Rahaf Alakbani is a chef from Sweida, a city located in the southwest of Syria, who is using her skills to nourish displaced people in the war-torn country.
After the conflict broke out, Alakbani and her husband, Esmaeel Abofakher, fled their homeland as refugees, eventually settling in Toronto, Canada.
It was here where the couple helped to establish Newcomer Kitchen, a pop-up restaurant that has grown to provide over 80 jobs for Syrian refugees.
Yet along with helping those forced to flee, Alakbani wanted to do something for countless others still enduring the war back home.
The opportunity arose when the GlobalMedic NGO discovered that many Syrians were struggling to stomach the unusual pre-packaged meals arriving as food aid in the country.
In an effort to remedy this issue, the NGO asked Syrian chefs to create meals that could not only be transported upwards of 6,000 miles, but would appeal to the palates of the Syrian people. Alakbani jumped at the chance.
“It is so important for me to participate,” she told AJ+. “That makes us feel like we’re really giving back.”
Given the logistic complexities of the task, Alakbani decided to cook mujaddara for her contribution to the relief effort. Her modified take on the traditional Syrian dish is made up of lentils, bulgur wheat and dehydrated fried onion, an ingredient list that is tasty, healthy and—crucially—easily packaged and transported over long distances.
Alakbani and her team at Newcomer Kitchen, with support from GlobalMedic, are in the process of sending 150,000 meals to the displaced people of Syria. “Global Medic transport the meal packages in big containers and they drop them to the areas where people need it,” Alakbani explained.
“Everybody loves mujaddara,” Alakbani said. “It is one of the most favourite dishes in Syria”