Tamam Mediterranean Food Ltd
By Shannon Tien

It Runs in the Family

“What really made us want to open a restaurant is that Tamam is a brilliant cook,” says Sobhi Zobaidi of his wife, Tamam, who is also the namesake of the restaurant that the two own together.

Tamam (the restaurant) opened in 2012, and is an easy-to-miss hole-in-the wall on East Hastings Street, boasting the only authentic Palestinian cuisine in Vancouver. Tamam and Sobhi are both from Palestine where Tamam’s father was a professional chef. “A good one, too!” laughs Tamam.

“Everyday I discover how talented Tamam is and how she can transform any combination of ingredients into something that’s really wonderful,” says Sobhi.

Though Tamam grew up around good cooking and is inspired by her father, she learned the tricks of the trade herself.

“I encouraged her a lot,” Sobhi pauses and then laughs, “because I love to eat.”

People may know many things about Palestinians, but many don’t know that we have such a complex and beautiful cuisine. - Sobhi Zobaidi, co-owner

Taking Inspiration from Tradition

“People may know many things about Palestinians, but many don’t know that we have such a complex and beautiful cuisine,” says Sobhi.

According to Tamam and Sobhi, the complexity of Palestinian cuisine is due in equal parts to Palestine’s varied geography and numerous colonial encounters throughout history.

“We have dishes that have Turkish and English and European influences… [There are] similarities between the main ingredients in Mediterranean food, like olive oil, lemon and herbs,” says Tamam.

Tamam and Sobhi are mostly interested in sticking to traditional Palestinian recipes, while maintaining the “home-style cooking” feel that they are known for.

“There are no other Palestinian restaurants. There are Arab restaurants and Mediterranean restaurants and Middle Eastern restaurants,” says Sobhi of the restaurant scene in Vancouver, claiming that people come from all over the Lower Mainland, and even Seattle, to get a taste of Tamam’s traditional Palestinian food.

Tamam maintains a traditional Palestinian atmosphere in its décor as well. Sobhi, a multimedia artist by trade, hangs his own artwork on the wall — currently a series of photographs paying tribute to the famous Palestinian cartoonist Naji Al-Ali. The restaurant also features a naturally lit sunroom — a main feature of restaurants in Palestine. The vibe is casual; there is even a children’s play area with toys, colouring books and comfy chairs.

From the Field to the Kitchen

Though offering an exotic cuisine, almost all of Tamam’s menu features local ingredients that are easy to find. Customers can visit for lunch or dinner and look forward to a substantial meal for under $10.

One of the most popular dishes on the menu is Mujadarah, a simple concoction of rice, lentils and carmelized onions.

“Mujadarah is one of those simple popular dishes that everyone can afford to make… and it’s also gluten free and vegan,” says Sobhi.

Another of Tamam’s most popular dishes is Freekeh, a traditional Palestinian meal that is composed of young, green wheat. It is dried in the sun, then burned and cooked to remove the sheaf.

“So it’s from the field to the kitchen,” says Sobhi. “It’s harvested but there’s no factory processing. It’s natural and it tastes wonderful. It’s a superfood.” As could be said about everything served at Tamam.

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