For our March interview, I got to ask some questions of Dimah Mohd, prolific creator of the food blog Orange Blossom Water. Chief among my reasons for enjoying her site is that so many of Dimah’s recipes are accompanied by personal anecdotes expounding on the history surrounding respective dishes and the celebratory occasions for which they are traditionally prepared. Visiting her site is like enjoying an outing that is equal part guided food tour, cultural exploration, and culinary instructional. I was excited to talk with this skilled food maven on topics that include what she has learned about blogging since founding Orange Blossom Water, the impact of her Syrian heritage on the dishes she creates, and what insight she most hopes visitors to her site bring away from it.
Flavorful World: Your site celebrated its eighth anniversary last month. What has been your most impactful learning experience in eight years as a food blogger? Which post(s) of the many you’ve created have brought you the greatest sense of accomplishment, and why?
Dimah Mohd: As a food blogger, I learnt that if you do not succeed at first, try again! Practice makes perfect when it comes to cooking!
Ma’amoul is one of the posts that has brought me the greatest sense of accomplishment. It is the longest post/recipe on my blog (328 steps). I wanted it to be perfect and to make sure that I covered all details. I worked on it in the last days of Ramadan 2016. I was fasting and I spent a few sleepless nights to finish it before Eid Al-Fitr. I am quite proud of it.
FW: As a resident of Dubai, take us through a day from breakfast through midnight snack, in which we eat and drink only the best street foods that Dubai has to offer. What would we eat and why?
DM: There are different kinds of street food which you enjoy in Dubai to eat. You can eat curries, meat kebabs, falafel or shawarma, and mixed grills. Basic it might be, but it is also extremely tasty.
FW: Most of your recipes feature Syrian cuisine. What ingredients do you consider to be essential staples of Syrian cooking, and in the case of any seasonal items, at what time of year are they generally considered to be at peak suitability for cooking?
DM: The basic ingredients in Syrian cuisine are fresh herbs, vegetables and fruits, dried pulses, bulgur (cracked wheat), rice, nuts, olives, tahini (sesame paste), spices, Aleppo Pepper (sundried chilies, ground into powder), Pomegranate Molasses, Verjuice (Arabic: “Husrum” is the pressed juice of unripened grapes), plus rose and orange blossom waters.
We have a strong tradition of preserving seasonal produce. Spring and summer are the seasons for making provisions for the winter (Mouneh), especially when it comes to cheeses, dried Vegetables (eggplants, squash, and okra), Aleppo pepper, chili paste, tomato paste, and jams.
FW: What is the most recent dish you enjoyed while dining out that included one or more ingredients you had never tried before? What did you like or dislike about the dish?
DM: I tried a dessert with Camel Milk Ice Cream and I liked the salty creamy taste of camel milk.
FW: Your “To Aleppo With Love” series pays tribute to cuisine of the ancient city and UNESCO World Heritage site. Tell us about your own relationship with Aleppo that inspired you to devote a series to its foods.
DM: I was born in Hama and raised in Damascus and Aleppo. Aleppo is my soul, my childhood is there, my school is there, my home is there, and each moment in Aleppo is a memory to treasure forever. I wanted to do something very special for Aleppo and had to think long and hard about what I would do. After thinking on it for a while, I decided to start the series “To Aleppo With Love”,
FW: When you dine out, what cuisine(s) do you favor most, and what aspect(s) of that cooking/dining style do you find most appealing?
DM: Italian Cuisine. Italian food is famous for its wonderful variety of flavors. The Italian cooking style not only adds divine tastes but also offers several health benefits.
FW: If visitors to your site come way from it with only one insight, what would you want that sole takeaway to be, and why?
DM: Syrian cuisine is a true reflection of warm Syrian culture. I want my visitors to explore Syrian cuisine in their kitchen, to enrich their cooking experiences, and it is a great way to surprise their guests with new flavors.
FW: Excluding the name of any of your pre-existing blogs, websites, or print/online personas, tell us what name you would give to your memoir about your culinary exploits?
DM: “Taste of Syria.”
FW: When you aren’t cooking/eating delicious things, how do you most enjoy spending your time?
DM: Reading, it is my greatest luxury.
*Note to readers: Catch up with Dimah’s latest creations and enjoy dipping a toe (or a spoon!) in some rich and wonderful food culture that is always enticing, photogenic, and never, ever boring by making orangeblossomwater.net your online home away from home. You can also follow along on Facebook and Twitter, as well as Pinterest and Instagram for inspiring ways to go traveling right in your own kitchen.
This article first appeared on FlavorfulWorld.com.
[All images courtesy of Dimah Mohd and OrangeBlossomWater.net]