SimSim: documenting culinary history, one recipe at a time

(Photo: AI-Generated)
I recall one of the first articles that I wrote when I started this journey of food reviews was about Jordanian food not being appealing to Western Ammanis, and with the vast movement of Westernized food invading the tables and palates of most Jordanian youth groups and households, we started to only see Arabic cuisine during holidays and special occasions.اضافة اعلان

Personally, while growing up, I was a sucker for my grandmas Kubbeh, which she made every holiday. She would save me some on the side and bring it out from the freezer whenever I came to visit. I’ve always wanted to know how she did it, but I could never understand the recipe, given that majored in culinary arts, but still I didn’t have patience for a recipe that calls for a ‘pinch’ of this, a ‘dash’ of that, ‘just a little bit more’ of this and that, and not too little and not too much being the most accurate measure. Years later I just had to learn the recipe, and I sat there with my grandmother as her kitchen trainee, while she was giving me a hard time for not adding the right quantities of spices or for not shaping the dough correctly.

To this day a part of me is still baffled by the uncalculated measurements our mothers used that make a dish strike home every time, which made me wonder if that is one of the hassles that discourages people from trying to cook Arabic food, until I came across SimSim.

Sharing food, online
The first time I came across the SimSim application, I thought it was just another recipe-sharing platform for Arabic food, and little did I know I was far off from the truth of this app, with a little digging and my curious mind, I had the chance to meet with the person behind the project, Farida Shakhshir.

I cannot possibly remember everything that was said while discussing SimSim with Farida, yet to this day I can truly feel the passion that drove her to leave her executive corporate job to pursue SimSim and bring Arabic Kitchen Cuisine to life.

Farida shared how she believes that a “Sufra” (dining room table) is more than food on a table, it’s a culture, history, and love that is being shared amongst people who are sitting there. She mentioned how we only look outside to what foods are being served and what is attractive, leaving behind our own heritage. So, she went into the kitchen and did all the heavy work for us to share some great family recipes in measuring units anyone can understand, and with preparation steps that are easy to follow.

She did not focus on Jordanian cuisine, but on Arabic cuisine in general, covering Jordanian, Palestinian, Syrian, and some of the Gulf region; and she is still expanding to cover more of the Gulf and Africa.

Even though a simple internet search could get you the result that you’d want, Farida insisted that every recipe should be tried, tested, and then posted. She even mentioned how she wanted the food to look exactly how it is after being cooked; no filters, no extra colors, and no fancy presentations. Exactly how we got used to it growing up.

Always more to do
While digging more into the application it got a bit addictive, I liked the fact that you can add items to your shopping list to help you organize yourself, you can even create your own menu and add all the recipes to it, then it will combine the shopping list and it will give you an ingredient sheet to buy in order to cook the meals you want; adjusting the number of servings per recipe is also an option.

A fun feature in the recipe section is that it does suggest other recipes that go well with the one you’re trying to make, to ensure that you have a colorful choice of food items and an assembly of dishes that everyone can enjoy. They also provide their favorite SimSim brand of local ingredients that they use for their recipes to ensure the same quality and outcome.

Another great aspect of the application is the “Budget Sufra” with recipes that are wallet-friendly.

History and contextOne of my favorite parts of the application is the historical information ir provides for some dishes; why certain dishes are called that way, like the revenge story of the famous dessert, Um Ali, or how Dates saved Arab sailors from scurvy while Western sailors couldn’t travel so far on their less nutritious diets.

Farida was very passionate about the message behind SimSim when talking about it , even though it has been quite a financial challenge to bring SimSim to life for all of us to use for free. But, she said, she wants to remove the borders between Arab countries through food whose purpose is to be shared, while carrying its stories and history along the way. She wanted to make it easily accessible to everyone who wished they could’ve measured the pinch of this and a dash of that while seeing their family cooking.

Food on the horizon
It is noteworthy to mention that this is just the beginning for SimSim: and with her business mind behind the project, with great attention to social and environmental responsibilities along the way, Farida is aiming for very exciting projects in the pipeline.

Personally, I strongly suggest downloading the app on your phone, even just to browse and flip through recipes, I assure you that something will catch your eye and you might be excited to grab the cutting board, turn on the stove, and enjoy a few people over for an Arabic Kitchen Sufra.

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