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Arab friends share rich culture, cuisine at Mahrajan

Festival to be held Sunday at PCC Sylvania


by: REVIEW, TIDINGS PHOTO: BARB RANDALL - Brothers Haidar and Said Fakih will serve Lebanese traditional foods at the Arab Festival this Sunday, all of which Randall considers delicious.

One of my favorite books as a child was “If I Were Going,” a travelogue written as an elementary primer. The main characters were a couple who traveled the world; each chapter described their excursion to an exotic location. It was a delightful way to learn about the people and places that make up our global community.

The chapter on their travels to Egypt has stuck with me over the years. I can still imagine the heat rising from the desert as they bumped over the sand atop camels, traveling to the pyramids. The descriptions of the music, sights, smells and food were ample fuel to transport me to traveling right along with them.

Fast forward several decades to a similar but reality-based experience you can have this Sunday when Mahrajan, the largest celebration of Arab heritage and culture in Oregon opens on the Sylvania campus of Portland Community College. Wishing to share their culture with the rest of the community, the Arab American Cultural Center of Oregon will hold its fourth annual festival from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center lobby and courtyard. Get ready to learn about Arab heritage, music, dancing and poetry plus arts and crafts and exotic cuisine.

Kate Chester, public relations manager for PCC, introduced me to Hadi Nouredine, president of the AACCO and brothers Said and Haidar Fakih, owners of Sesame Donut and Taste of Lebanon restaurants. Hadi said the festival would include a fashion show of traditional garments from throughout the Middle East, a souq (bazaar) of Arab artifacts and crafts, henna painting, a pita bread baking demonstration, folk dancing, poetry reading and musical performances on traditional instruments plus children’s activities and a raffle.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO: COURTESY PCC - The festival will include a souq, a bazaar featuring Arab artifacts and crafts.

“This is a chance for the community to get together,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for friends on the East side to see those who live on the West side of Portland. It’s a nice reunion. And it’s an opportunity for the community to see the positive, peaceful side of Arabs.”

Master Chefs Said and Haidar invited Kate and I to sample some of the traditional foods they are preparing for the festival. Friends — I’d suggest you arrive with an empty stomach because you will want to sample everything. The food is delicious and each dish surpassed the last.

Haidar explained that Lebanese food is made of only the finest fresh ingredients; the most common seasonings include extra virgin olive oil, lemon, garlic, cloves, cinnamon, black and white peppers, mint and parsley. He plans to serve fattoush, a garden salad with parsley, radishes, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and mint topped with toasted pita bread strips; kibee, a football-shaped gourmet treat made of bulgur, minced onion and ground lamb or beef; beef and chicken shawarma, which is roasted vertically on a skewer and thinly sliced for sandwiches; falafel, deep fried patties of fava and garbanzo beans and more with tahini and garlic sauces. Don’t miss the desserts: bakalava and other sweets plus exotic beverages. Be sure to try the beverages, especially anything with raisins and rosewater. Experience Mahrajan this Sunday. I can guarantee it will be a treat for the whole family. Entrance donation is $5, which includes three raffle tickets. Parking is free in lots 9 and 11.

After you’ve been to Mahrajan, you will want to eat Lebanese food regularly. Taste of Lebanon is located at 12700 SW North Dakota Blvd. inside Sesame Donuts in Tigard. It has very convenient hours: 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 5 a.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday.

Introduce yourselves to Said and Haidar, who extend “Ahlan,” which loosely means “welcome, eat with happiness and rejuvenation” to all.

Bon Appetit! Eat something

wonderful!

Lebanese Chicken

Serves 4

3/4 cup fresh lemon juice

8 large garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme leaves or 2 teaspoons dried

1 tablespoon paprika

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 3-pound chickens, split lengthwise, backbones removed and discarded

Lemon wedges

Whisk fresh lemon juice, minced garlic, thyme, paprika, cumin and cayenne pepper in small bowl. Place chicken in 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Pour marinade over; turn chicken to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least six hours or overnight, turning occasionally.

Preheat oven to 425° F. Transfer chicken and marinade to large roasting pan. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Bake until chicken is golden brown and cooked through, occasionally basting with pan juices, about 50 minutes. Transfer chicken to plates. Garnish with lemon. Pass pan juices separately.

Bon Appetit, January 1996.

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-636-1281, ext. 100 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



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