John Wood and Paul Harrison, installation view from ‘I DIDN’T KNOW I DIDN’T KNOW IT’, Contemporary Art Gallery, February 12 – April 24, 2016. Photography by SITE Photography

Derya Akay | Cooking with Hayat Shabo and Carmen Aldakhlallah

-For tabbouleh:

-Not too much bulgur and keep it uncooked. Let it sit with the tomatoes and absorb their juices.

-When you cut parsley, cut it very finely but only cut it once.

I’m mentally noting all of the tips and tricks that Hayat Shabo and Carmen Aldakhlallah are sharing with us on a rainy and blustery Saturday at the Burrard Marina Field House. Hayat is a chef from Damascus who is graciously and patiently guiding us through the preparation of kibbeh and tabbouleh amongst many other mouth-watering dishes. Carmen, her daughter, is translating and offering her own expertise as we gather to prepare Syrian dishes as part of Mantı, Börek, Baklava, artist Derya Akay’s field house residency project.


Akay is the first to attempt forming kibbeh after Hayat expertly forms the mixture of bulghur, onions, spices and meat around her index finger. Dinner guests follow suit and are all guided through the process by Hayat. For today’s dinner, kibbeh are formed in two ways: into small logs stuffed with filling and pressed into the discs and sandwiched around the filling. The latter is then broiled over hot coals outside which, on such a dreary, windy day, proves a bit more difficult than those that are baked in the oven.


Hayat’s skill and perseverance pay off in a big way: tabbouleh topped with a tomato rose, kibbeh, hummus and mutabaal along with bread made by Akay make for a delectable feast– I can honestly say that I have never had better tabbouleh.


The event was presented in collaboration with Tayybeh, a new organization in Vancouver that seeks to support Syrian women through community events centered on cooking. Through community meals, the women of Tayybeh not only feature delicious Syrian dishes but also build connections within the larger community.

For more information on Tayybeh, visit their Facebook page: