’s really good. I didn’t find anything on the origin of the name though.
Another one I haven’t heard of until recently is Yahoodi Msafer (Traveling Jew). I don’t know what it’s made of exactly but I understood it consists of grain, zucchini and egg plants. I’m not sure of the origin, but the only thing I found is that (Arab) Jews used to make this dish and they called it “Traveling Muslim” So Arab/Muslims changed the name to “Traveling Jew”.
If you like beans, then you might want to try 3aisheh Khanom (Madam Aisha). Large white beans in tomato sauce, couldn’t find anything on the origin of the name, it could be the lady who invented it.
I guess all of us have at some point tried Jaz Maz (Untranslatable), Also know as “2allayet bandore ma3 baid” (Fried eggs with tomato) a very popular dish, delicious, cheap and easy to prepare. But I can’t help but wonder who would give it such a name, and why!
Perhaps it’s time for dessert. Qudret Qader (Might of the Mighty) is a maliciously delicious treat that consists of a layer of cream caramel on top of a thin sponge coffee cake. Supposedly called that because it’s so easy to make; for they say however you put the ingredients together, the result is the same.
If you’re into more Oriental kind of treats, the answer to your cravings is kol weshkor (Eat and be thankful). Another rich sweet dessert, which is more widely known as Baklawa (From Turkish Baklava). It’s made of layers of dough filled with nuts and soaked with sugar syrup. I don’t know why it’s called thus, but I imagine that if we had an Arabic version of Thanksgiving, then kol weshkor will be the parallel of stuffed roast turkey.
The rich Arabic cuisine never ceases to provide us with good dishes and weird names, and if you dig more deeply, you’ll probably find dozens of those. But again, I think Shakespeare was right. For to hear the other half of the (adapted) quote: What’s in a name? That which we call “Msalwa3a”, by any other name would taste as good!
Originally Posted on Thursday, November 01, 2007 on http://oeliwat.jeeran.com/archive/2007/11/366147.html