Chefs & Cuisine
Yebralem was born in the fishing town of Assab, Eritrea. She grew up speaking Tigrinya and Amharic in the coastal town at mouth of the Red Sea. She learned most of her culinary skills from her mother, a local restauranteur in Assab. Yebralem’s best memories are cooking in her family restaurant. Yebralem left her home country due to the political instability and the desire to provide a better life for her husband and teenage son. Their journey brought them to South Africa, where she learned local recipes and refined her catering skills, cooking for large weddings and parties. In South Africa she applied for refugee status and her family was granted passage to the United States. Yebralem says that cooking for many people is rewarding as it gives her great joy to cook for others.
Life in the U.S. was challenging and rewarding. Yebralem arrived in the U.S. with the dream of working in a kitchen, but was willing to take any job. Upon arrival in the U.S. she balanced acculturating the U.S., finding work, and getting to know the U.S. system. During her first year in the U.S. Yebralem was able to improve her English and make friends. She enrolled in employment services with the IRC and was able to obtain a job working in food packaging. She never forgot her dream of cooking and was connected to Foodhini two years after her arrival in the U.S.
Yebralem’s food is typical of Eritrea with her own twist. She loves learning new techniques and is not afraid to experiment with new recipes. Her food is a mix of flavors- the flavors from her childhood home, her travels in East and Southern Africa, and her new life in the U.S. It's with great joy that we share her story and food with you!
Order Yebralem's Eritrean/Ethiopian Cuisine here.
Chef Mina was born and raised in the city of Tabriz, a beautiful and ancient city in northwestern of Iran, not far from Azerbaijan. Her native language is Azerbaijani but she is also fluent in Farsi and Turkish. Tabriz is where she started her family, marrying her husband and also having two wonderful children. As her family grew, they wanted more freedom and flexibility so they finally made the decision to flee to Turkey. They settled for three years in the Cappadocia region, and they were lucky enough to be able to immigrate to the States just two years ago. They settled in Maryland and are again starting over, however it is with so much more hope for the future.
Mina learned to cook from her mother and my mother-in- law, giving her a chance to learn the many wonderful dishes that are typical of Iranian cuisine. While in Turkey, she learned how to make many delicious recipes that are special to that country also. She believes that enjoying good food is important for living a happy life with family and friends and that sharing food of her homeland with people who come from different cultures can lead to new friends and maybe help bring peace to the world. We're so excited to share her story and delicious foods with you, we're sure you are as well =)
Order Mina's Iranian Cuisine here.
Born and raised in the Philippines, Chef Wing has been in the United States for only four years. Wing started his culinary journey as a young boy when he and his mother would cook meals out of their home kitchen to sell to the other families in their village. From breakfast to dinner, Wing would whip up homemade Palawan food that the entire community would line up for.
As a teenager, Wing was working 15 hour days as a sous-chef at the local restaurant to help support his family and six other siblings. Eventually, Wing moved to the city and started his own boat tour company where he would cook local favorites for his guests, one of which would go on to be his wife.
He and his wife moved to the States not long ago, and upon arrival Wing faced barriers that many new immigrants have to manage against: education and employment. Wanting to follow in his mother’s footsteps in opening a restaurant, he began working in the DC restaurant field. He had humble beginnings as a dishwasher at the Natural History Museum and worked his way up to line cooking for a number of restaurants throughout DC.
We are honored to be part of Chef Wing’s journey in building a better life and achieving his dream of opening his own Filipino toro toro style restaurant someday, all while being able to bring you the flavors and tastes of his home Palawan food.
Order Wing's Filipino Cuisine here.
Mem learned Lao cooking from her mother in law by watching her in the kitchen and preparing meals for the family. As Mem recounted her memories in learning to cook she said, “As a daughter in law, I wanted to learn to cook Lao cuisine because I wanted to cook for my family.” She learned to love cooking as it allowed her to share a part of herself with the people most important to her.
Since then, she has mastered her culinary skills by cooking at home for her family and has also become quite popular in the DC Lao community by catering for family and community gatherings. She didn't start cooking until later in life, but she’s excited at the chance to cook from the heart and share it with everyone. Foodhini is so excited to share her incredible food with you, and we hope you are as well.
Order Mem's Lao Cuisine here.
Majed comes from a big family—he is the third youngest of four girls and two boys. The war utterly disrupted life in Syria, destroying his home and forcing his mother to move to a different state with three of his sisters. Feeling that there was nothing left for him in Syria, Majed left his home country for Jordan in search of opportunity. He has not seen his family in five years. After three years in Jordan, Majed and his new family moved to the U.S. permanently to start a new, and hopefully better, life.
Throughout all of these transitions, Majed possessed a unique skill that he brought with him to every new place. That is, his love for cooking. Making sure to credit his mother and mother-in-law for their extraordinary cooking, Majed says he’s loved to eat and make food since he was a boy. He attended five years of culinary school in the cities of Daraa and Homs in Syria. Then, he worked as a professional chef at a fine dining 4-star restaurant serving Arabic, Syrian and French cuisines. In Jordan, Majed continued to work as Sous Chef for a casual dining restaurant.
Unsatisfied with the conditions of Syrian refugees in Jordan, Majed and his family came to the U.S. about 8 months ago in hopes of starting a brand new life. At first, he lived in Arizona and worked at a Mexican American restaurant there. Now, Majed is excited to showcase his talents and home cuisine to his new community here in D.C. He dreams of opening up his own restaurant one day, but until then, we count ourselves lucky to be able to offer you some of his most prized Syrian dishes!
Order Majed's Syrian Cuisine here.
A mother to three beautiful children and the wife to a loving husband, Ghosoun never imagined she would need to leave her home country of Syria, and relocate her entire family to the United States. Syria’s civil war started six years ago and Ghosoun and her husband, Bashir, stayed as long as they could until they could no longer survive there. The war has destroyed everything and Ghosoun’s health was in danger being a diabetic.
They made the decision to leave their country and move to Jordan three years ago with no money and only the things they could carry. For almost three years, Ghosoun and her family lived in a Jordanian refugee camp, unsure of what would happen in their future. Her three children ranged in age from 12-16, two boys and one girl. Finally, their request to relocate to the United States was approved and they moved to the Hyattsville area just a little over six months ago.
Since arriving in America, their daily challenges compound with trying to learn English, trying to find work, learning a new culture, and trying to hold on to their home country. It’s been over six years since Ghosoun has seen her mother, while at the same time their family is scattered throughout the Middle East and America, with some family being lost in the war.
As refugees, Ghosoun and Bashir face the challenge of becoming self-sufficient in 3 months, a standard set in place by refugee resettlement rules. Given all of these challenges, Ghosoun possesses a skill that stretches across all boundaries, cultures, and languages. She’s an incredible chef! Her dishes come from her heart, and she’s mastered her craft over many years by preparing meals for community and family gatherings. She looks to brighter days and making a new life for herself and her family.
Born to a nomad family in eastern Tibet, chef Dorjee and his family would pack up their belongings and black wool tents every season to move to new pastures for their sheep and yaks. Dorjee grew up watching his mother and sisters cook over a cob stove. He became a Buddhist monk at age 6 and worked in monasteries for 16 years, where he learned how to prepare large amounts of food very quickly.
In 2006, Dorjee walked across the Himalayas for 1 month and 18 days, becoming a refugee in India. He left the monastery in pursuit of a secular education, but eventually began working at an international cafe and bakery learning how to make Western food and refining his Tibetan and Chinese cooking skills. He studied English and served as a community liaison and guide for student groups.
Dorjee immigrated to the US in 2014 with his wife Amberjade. In DC, he has garnered experience working in various kitchen and restaurant environments preparing food for thousands of customers per day.
With ambitions to open up his own restaurant, Dorjee and his wife Amberjade created a refugee-owned, family-run Tibetan nomad restaurant called Dorjee Momo. Check'em out!
Laos is located in Southeast Asia, landlocked with Vietnam, China, Thailand, and Cambodia surrounding it's borders.
Lao cuisine is very distinct from other Southeast Asian cuisines. The staple food of the Lao is steamed sticky rice (kaw niaw), which is eaten by hand. Sticky rice is considered the essence of what it means to be Lao. Often the Lao will refer to themselves as "luk khao niaow", which can be translated as "children or descendants of sticky rice". Galangal, lemongrass, and padaek (fermented fish sauce) are important ingredients.
The most famous Lao dish is laab, a spicy mixture of marinated meat or fish that is sometimes raw (prepared like ceviche) with a variable combination of herbs, greens, and spices. Another Lao delectable invention is a spicy green papaya salad dish known as tam mak hoong.
Grilling, boiling, stewing, steaming, searing and mixing (as in salads) are all traditional cooking methods. Grilling is a favorite cooking method. Ping gai is grilled chicken, ping sin is grilled meat, and ping pa is grilled fish. Before grilling, the meat is typically seasoned with minced garlic, minced coriander root, minced galangal, salt, soy sauce, and fish sauce. A couple of the green herbs favored in Lao cuisine but generally ignored by their neighbors are mint and dill, both of paramount importance. Galangal is a cooking herb that is heavily favored in Laos.
Lao eating style consists of eating most foods by hand and with the foods at room temperature, only using spoons and chopsticks for soups and noodles. The traditional manner of eating was communal, with diners sitting on a reed mat on the wooden floor around a raised platform woven out of rattan called a ka toke. Dishes are then arranged on the ka toke. Each ka toke will have one or more baskets of sticky rice, which is shared by all the diners at the ka toke.
Order Mem's Lao Cuisine here.
Syria is located in Western Asia (or the Middle East), bordering Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, Israel, and the Mediterranean Sea to the west.
Syrian cuisine dates far back and has been influenced by all the different civilizations that have settled in Syria, from the Arab Umayyads and the Persian-influenced Abbasids to the Ottoman Turks. It is similar to the cuisine of the rest of the Levant (also known as Greater Syria), such as Lebanese, Palestinian, Jordanian and Iraqi cuisine. Syrian cooking is full of hearty flavors and aromatic spices, mainly using vegetables as ingredients and meat during feasts and celebrations.
At the start of a meal, you are often given a selection of appetizers, called “mezze,” to eat along with flat bread. Za’atar, minced beef, and cheese manaqish (similar to a pizza) are served as hors d’oeuvres. Syrians roll and bake ring-shaped biscuits made out of farina, called “ka’ak,” to accompany their cheese. Desserts in Syria are often pastries stuffed with nuts, cream, cheese or dates.
Some popular Syrian dishes include muhammara, fattoush, kebab, halabi, kibbeh, and mahshi. Muhammara is a hot pepper dip originally from Aleppo, Syria, that can be found in Levantine and Turkish cuisines. Fattoush is a Levantine bread salad that consists of toasted or fried pieces of pita bread, mixed greens and other veggies, such as radish and tomato. Kebab halabi is a kind of kebab served with spicy tomato sauce and Aleppo pepper. Kibbeh is a dish similar to meatballs, made with bulgur and minced lamb in a variety of ways including with sumac, yogurt, quince, lemon juice, or pomegranate sauce. Mahshi is a famous dish of either zucchini or eggplant stuffed with ground beef or lamb, nuts, and rice.
When looking for comfort food in Syria, you will typically discover falafel, ka’ak or shawarma. Falafel are fried balls of spiced, mashed chickpeas, often served in a pita bread with pickles, tahini, hummus, sumac, cut vegetable salad, and hot sauce. Ka’ak are rings of bread sprinkled with sesame seeds or other seasonings. Shawarma is lamb or chicken that you get shaved off a huge rotating skewer and stuffed into bread with toppings like onion, pickles, hummus and tahini.
Order Majed Syrian Cuisine here.