Hasan Alwarhani has brought his cooking skills from a village near the Syrian capital to a food truck in Wellington's Cuba Street.
He makes and sells Syrian pizza (manakish), marinated and spiced chicken shawarma, tahini biscuits, hummus and flatbreads and is passionate about keeping his ancestors' culinary traditions alive.
“This food has been around for thousands of years.” He says the city of Aleppo, now devastated by the war, was known for excellent food.
His home village, Alkares, with a population of 600, is an hour or so from Damascus. When he was growing up there was no electricity; everyone had a garden and ate fresh food.
His mother is “an amazing cook” and his grandparents would provide generous meals, he says. For us as a culture [we] show love with the food, so you always get forced with one or two more spoons.”
Alwarhani left the village in 2005 for Damasacus and three years later moved to Dubai, where he met his Argentinian wife. By 2011 the war had started in Syria and the couple eventually settled in New Zealand.
He shares his recipe for Syrian hummus mdamas.
In the Syrian tradition, hummus is thick and creamy, and is used as a sauce or a base. To get the right consistency, Alwarhani’s tip is to have the chickpea puree ice cold when mixing in tahini.