July 10, 2012 By Raji

Muhammara: the Taste of Aleppo

muhammaraBilad al-Sham aka Sham aka Syria is where the Ottaman taste still lingers in our tongue. The country is also known as Levant and Levantine Cuisine is part of the lore of foodies all over the world. Mezze or the West Asian small dishes; Tabbouleh the famed Arabian Salad; hummus-the West Asian dip (Tasty mixture or liquid into which bite-sized foods are dipped); Baba ghanoush (dish made of eggplants) are the part of the Levantine cuisine.

Levantine Cuisine has developed from the rich culinary tradition developed as part of the Aleppo culture. Aleppo, the erstwhile end of the Silk Route, is the largest city in Syria and a treasure trove of the  Medieval heritage.

Muhammara is a special Arabian or Armenian or Turkish or Whatever (taste knows no nationality) dish which has continued to love our tongue from the very beginning of the Aleppo culture. Muhammara is eaten as a dip with bread. It can also be used as a spicy dip with kebabs, grilled meats and fish. The Lebanese also eat it as a spread on toast. The special ingredient in Muhammara is Aleppo pepper: a nice variation from your usual crushed red peppers. It has a very robust flavor that hits you in the back of your mouth, tickles your throat and dissipates quickly. Try this staff favorite in place of regular crushed red chilies on pizzas, salads, and pasta.

George Family Recipes for the Next Generation (Many generations in a family tree who publish taste) says in the book ‘Armenian Cuisine’:  This dip is a delicious combination of flavors – nutty, slightly spicy, sweet and sour. The wonderful color compliments a meze platter. It seems a close cousin to the Hamime salad made by our family.

The Book Armenian Cuisine has the following recipe:


2 ½  pounds red bell peppers

1 small red hot Aleppo Pepper or Fresno chile pepper, or substitute 1 Tablespoon red pepper paste

or more to taste

2 cups walnuts, coarsely ground

2/3 cups toasted pita bread crumbs (1 1/2 loaves)

1 small clove garlic, crushed with salt

2 Tablespoons pomegranate molasses

1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

3/4 teaspoon kamoon

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 cup olive oil

2 teaspoons toasted pine nuts or pistachios or black olives, chopped

pinch kamoon

olive oil



  1. Roast bell peppers and chiles either over coals or a gas burner or under an electric broiler, turning frequently until blackened and blistered all over, about 12 minutes.
  2. Place in a covered bowl to steam 10 minutes (this loosens the skin).
  3.  Rub off the skins, slit peppers open and remove stems, membranes and seeds. Spread bell peppers, smooth side up, on a paper towel and let drain 10 minutes.
  4. In a food processor, grind walnuts, bread crumbs, garlic, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice,