DUBAI: Known for her creative take on classic favorites, Saudi chef Mona Mosly is one of the region’s most recognizable celebrity chefs, renowned for her creative takes on classic favorites.
As well as being a judge on the Arabic-language version of talent show “Top Chef,” Mosly has extensive experience in culinary art, having trained professionally in Switzerland before attending the world-renowned Le Cordon Bleu in London and subsequently honing her craft at restaurants across the Middle East.
To create an extended menu with more than 20 dishes, Mosly teamed up with VOX Cinemas in Riyadh and Jeddah in January. Dishes on the menu include kibbeh nachos and BBQ chicken bao, Armenian tabbouleh, dukka madani chicken burger, halva cookies with Syrian ice cream, Thai curry salmon, and more.
Mosly says, “What I enjoy about this is that (movies) make people happy. “I think that my food can also make folks happy. And pleasure is the main focus, right? So for me, it’s a lovely partnership.
According to Mosly, when VOX first contacted her, her initial idea was to make a menu of movie cuisine “with an Arabic or Saudi twist.”
I think that sustenance has to be connected to us, she says. It might transport us to a lovely recollection. It might bring back memories of early flavors and other things.
The kibbeh nachos are one of her best dishes on the menu. It’s essentially kibbeh, but it has a nachos-like appearance. I used mohamara sauce instead of cheddar sauce, so it has the same effect,” she claims. “I also enjoy the fish and chips because they have a lovely backstory. I enjoy dishes that bring together various cultural backgrounds.
In this passage, Mosly reminisces about the beginning of her work and provides guidance for aspiring cooks.
Q: When you started out as a professional, what was the most-common mistake you made when preparing a dish?
A:One of the most costly mushrooms, morels, weighed 80 kilos, and I once burned them while working for Leylaty Ballroom in Jeddah. But after that, morels won me over as a food. If you don’t make mistakes in kitchens or any other profession where you use your hands, you’ll never learn.
What is your best advice for aspiring chefs?
Be genuine. The way you eat reflects who you are. You communicate to individuals what is inside of you.
What one ingredient can transform any meal right away?
Garlic. Or Onion. They are what sustenance is made of.
Do you find yourself criticizing the food when you dine out?
I’ve been a fan of your work for years, and I’m glad you’re back. I’ve finished analyzing. I venture out for enjoyment. I’ve arrived at a point where I just want to appreciate instead of offering criticism.
What error do you discover restaurants making the most frequently?
The food that lacks flavor because the cook didn’t honor the ingredients irritates me the most. I don’t know how you can wind up preparing a meal that has no flavor.
When you go out to eat, what’s your favorite cuisine?
It depends. My cheat meal will always be a burger. But if I want to give myself a treat, I’ll go for sushi — or Japanese cuisine anyway.
What customer behavior or request most annoys you?
When people like something, they don’t try other stuff. I find that sad, rather than annoying. Why did you like the first thing that you tried? Because you tried it. That’s why you have to try other things too.
Which dish is your best to prepare, and why?
Because I’m a very fast person, I do appreciate things like rolling warak enab (stuffed vine leaves) or stuff that takes time. I work swiftly on everything. I enjoy activities that help me relax, such as crafting. It pleases me to wait.
How would you describe your cooking style as the chief chef? Are you easygoing? Or a strict enforcer?
firmly believe that you are capable of amazing things when you are loved, valued, and revered. I strive to give that to the people I work with. Actually, I appreciate singing, dancing, and spending time with my team. However, when something goes awry, it stays wrong. Therefore, I do have to shout.
Chef Mona’s Calamari
- 1lb or 1/2kg squid rings and tentacles, thawed
- Buttermilk brine (300g cold buttermilk & 10g salt, stirred)
- 300g or 1 3/4c ap flour
- 100g or 3/4c cornstarch
- 6g or 2tsp baking powder
- 2-3g or 1ish tsp black pepper (finely ground)
- 2qt or 8c neutral oil (peanut, canola, etc)
- Few pinches of salt
100g semolina half soft half medium
MARINARA / “RED SAUCE”
- 800g or 1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
- 1/2g or 1tsp dried basil
- 1/2g or 1tsp dried oregano
- 1/2g or 1/2tsp dried chili flake
- 10g or 2 1/3tsp sugar
- 7g or 1 1/4tsp salt
- 50g or 3Tbsp tomato paste
- 25g or 2Tbsp (double glug) olive oil
- 15g or 2 cloves minced garlic
CHIPOTLE RANCH SAUCE
- 125g or 1/2c mayo
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 5-10g or 1-2tsp hot sauce
- 1 chipotle chili in adobo
- 15g or 1Tbsp lemon juice
- 50g or 1/2c sour cream
- 250g mayo
- 25g capers
- 25g gherkins
- 25g onion
- 3g parsley
- 2g chives