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Chobab

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Photo and article by Phil Iddison


Chobab cooking at the Heritage Village, Dubai

There is a good range of traditional breads cooked in the UAE, this is perhaps the easiest for a novice to try. At my first attempt I had edible results and a few repetitions have consolidated the recipe into my repertoire. The end product is not very different to ataif which is a Ramadan specialty introduced from north Arabian cuisine.

Just how long the tradition stretches back is an interesting point. Three of the ingredients were not generally available 50 to 60 years ago. Milk powder is not essential and there is a traditional substitute, dried milk solids or yoghourt called kami. Cooking oils are also a recent introduction to the UAE. The obvious traditional substitute would be samn, clarified butter, readily available in the past and even in today's suq. The presence of yeast is a little more problematic. Possibilities in the past would have been a sourdough technique relying on wild yeast, perhaps associated with the reservation each day of some of the batter as a starter for the next day's production.

Quantities

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 2/3 cup of whole wheat flour
  • 2/3 cup of No 1 flour
  • 60 ml thin date syrup
  • 40 ml dried milk powder
  • 40 ml corn oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon of dried yeast

Beat all the ingredients together, either keep in a warm place for 2-3 hours or in the fridge overnight if you want breakfast chobab! The batter will have a good patina of fine bubbles. Heat a large non-stick pan (250 mm dia.) and pour in enough batter to produce a thin chobab, either pouring out from the centre in a spiral or by tilting the pan. If the chobab is more than 3 mm thick, thin the batter slightly with more water. Cook until the underside is well toasted, the bubbles will burst on the top surface to give a spongy texture. Toss the pancake and cook the second side again to a toasted colour, the date syrup helps the browning process. When cooked, toss again and slide onto a plate and keep warm as you cook the rest of the batter. It will produce 5-6 large chobab. These are traditionally eaten after drizzling them with samn and assal, pouring honey. To keep some control on the calories we usually eat them rather plain with just a thin spread of dibbis (date syrup) or thin honey. This soaks into the spongy surface and the chobab can be rolled and eaten with a knife and fork to prevent getting sticky fingers.

For non-cooks, visit the Heritage Village during the Dubai shopfest or the Dubai Friday market: at both events I have watched national women cook chobab for sale and sampling, succulent and delicious. They are a little smaller than our home made efforts and cost 1-2 dirhams. You will get very sticky fingers!

Phil Iddison 26/1/2001


Patron: H.E. Sheikh Nahayan bin Mubarak Al Nahayan