by Ahmed Elashry, Mila Moralic & Fang-Wen Lu
We are from three different continents─Fang-Wen is from Asia, Mila is from Europe, and Ahmed just left Africa a few days ago. But guess what? We met in another continent, America, to cook and share the flavors of home this weekend.
Mila was so generous and hospitable that she invited us to cook in her place. It was a lovely studio with the beautiful view and sweet family photos which made the room brim over with warmth and love. It’s just like a home away from home.
For the main course, we had shrimp spaghetti that Mila made. Coming from the coastal part of Croatia, Italian cuisine is dominant in her cooking schedule. Shrimp are boiled and fried in olive oil with a little bit of garlic, parsley and tomato sauce. There is a little bit of all us in these ingredients today. Shrimp came from Asia, spices from a middle east store in Tempe, tomato sauce from California. But it is a Croatian dish. It only takes 15 minutes for the shrimps to be ready in this delicious sauce. The secret to the creamy taste is to put a couple of spoons of water that the pasta was cooked in, into the sauce! We ate our spaghetti al dente!
Fang-Wen also cooked scrambled eggs with tomatoes for the side dish and brought some homemade Boba for bubble tea. Scrambled eggs with tomatoes is a home-cooked dish which almost every Taiwanese has tried at a young age.
Mila likes desserts very much, so she really enjoyed what her buddies brought. Fang-Wen made these delicious Black Tapioca Pearls that you drown in milk for a delicious treat. Ahmed brought a variety of Egyptian sweets, one better than the other giving Mila a familiar taste of Mediterranean with her second cup of Turkish coffee!
Ahmed did a great job in taking pictures of our yummy lunch and introduced us the origin of the Egyptian sweets and the steps to make them. Neither Mila nor Fang-Wen had heard of those tasty desserts before, so we’re all excited to learn the stories behind them.
Baklava is a traditional Egyptian dessert consisting of many layers of flaky pastry and spiced walnuts, covered in a sweet, orange-blossom-flavored syrup, called a sharbat. The flavors meld together into one sweet treat.
Konafa is an Egyptian dessert that can be made with different fillings, most commonly cream or nuts filling; sometimes you can find it with cheese filling. (It is the same family as Baklava).
The dessert is usually made with long, thin strands of shredded phyllo dough known as kataifi. In fact, the word, konafa is used interchangeably to describe both the dessert and the dough. The dough is usually fried or baked with butter or oil until it is crispy.
Konafah is purely Arabic, and its name stems from the Arabic verb “ka-na-fa” meaning mercy. It was first served during the Umayyad Caliphate when Muawiya ordered his cook to prepare a rich dish to help him endure the fasting in Ramadan.
It was the first time for us to give the taste of Croatia, Taiwan or Egypt a try. We have an enjoyable time cooking and sharing our observations of America. From our own experiences, people from different cultures may be better understood by each other if “food” is taken as the departure point for building a cross-continent relationship.