New York author Avery Corman recently wrote a book about his upbringing in the Bronx titled “My Old Neighborhood Remembered: A Memoir.” He writes that in his youth in the New York City borough, “no matter what neighborhood you were in, the food in the Chinese restaurants was the same.”
But a similar statement could not be made about the food that is served in the Mediterranean eateries in Oklahoma City, where even items with the same names are often prepared differently.
During the current holy month of Ramadan, in which Muslims are not supposed to eat during the daylight hours, many of the metro area’s Mediterranean establishments offer buffets that are the focus of ravenous customers as the sun’s rays recede. Ramadan began on June 28.
At Zam Zam’s, 3913 N MacArthur Blvd. in Warr Acres, patrons are offered a lentil soup that is thin and spicy. But the lentil soup prepared at Camilya’s Mediterranean Cafe, at 10942 N May, is a thick concoction that has a texture similar to pudding.
At Couscous Restaurant, 6165 N May, the buffet includes hard-boiled eggs and pancake-like bread that is of the type often eaten in New Orleans during the Mardi Gras season. In most other places, patrons can be seen devouring the traditional pita bread as darkness descends. The owners of Couscous are from Morocco, which was, for a time, a French Protectorate, which may explain why Couscous offers bread of the type that is found in New Orleans, a French colony until 1803.
At Ya Hala Mediterranean Restaurant, 3655 NW 39, there is a popular Ramadan dish called “mensaf” that consists of rice, lamb, and yogurt.
Meanwhile, Zam Zam’s buffet has a dish that includes shrimp. Yusef Al Yassin, the proprietor of Zam Zam’s, said shrimp is found throughout the Mediterranean area and Middle East, and he has often featured it on his establishment’s Ramadan buffet.
The restaurateur added that there are many different culinary traditions found in the Mediterranean area and that those distinctions account, in large part, for the differences found in Oklahoma City’s Mediterranean eateries.
Yassin said the times for the weekend buffets offered at his restaurant are altered during Ramadan to fit the sunset meal schedule of fasting Muslims.
Bill O’Brien is an Oklahoma City attorney and writer.
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