4 pop culture highlights from across the Middle East
Recipe for success: Saudi chef Rakan Al-Oraifi shares dessert recipe for Saudi National Day
DUBAI: Rising Saudi food star and TV presenter Rakan Al-Oraifi was a semester after completing his master’s degree in marketing when he decided he wanted to pursue his lifelong love for food more seriously. A culinary degree from California later, Al-Oraifi returned to Saudi Arabia to take the local culinary scene by storm.
Among the many accolades he has received, Al-Oraifi was hailed “Best Saudi Chef” at the 2018 Saudi Excellence in Tourism Awards and has worked in several international restaurants over the years. He has also participated in several international cooking competitions, including the second season of “Top Chef Middle East”.
In his work, Al-Oraifi particularly enjoys exploring traditional Saudi cuisine, but infused with modern elements. Her first memory of cooking dates back to making dolma with her mother. “It’s a dish I’ve been making since I was six years old. It was difficult to prepare it as a young child, but I always prepared it with my mother over the years and eventually learned to prepare it myself,” Al-Oraifi said in an interview with Arab News. .
While he was the last executive chef of the Maiz at Diryah Gate, the 33-year-old is now in Paris perfecting the art of pastry.
To celebrate the Saudi National Day, Al-Oraifi will feature in an online cooking series for Fatafeat where he will use his experience of Middle Eastern cuisines to share recipes with Saudi flavors at their heart.
Here, Al-Oraifi talks to Arab News about his favorite cuisines, quick dinner fix and restaurant faux pas.
When you started out as a professional, what was the most common mistake you made when preparing/cooking a dish?
A common mistake is to copy the techniques of other chefs, which can lead to confusion at some point. You can inspire yourself, but it’s important to find your own style and cooking technique.
What’s your best advice for home chefs cooking at home?
It is important for every chef to have a sharp knife. In addition to making the cooking preparation process easier and smoother, it is less likely to hurt you. Dull knives are actually more dangerous.
What ingredient can instantly improve any dish?
Salt is a fundamental ingredient as it enhances and enhances the flavor of any dish.
When you go out to eat, do you ever criticize the food? What is the most common mistake/problem you find in other restaurants?
I generally criticize the temperature of the food as it also indicates the efficiency of the service. For me, the most important thing is to heat up my food and prepare it fresh. I don’t like it when I get cold food.
When you go out to eat, what is your favorite cuisine/dish to order?
Usually I like French and Japanese cuisine, and some restaurants do a fusion of the two, which is even better. French cuisine involves a certain technique while Japanese cuisine requires a particular skill, and I think that fits well.
What is your favorite dish if you have to cook something quickly at home, say in 20 minutes?
Pasta is a must for me. Even when creating the sauce and batter from scratch, it normally takes no more than 30 minutes. It also offers flexibility and versatility, you can customize it to your liking, with your choice of creams and cheeses, for example.
What customer demand/behaviour annoys you the most?
Because I know the time and effort that goes into each dish, I’m not a fan of customers who dine in a hurry and don’t take the time to enjoy the food. In my opinion, you need at least 60 minutes to appreciate and enjoy your meal, especially if it’s a three-course dining experience.
As a chef, how are you? Are you disciplinary? Do you shout a lot? Or are you more laid back?
I’m cool 80% of the time. Keeping a cool head is important for running a successful kitchen and dealing with customers. You’ll just have better judgment overall.
What is the most difficult dish to succeed (whether on your current menu or not)?
Baking is actually tricky for me. Unlike cooking dishes where one can be spontaneous and rely on one’s own senses and sensations, baking requires specific measurements and strictly followed techniques. For this reason, I am currently in France to study the art of French pastry and improve my skills.
ERYKAH DESSERT RECIPE BY CHEF RAKAN AL-ORAIFI
2 cups wheat flour
2.5 cups of water
50g of ghee
50g of honey
30g brown sugar
10 g soft dates
20 g of honeycomb
1. In a kneader, add the dry ingredients with the wheat flour and salt, then mix gently.
2. Pour water at room temperature. Keep mixing until everything is well combined.
3. In a hot pan or flat grill, melt the ghee, then pour the mixture using a 200ml ladle.
4. Cook for a few minutes until the front side is bubbly.
5. Turn the dough over and cook it for a few minutes; the texture should be very soft.
6. Mix the bread in a dough mixer until you get a hard and smooth texture.
7. Shape them by hand, then stuff them with date paste.
8. Melt the ghee and honey, then pour it over the bread.
9. Garnish with a small piece of honeycomb then serve.