Center Japanese household deliver Style of Syria to Saskatoon

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‘We don’t just want to serve you food, we want to create an experience for you that you can cherish.’

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Don Rice Wafaa Al Soua, left, stands with her husband Badie Al Souad and their two sons, Abdallah and Mohamad Alsouad in their restaurant, Taste of Syria, which opened in June, 2021. Photo taken in Saskatoon, SK on Thursday, October 28, 2021. Wafaa Al Soua, left, stands with her husband Badie Al Souad and their two sons, Abdallah and Mohamad Alsouad in their restaurant, Taste of Syria, which opened in June, 2021. Photo taken in Saskatoon, SK on Thursday, October 28, 2021. Photo by Matt Smith /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

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New businesses and non-profit organizations open regularly and move in Saskatoon. Today, the StarPhoenix talks to Wafaa Al Soua, who together with her husband Badie Al Souad opened Taste of Syria restaurant on Broadway Avenue in Avalon neighbourhood in June.

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The couple lived in Syria with their family before moving to Lebanon in 2014 and finally to Saskatoon in February 2016. Wafaa had been a math teacher at a school down the block from their house in Syria while Badie worked as a mason while also running a bookstore and grocery store. After spending some time working in the food industry in Saskatoon, the couple decided to open their own restaurant and bring the taste they loved so much from their homeland to their new home.

Q: What made you decide to open your own restaurant?

A: When we moved to Saskatoon, I started working in restaurants. In about 2019 we started a small table at the farmers’ market. Every weekend I rented their kitchen and cooked there. After that my husband and I opened this restaurant as a family business. This is a way for us to work together. The children come after school. On holidays, they are here all the time from morning until evening. They enjoy it here and we like having family together. I come here sometimes from 8:30 in the morning until 10 in the evening; when else would I see them? That’s why I bring them here. I found my passion in food, and found this to be a good business in Saskatoon.

Q: What’s on the menu at Taste of Syria?

A: The main things are chicken shawarma, beef donair and falafel. Also there are Syrian dishes like stuffed grape leaves and babaganosh and kibbeh. Our Syrian dishes are identical to many other cuisines in the Middle East like Turkey, Lebanon and Palestine. For dessert, we have baklava, harissa and rice pudding. Everything is homemade here.

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Q: Could you describe some of your more popular items?

A: The Arabic dish shawarma is a special meal. I think nobody else makes it here, just our restaurant. We use pita bread and homemade garlic sauce. We ask the customer if they like tahini sauce or hot sauce or any sauce. And after that we wrap it and we put it on the grill, cut it into small pieces and serve it with some fries.

The beef donair is Turkish halal meat (prepared according to Islamic law) because for many Muslims here in Saskatoon it needs to be halal. We use beef and ask customers what kind of vegetables and any kind of sauce they would like and if they would like us to put it on the grill.

The falafel is made the Syrian way with chickpeas to keep it a little bit light so you don’t feel full when you eat it. We grind it, add some onions, some parsley and we have a special recipe of spices also.

Harissa is a sweet dessert. It has semolina, which is a fresh wheat, coconut, some milk, some sugar and we bake it in the oven. After we’re done we add some syrup. And we serve it with some pistachios and other nuts on top. It’s a Syrian traditional dessert.

Q: What makes your restaurant stand out from others?

A: Because it’s the first Syrian restaurant open here and nobody can make our cuisine like us. And the other thing, we work by ourselves. We don’t have any other workers, just my family — my husband and my sons and daughters.

We use special spices with every dish. For example we have special spices for shawarma. We order it from Lebanon and Jordan because you cannot find it here. This makes our food special.

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We have a motto, “We don’t just want to serve you food, we want to create an experience for you that you can cherish.”

Q: Are your products from Saskatchewan?

A: Yes we use chickpeas, lentils, milk, cheese and items from the farmers’ market and Saskatchewan farms.

Q: I understand you donate a portion of your rice pudding sales to the Saskatoon Food Bank?

A: Yes, because the food bank supports many people, a lot of them are refugees. The food bank supported me when I was new here. They provide a lot of help for people.

Q: Did you receive some help when you opened up your restaurant?

A: Yes, from the Women’s Business Hub at the Open Door Society . Every step they helped me in this program. I appreciate all the people that work there. They helped me in my business plan, they helped me searching for the place, applying for the business licence, everything, because we are new here. We didn’t know the system in this country. Also there are some barriers with language which makes it a little bit hard for us. But they helped me in everything.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Taste of Syria

Owners: Wafaa Al Soua & Badie Al Souad
Address: 5 – 2605 Broadway Avenue
Hours: Monday to Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 9 p.m.
Phone: 306-477-0010
Email: [email protected]
Website: www.tasteofsyria.ca
Facebook: www.facebook.com/tasteofsyriasaskatoon

Have you recently started or moved a new business or non-profit organization in Saskatoon? We want to hear your story. Please email [email protected]

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The news seems to be flying at us faster all the time. From COVID-19 updates to politics and crime and everything in between, it can be hard to keep up. With that in mind, the Saskatoon StarPhoenix has created an Afternoon Headlines newsletter that can be delivered daily to your inbox to help make sure you are up to date with the most vital news of the day. Click here to subscribe.

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