While we write about the food you love to create and eat, the world has erupted in opinionated reactions to President Trump’s executive order on immigration that bans anyone from seven Muslim-majority countries to enter the United States. You’ve sat back in satisfied approval of the ruling that soothes your legitimate fear of terrorist attacks, or you’ve joined the outraged masses at airports and government buildings, rallying against discrimination and deportation.

Whoever you side with, the news seems to be turning our daily lives upside down. You may have lost your appetite, or you might be binging on Do-Si-Do Cookies.

Food is political, and although we may not typically cover divisive topics at Chowhound —because this is a place for food enthusiasts to discover new dining destinations and learn lasting skills in the kitchen, while delivering inspiration and support for people who truly care about food— we want you to know that we’re paying attention.

Initially identified as “countries of concern” under the Obama administration, Trump’s order bars citizens from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen from entering the U.S. for the next 90 days. These banned countries, torn by violent conflict, are also beautiful centers of natural beauty, warm people, and delicious food that we love and welcome into our lives and kitchens. Let’s celebrate the culinary contributions of these cultures, and remember that sharing a meal is the great connector of all people from all lands.

We’re all affected, regardless of our country of origin. The restaurant and farming industries depend on immigrants to run well, or at all. In response, well-known restaurants nationwide, but mostly in Washington D.C. and New York, closed their doors Feb. 16, in solidarity with a “Day Without Immigrants” campaign to highlight the strength and vulnerability of the country’s foreign-born workers.

We selected some of the most traditional dishes from each of the banned countries for you to learn, appreciate, eat, enjoy, and share. We left out some obvious dishes that are great, but they’ve saturated our mainstream offerings already, such as falafel, baba ghanoush, hummus, baklava, and tabouli. But you can also explore our other Middle Eastern recipes on Chowhound. You’ll notice the ingredients in these dishes overlap with each other, and that you already enjoy many of the same tastes in other dishes as well.

1. IRAQ: Kubba Mosul (Meat Pie)

Juma Kitchen

Sure, there’s kebab, gauss, bamieh, quzi, and kubbah, among many traditional Iraqi dishes, but kubba mosul is one of the most famous and authentic dishes out there, according to Phillip Juma, founder and chef of Juma Kitchen, a pop-up Iraqi supper club, caterer, and private chef company based in London. In this meat pie, two layers of bulgur dough mixed with beef are stuffed with lamb and pine nuts. He named the dish after the northern Iraqi town where his family is from, Mosul. Make this dish for a special occasion or freeze it to have when unexpected guests arrive. Like many good dishes, it can take some time to make. Get the recipe.

2. SYRIA: Fatteh (Crumbled Pita Breakfast)


Often overlooked when exploring new cuisines, breakfast is a fun route to take, especially on the weekend when brunching is ideal. Using the Arabic word for “crumble,” this ancient Levantine dish has ingredients that don’t deviate from what many across the Middle East would eat. Chickpeas, yogurt, cumin, pine nuts, tahini, garlic, and lemon are traditional ingredients especially in Syrian cuisine. Pile it on some broken-up pieces of pita and brunch away. Chef Michael Zee submitted this recipe to the #CookForSyria cause to help raise money for United Nations International Children’s Fund, or UNICEF, which provides humanitarian and developmental assistance to children and mothers in developing countries. Get our Fatteh recipe.

3. IRAN: Fesenjoon (Pomegranate, Walnut and Chicken Stew)

Turmeric Saffron

This simple, quick recipe is a staple in a classic Iranian kitchen. It doesn’t require many ingredients, and they’re not too hard to find at the supermarket: chicken, onion, walnuts, and pomegranate molasses are the main players, and sugar, turmeric, and cinnamon spice it up a bit. Ladle this fragrant, sweet and slightly sour stew over some of your favorite aromatic white rice. Get the recipe.

4. LIBYA: Bazeen (Unleavened Bread)

Libyan Food

Bazeen is one of the most distinctive North African dishes, from the Amazigh region in western Libya. Typically made with barley, water, and salt, bazeen is a starchy staple often served for lunch on Fridays. Besides adding lamb, some people use camel meat, chicken, squid, or broad beans. The most well-known Bazeen is made of a mixture of three parts barley flour to one part wheat flour, cooked in salt water and formed into a dome shape with tomato sauce, potatoes, and boiled eggs around it. An untraditional alternative is to serve bazeen as dumplings in a stew. Get the recipe.

5. SOMALIA: Cambuulo iyo Maraq (Rice with Adzuki Beans in a Spicy Tomato Sauce)

Somali Kitchen

Rice, goat, lamb, chickpeas, onions, beans, coconut, and raisins are all staples of a Somalian diet. Vegan and almost gluten-free (except for the vinegar), Cambuulo is a popular everyday Somali dinner dish, usually served with a drizzle of sesame oil and sugar, says Abderazzaq Noor, recipe developer and author of The Somali Kitchen. It can be a mix of rice and any beans or lentils, corn and beans, or sometimes adzuki beans only. Noor likes to add a tomato sauce called maraq or dalac bilaash. You’ll find similarities between Cambuulo and  Egyptian kushari, though the latter includes macaroni in the mix. Try adding a fried onion garnish as well. Get the recipe.

6. SUDAN: Sesame Candy (Halawa Simsim)

Taste of South Sudan

Sesame candy, halawa simsim in Arabic, is a crunchy, sweet dessert made from roasted sesame seeds in caramelized sugar. That’s it. If you’re worried about burning your hands as you roll the sticky-sweet, nutty mix in your hands, you can use a rolling pin and make sheets and cut them into squares instead. South Sudanese people make this delicacy for events, feasts, and holidays. “It is easily addictive,” says Noela Mogga, South Sudanese-born, Texas transplant who’s a physician, mother, and author of the blog Taste of South Sudan. Get the recipe.

7. YEMEN: Tabeekh (Stewed Vegetables)

Queen of Sheba Yemeni Recipes

Stews and soups are pretty popular in Yemen. You’ll find all this produce familiar: potatoes, onions, eggplant, zucchini, garlic, and tomatoes. But the hawaij is a spice blend that’s not as well known, yet the ingredients within that blend are also familiar and not out of reach. The spice mix is used on all meats and is especially good in broth. This recipe was written by Katherine Abu Hadal, author of the Queen of Sheba Yemeni Recipes blog. Get the recipe.

— Head photo: Chowhound/Tabouli.

Amy Sowder is a writer and editor based in NYC, covering food and wellness in publications such as Bon Appétit, Women's Health, Eat This, Not That!, Upworthy/GOOD, Brooklyn Magazine, and Westchester Magazine. She loves to run races, but her favorite finish lines are gelato shops. Learn more at AmySowder.com.
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