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Toronto Suddenly Has a New Craving: Syrian Food

“There is such a positive attitude toward new businesses that newcomers have been starting here,” mentioned Jala Alsoufi, 23.

In August, Ms. Alsoufi opened Soufi’s, one in all about a half-dozen Syrian meals companies to look round Toronto lately, together with her folks, Shahnaz and Husam, and her brother Alaa, 26. (A more youthful brother, Ayham, continues to be in highschool.)

Though initially from Damascus, the circle of relatives lived for 20 years in Saudi Arabia, the place Husam labored as a civil engineer and Shahnaz as a social employee. Unlike nearly all of contemporary Syrian arrivals, who got here as refugees, Jala moved right here first in 2012 to check on the University of Toronto, and her circle of relatives adopted 3 years later. Because Canada didn’t acknowledge Husam’s engineering , and the circle of relatives briefly realized in regards to the shortage of Syrian meals in Toronto, they determined to open a eating place.

“We wanted to highlight Syrian cuisine, which had gotten lost in the shadows of Middle Eastern cuisine,” Jala mentioned, noting how Lebanese and different Arabic eating places had cloaked their eating places in a generic “Mediterranean” label, for broader enchantment.


At Soufi’s, Anthony Daher, left, a common buyer, chats wth Odai Nakawa, an worker.

Ian Willms for The New York Times

Soufi’s is defiantly branded as a Syrian eating place. Shahnaz, talking in Arabic as her daughter translated, mentioned the circle of relatives sought after to display that Syrians had been “more than just victims.”

“We wanted to consciously be light and airy,” Jala added, “because even though the situation in Syria is very unfortunate, it is important to show Syrian culture, music and art.”

The Alsoufi circle of relatives has purposefully struck a steadiness between conventional Syrian flavors and fresh Canadian tastes. Soufi’s workers are solely younger, Syrian refugees. Some put on head scarves and beards, whilst others want tight denims and rolled-up sleeves. The meat is halal, however beer is served, and a sticky label supporting homosexual, lesbian and transgender reasons is displayed at the entrance door.

The menu is constructed round two quintessential Syrian boulevard meals: freshly baked manaeesh flatbread crowned with a number of elements, from sujuk (spiced floor red meat) to crumbled halloumi cheese with braised, lemony spinach; and knafeh, a heat candy dish of gooey cheese and phyllo strands, scented with rose water and soaked in syrup.

Jala refuses to make one thing as brazenly fusion-y as a “manaeesh burrito,” however you’ll order avocado as a topping, and her vegan knafeh, referred to as “banoffeh,” is made with coconut caramel, bananas and tahini, impressed by way of her love of banoffee pie, that safe to eat portmanteau of 1970s grocery store staples like sweetened condensed milk and whipped cream.

The first Syrian meals trade to make its mark right here was once Crown Pastries, a small bakery opened by way of the brothers Ismail and Rasoul Alsalha in 2015, in a strip mall alongside a stretch of highway in Scarborough (the jap quarter of the town) this is ruled by way of Lebanese butchers and shawarma retail outlets.


Ismail Alsalha fingers out samples of his do-it-yourself candies to consumers at Crown Pastries, the primary Syrian meals trade to make its mark in Toronto.

Ian Willms for The New York Times

The brothers fled to Canada as refugees in 2009 from Aleppo, bringing up a unhealthy scenario they declined to talk about. While Ismail completed highschool, Rasoul supported him by way of running in Lebanese bakeries from morning time till nightfall, however the purpose was once at all times to open a Syrian bakery.

“With other Arab bakeries, you cannot taste the butter or nuts, only sugar,” Rasoul mentioned dismissively.

Crown Pastries is a sport in their grandfather’s bakery of the similar identify, which operated in Aleppo’s outdated town from 1980 till the beginning of the civil struggle in 2011, when it was once deserted. It is the place each brothers realized the industry.

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