WE SPOKE WITH CHEF VIAN ALNIDAWI
Vian Alnidawi catered to us on our last visit to Comal. She described to
us the menu she prepares every Friday at the restaurant: Middle Eastern
delights. Comal is a heritage food incubator where the community can enjoy
delicious dishes prepared by women that, like Vian, are polishing their kitchen
skills and getting ready to start their own businesses. Chefs at Comal come
from Mexico, El Salvador, Syria and Iraq. Vian was born in Iraq.
Vian has migrated from two different countries. When the war started in
her home country of Iraq, she crossed the border and went to Syria. A few years
later, a civil war began in Syria. She and her family were forced to come to
Denver as refugees. Seeing as a blessing in disguise, after living in several
places she got to learn well the gastronomy of the Middle East. This chef believes
that food in this region has a common ground; but she is certain about the
variants in dishes from different countries.
She can show the difference between dishes from Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon
and Syria. The recipe for Kisir Bulgar is Turkish, hummus (cream of garbanzo)
and baba ghanoush (cream of eggplant) is from Lebanon; and biryani rice is from
Iraq. This expert affirms that food from the Middle East is packed with flavors
and smells that come from dried fruits, cinnamon, clove and other spices. Vian
also mentioned that walnuts, almonds, pistachios, dates, and dried figs are
also key to the gastronomy of the region.
at the table
“I have no doubt in saying that lamb and rice are the protagonists of
our table,” she said. She proudly gave us details on the preparation of
biryani rice, that is served with lamb or a chicken leg that has been cooked
with spices and then lightly fried to a crunch. Her life in the U.S. is
different than her life in her country. “For more than 20 years, “For more
than 20 years, I depended on my husband. I could work occasionally but not have
a career. I did not know the good feelings that come with making decisions.
” Vian is today a great entrepreneur.
The recipes of Vian Alnidawi
This is a main dish for lunch or dinner. It is a piece of chicken cut
according to Islamic traditions. This chicken is then cooked in spices such as
cinnamon, cumin and oregano. After that, it is lightly fried to a crisp. This
light meat is served with biryani rice, Iraqi style, and a salad with fresh
Macaroni BL Bechamel
This dish is based on baked macaroni. The pasta is mixed with lamb meat
and smothered in bechamel sauce, seasoned with spices. It is then topped with
goat cheese before it gets in the oven.
This is a salad made with fresh vegetables. It features roman lettuce, tomatoes,
cucumber and radish. The dressing is made with pomegranate syrup and wine
vinaigrette. It is then seasoned with salt and red pepper and topped with pita
Kisir Bulgur Salad
This other salad is a signature for the region. The ingredients are
Bulgut wheat, tomatoes, cucumber, peppers and onions. It is dressed with
pomegranate syrup, olive oil, salt and pepper.
Halib (Beirut rice)
This is a pudding made with Lebanese rice. Mastic gum is the basic
ingredient to prepare it. What is attractive about this dessert is the
fragrance that gives the orange blossom, and the exuberant flavor of the lemon
that makes it pop.
Dips from the Middle East
believes that dips prepared with garbanzo beans, eggplants and yogurt are the
perfect appetizer. They can be enjoyed with pita bread or fresh cut vegetables.
Baba ghanoush or eggplant dip This dip is made with roasted eggplants. It also has tahini, which is made from sesame seeds; fresh parsley, basil, cilantro, olive oil, ground cumin and fresh garlic. It is very popular in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.
This is a cream made with cooked garbanzo beans, lemon juice and tahini
paste. It also features olive oil, and according to the region, it might have
other ingredients such as garlic and pepper.
It is a signature sauce from Turkey. It usually accompanies appetizers.
The main ingredient is yogurt that is mixed with shredded cucumber, olive oil,
lime juice, vinegar, garlic, parsley, mint, pepper or dill. It is served cold
or room temperature
Labneh or yogurt cheese
This is a creamy cheese made with a base of yogurt. It can be eaten like
cream cheese, over bread, as a baking ingredient or as a sauce for fruits and
vegetables. In the U.S. it is known as Kefir Cheese, and it is a Lebanese