Sitto’s Syrian Spices

Published August 31, 2019

Sitto used her Syrian spices like the most renown of Chefs! It was a habit of hers, reaching for this herb or spice and incorporating it into the humblest of dishes. She kept those spices in jelly jars that she had frugally washed and re-used. But oh, the scent of them when I opened her pantry.

When I sat down to write the first cookbook, I asked myself what was so outstanding about the foods of Aleppo. I grew up with these simple and humble foods, like Lamb Meatball and Carrot Stew and they always had a memorable taste and aroma. So many of my forays into Middle Eastern restaurants have been a bit disappointing. It’s always…nearly there…but not quite. It was yet another reason for preserving Sitto’s recipes into the cookbooks. As I began compiling them, there was one thing that struck me. It was the Aleppian use of spices and herbs that set this city apart from the rest.

Although much of the Levant cooks in a similar way, it’s Aleppo’s location which brought its food fame. When I researched my grandmother’s city, I learned that it was a trade route, which probably brought much of the spices through it. In fact, tamarind is used in Asian cuisine and I can see it had an influence in Aleppo. Also, the city’s proximity to Turkey and the subsequent Armenian’s flight into Aleppo also brought their influences into our cuisine. In fact, there are some spices and herbs I can’t do without in my kitchen.

That’s why I made sure that I included a Glossary in my cookbooks. I realized that anyone new to Middle Eastern cooking and specifically Aleppo, Syria, may not be as familiar with our herbs, spices and condiments. Both Sitto’s Kitchen and Sitto’s Kitchen II have an extensive Glossary as well as a Where To Buy It section, just for that reason!