Take a look at little-known sides of Islamic cuisine with Chef Aumur Akor

Award-winning Turkish chef and writer Omur Akor, also known as “Omur Chef,” has 28 books he created by blending his deep research on cuisine and food culture with his 26-year career as a chef. His twenty-ninth book, The Art and Culture of Early Islamic Gastronomy, which was recently published, has been highly praised. The book deals with Islamic culinary culture and customs.

On the occasion of the new release, we spoke with Akkor about his latest book.

Ramadan cooking traditions

“A month before Ramadan, women begin preparations in the kitchen, three or four families gather together and roll the dry dough. They dry the filo dough, sometimes you put cheese in it, you cook it in a pan, sometimes they make baklava, sometimes they knead it they make meatballs. The stewed fruit is prepared and consumed. At Suhoor (the last meal before dawn before the start of the daily fast.) They make ravioli dough and noodles. Shopping for ingredients is completed one month in advance. For example, they wrap grilled meat in newspaper and hang it from the basement ceiling.

“There was a famine in Islamic geography, of which only water and bread were left; if bread and olives were eaten together, it was a feast. In those early days of Islam, not every house had a kitchen, but everyone gathered in a house next door that had a kitchen and done Cook there. For example, there are many kinds of dates in that geography, they were eaten like baklava, they were roasted with cheese and butter, and they were boiled in milk. They were grilled together, then turned into flour, eaten solo or mixed with molasses and honey.”

View of some dishes from the award-winning Turkish Chef Umur Akor restaurant, Zenobe 1844, Istanbul, Turkey, July 8, 2020 (Sabah archive photos)

Feelings about writing the book

“It feels great because it is a business that has not been done before. I am a person who reads life through food. I need to explain the culinary traditions of the period of the Prophet Muhammad because I am a Muslim chef. I have 28 books written about Anatolia, but it would be wrong if I did not write a book like A chef serving in the kitchen, living with an Islamic identity. I wanted to record the look of Omor Akure at this important period,” said the famous chef.

Ramadan in the Ottoman era

“They lived more consciously. It was necessary to receive guests into the house every night, and a lot of utensils were put on the table.”

awareness and success

“I was a fortunate and inquisitive child and grew up in a large family. I was born in Kilis (the gastronomy capital of Turkey), my grandfather owned vineyards and olives…My grandmother (my father’s mother), Zeinoube Hanim, was from Aleppo who used to do everything in a specific way as a tradition. For example, at home, rice was first moistened and spread in the sun, then pounded in a mortar and passed through a silk sieve … My deceased grandmother (my mother’s mother) was also from Kayseri – Adana, she also rolled ravioli with nail dough and made pastries Filled with feta cheese (su borigi).

A dish by award-winning Turkish chef Umur Akor at his restaurant, Zennup1844, Istanbul, Turkey, July 8, 2020. (Sabah Archive Photo)

A dish by award-winning Turkish chef Umur Akor at his restaurant, Zennup1844, Istanbul, Turkey, July 8, 2020. (Sabah Archive Photo)

We grew up with very good food and many traditions. For example, my grandmother used to make yogurt soup. We used to say, “Grandma, do you make yogurt soup?” There will be no sound, and then you say, “You don’t get a response when I make yogurt soup.” Again, when she was stuffing vegetables, she didn’t take a break until she put the last grain of rice inside. Because once you start, you can’t get up until you’re done. This was her ritual.

I also take lessons for 16 hours a week. I am taking courses in geography, history, linguistics and history. I’m even taking a class to identify the tree.”

A dish by award-winning Turkish chef Umur Akor at his restaurant, Zennup1844, Istanbul, Turkey, July 8, 2020. (Sabah Archive Photo)

A dish by award-winning Turkish chef Umur Akor at his restaurant, Zennup1844, Istanbul, Turkey, July 8, 2020. (Sabah Archive Photo)

Then the kitchen in his restaurant

“We cook dishes in our kitchen based on Zennup Hanım traditions. Its rituals continue in our kitchen, and the fruits of our kitchen come from commemorating Zennup Hanım. For example, I put a copper pot and a wooden spoon on the table. It aims to connect people with this conversation to the past. That is why People love Zennup1844, not just for our dishes from the kitchen!”

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