Food, Online Magazine

Gastronomy Connoisseurs

6

By Johara Al Mogbel

A sneak peak into the lives of two of the best Saudi food bloggers.

 

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YASMEEN ALFOUZAN

Our first choice was, of course, Yasmeen Alfouzan. Born in Abu Dhabi, Alfouzan’s an MIS analyst who started a food blog she built herself in 2008, which we’ve been crushing over ever since we discovered it. In her own words, she attempts everything and rarely finds something that sticks. She believes there’s nothing you cannot learn from the Internet and books, and from the looks of her blog, we wholeheartedly agree.

 

Why’d you pick up cooking?

I harbor a fascination in both the artistic and scientific side of things equally. On one hand, I love music, visual arts, literature and movies; on the other, I love astronomy, physics, mathematics, programming and chemistry.

 

Naturally, I just had to pick culinary arts, since it’s THE art that relies on both science and creativity to produce something extraordinary. I’m obsessed with learning about food chemistry and utilize that nerdy side of me to create simple, beautiful, homemade dishes. However, I don’t believe that you need to know about the science of food in order to create something insanely delectable, you just need to really love food.

 

What’s your idea of a favorite meal?

The answer to this question changes by season, day and hour. Right now, my idea of a favorite meal is: slow-cooked lamb shanks, on top of buttery couscous and steamed veggies, with a side of a vibrant green salad tossed with an herby vinaigrette.

 

What is it about food that excites you?

What doesn’t? Everything. From the raw ingredients, to the finished dish – every stage of preparing and eating food gets me excited. I love it all.

 

What do you crave and how many times do you crave it?

I have a sweet tooth, so my answer is naturally: cake. I crave it all the time. Would never say no to good cake. Or ice cream.

 

Who does the photography for you? If you do it yourself, how did you learn the process?

I do the photography myself, though, many times I wish I had an assistant photographer. Cooking and baking is a very involved process, so doing both at the same time can be quite challenging. I learned gradually, as I started with an entry-level point and shoot camera, and then found myself using a DSLR and processing RAW images on Lightroom.

 

I still don’t think I take amazing photos, but I feel like they tell the story of the dish better, since I made it and could probably highlight its best features. Photos can be made art by some very talented individuals, but to me, they just encapsulate the visual appeal of a dish.

 

What advice do you have for aspiring food bloggers?

I say do not get discouraged by the large number of food bloggers that are already there and established. The world cannot have enough food bloggers. Self-publishing is the greatest tool we are blessed with. Trust me, even if you get very little audience out of it at all, it’s something worth keeping up with and pursuing. It changes the way you think about food, and the way you interact with it. Make sure you deliver good, authentic content and the rest will fall in place.

 

Are you planning on making a cookbook?

Yes! I’m in fact in the process of writing it right now, and I’d say I’m about 75 percent done. I can’t express how excited I am. It’s a baking book in Arabic that focuses on quality-baked goods with proper methods, real ingredients and deliciousness all around is the top priority. Photos included, of course.

 

If you had to choose between a kitchen aide add-on and a fancy shoe, which one would you choose?

I’d go against my first instincts and choose a fancy shoe, because my kitchen is overflowing with equipment and tools.

 

Web: yasmine.ws
Instagram: yassoma

 

 

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NOOR ALQAHTANI

Ya Salam is another beautifully polished food blog that caught our eye. Run by Noor Alqahtani, an American freelance graphic designer married to a Saudi, she’s been residing in Riyadh since 2008. She’s an avid doodler and painter drawn to the culture of the gulf, which shows in her posts.

 

Why’d you pick up cooking?

To impress my husband of course! He had been living in the USA for quite a while and missed his favorite foods. Honestly, I had no idea how to cook little on Saudi cuisine and at the time you could not find anything about it online. I made it my mission to learn all about the food and history and to teach others along the way.

 

I think I’ve done pretty well when my Saudi mother in law tells me I know more recipes from here than she does. And now when you search Saudi recipes you will find them everywhere.

 

What’s your idea of a favorite meal?

I think we’re all drawn to comfort food, you know the best meals our moms make. I’m a country girl so I will always want my moms fried chicken and cornbread over everything else. Thank God, Saudis love fried chicken too.

 

What is it about food that excites you?

I love the fact that food can bring people together. To me, that’s what it’s all about and definitely makes the time worth it in the end.

 

What do you crave and how many times do you crave it?

I love soups and breads of any kind and it’s something that I could eat daily. Biscuits, cornbread, pita, French bread; whatever kind I will eat it.

 

Who does the photography for you? If you do it yourself, how did you learn the process?

I do everything myself from prepping, cooking to the photography. I’m not a pro by any means and honestly I’m not all that interested in photography. I do like a clear image though so a DSLR is a must.  And like most things, I taught myself.

 

What advice do you have for aspiring food bloggers?

If you’re living in a region like the Gulf then I urge you to start a food blog. You would not believe how hard it is to learn about traditional cooking. For example I have a small online cooking club MENA (menacookingclub.org) and each month we make a recipe from a selected country.

 

It has been really hard for us to find recipes for countries like Kuwait, Oman and Qatar. Eight years ago when I started Ya Salam Cooking it was the same for Saudi. Invite people into your country and allow them to know the cuisine and tradition. I see so many Gulf bloggers talking about fashion and makeup, try something new and stand out. The world is really interested in this area and what it’s all about.

 

Are you planning on making a cookbook?

This has been a thought of mine for a while now so yes, it’s something that I want. I just know that a cookbook on Saudi cuisine would be a big hit. People are constantly asking me to go for it. However, I do not know the first step to take when it comes to publishing a book.

 

If you had to choose between a kitchen aide add-on and a fancy shoe, which one would you choose?

I think you all know my answer! As much as I love shoes I would go for the kitchen tool every time.

 

Web: yasalamcooking.com
Instagram: nooralqa

 


 

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