Behind The Scenes: Chef Ali Elbourji
We talk to Executive Arabic Chef Ali Elbourji of Ayamna, a Lebanese restaurant in Dubai to discover more about eating in Ramadan.
Q1. Let’s start off by asking you Chef Ali, are you fasting this year and if so how do you cook all day and not taste the food?
Chef Ali: Yes, I am fasting, actually after all these years of cooking I have reached a stage where I am able to cook without the need to taste the food. Furthermore, the non-fasting team is around to support me if I am cooking a new dish.
Q2. What would your go-to food for dinner consist of?
Chef Ali: Being Executive Chef means that usually, I am in a rush and only have a limited time to eat. So, as much as I would like to spend 3
hours eating everything in sight I usually opt-for the lentil soup,
Rocca salad and chickpea fatteh – a garlic yogurt dish with chickpeas and crispy bread. I then go straight for the lamb Oozi – a traditional
Arabic dish that I make the Lebanese way with a whole lamb, nuts, and rice that is cooked in meat broth. One not to miss!
Q3. But Chef what about something sweet?
Chef Ali: I can never choose when it comes to sweets, so I am going to name
3 that I usually have a small(-ish) portion of each. One of the most famous Arabic desserts, Kunafa, is an absolute must have – made of cheese pastry soaked in a sweet sugar-based syrup. Then I have some Umm Ali – a traditional Egyptian dessert that is sort of like a bread pudding. Lastly, is an Emirati traditional dessert called Luqaimat – crunchy on the outside, soft and airy in the middle, Luqaimat can also be dipped in date syrup.
Q4. The real question we need to know now is – is Arabic food healthy?
Chef Ali: Arabic food has a lot of variety and as such, you can eat healthy dishes specifically and still have a lot to choose from. There are a plethora of salads and a large selection of mixed grills. Hummus is also very good for you and has a low GI. We especially do not use a lot of butter or gee and only use olive oil when necessary.
Q5. What is your favourite Ramadan Drink?
Chef Ali: Date Juice made from fresh organic local dates, milk and a touch of rose water.
Q6. What’s new this year at Asateer and Kaleidoscope?
Chef Ali: Well if you really want to impress a group of friends, we have created a ‘Shawarma stand to your table’ concept where a full-sized shawarma machine is served on your table and sliced in front of you as part of the à la carte menu. We have also added our own version of a Beef Wellington but made it with lamb Oozi. You can see how much we love lamb Oozi here!
Q7. What is your favourite thing about Ramadan?
Chef Ali: Although Ramadan is about abstaining it is also about family and friends, appreciating and spending time with them. Ramadan has a way of bringing everyone together in the evening and that by far is my favourite part.