By Dalia Mortada – Savouring Syria
Nour Edin came to Makers Unite as a tailor, using some of the basic sewing skills he learned in Syria where his father owned a factory that made socks. But what he really wants to do is cook.
Nour Edin has been working in the kitchen since he was 14 years old. His inspiration came from helping his mom when he was a child, learning how to roll grape leaves stuffed with spiced meat and rice and carve out small zucchinis and eggplants for dinner. Now, the 28-year-old still calls his mom in Damascus for advice. “No matter what I do, my food will never taste like hers,” he reflected affectionately while he stirred a pot of creamy spiced lentils for soup. “Cooking isn’t just ingredients – it includes the love and spirit that the cook puts into it.”
When Nour Edin left Syria more than five years ago, he didn’t expect to be gone for so long. He first went to Egypt, where he eventually opened a small café with an Egyptian business partner. “I would prepare small, light dishes like hummus and ful” – buttery fava beans swimming in garlic yogurt sauce and olive oil – he explained.
But after the military coup in Egypt in July 2013, Syrians were no longer welcomed and authorities targeted them as suspects against the new government. Nour Edin decided to escape to Europe, and it took him four harrowing tries to cross the Mediterranean Sea.
Now, he has been in the Netherlands for nearly three years. He is working on improving both his Dutch and English, and spends a lot of his time cooking for friends. They’ve nicknamed him “Abu Tayyeb”, meaning, in Arabic, “Father of what’s tasty”. His next step is to get his professional certificate in food preparation.
Nour Edin hopes to have his own catering business, and eventually a restaurant. When he is asked to make Syrian food, he goes out of his way to make it meaningful. “I want to show the history and culture of Damascus,” he said. One of his specialties, madlouqa – a dessert made of a simple layer of semolina dough topped with fresh cream sweetened with orange blossom water and decorated with pistachios and cashews – “is maybe 400 or 500 years old, from the days of the Ottoman Empire,” he explained. “These are traditional dishes from the heart and soul of the city, and I want people to get to know Syria in that way.”