As part of our 'Meet the Chef' series, this week we are bringing you a Q&A with Raghda Hasan, who travelled to Canada from Latakia in 2016.
Raghda's story, like all of the chefs at Tayybeh, is one of resilience. This International Women's Day, we're proud to shine a spotlight on our team of Syrian refugee women who demonstrate strength, dignity and success in the face of unimaginable hardship.
Can you describe what your life in Syria was like before the war, and what you miss most about it?
My life was simple, very relaxing and wonderful. I miss my family and the social life I used to have.
How did you feel during your first weeks and months in Canada?
I arrived in Canada on October 25th 2016. During the first few weeks and months I felt lonely, nostalgic and homesick. It was not my intention to work, but as soon as I got to know Tayybeh and there was an opportunity to work, it became a good way to get to know different aspects of the country and start moving towards a better future here.
Food is a very central part of Middle Eastern culture. How does Canadian food culture differ from this, and how are you helping to introduce a more people-centric approach to Canadian mealtimes through your work with Tayybeh?
Through variety in dishes. For every occasion there is a famous or specific dish to be served for the family. Also, in Syria food is not only seen as fuel for the body, but also the fuel for the soul, because it is an essential part of every family gatherings and mealtimes.
Through my work with Tayybeh, we focus on offering options that suit different groups of people in addition to cooking with love.
What is your favourite dish to make?
Seafood, because it has many recipes and it is one of the most popular dishes in Latakia
What would you say sets Syrian food apart from other Middle Eastern cuisines?
Syrian nature supports the basic elements of Syrian cuisine - such as fresh vegetables, olives, olive oil and wheat. It is a kitchen with a variety of dishes and the recipes are different from other countries.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about Syrian food?
The biggest misunderstanding about Syrian food is that it does not contain many dishes or options for vegetarians, which is not true.
What is the most popular dish you have at Tayybeh?
Yalanji (Vine leaf rolls stuffed with aromatic rice, herbs and spices). The recipe and the toppings we add to this dish makes it different from any other dish.
If you could only cook with one ingredient, what would it be and why?
Potato, and I would make Batat Harra!