Sunday, February 3, 2013

Palestinian Cuisine Fast Food

Italian pizza, Turkish döner kebab, Arabic falafel or shawarma, hamburger, french fries, fried chicken, asian noodle dishes, different types of empanadas and sambosas, of tacos and fajitas, chinese dumplings or japanese sushi, all of them are different forms of fast-food which had amazing success in spreading around the world, catering the global trend of increasing demand for fast, convenient and affordable food cooked outside the family home.

This post explores the option of creating fast-food versions of Palestinian dishes like maqluba, musakhan, freekeh, mujaddara, kibbeh nayyeh, etc.

Some Background on Fast Food and Slow Food in Palestine

Around Manara square in Ramallah, you will find hot corn, kaak bread, falafel, shawarma, sfeeha, and some local adoptions of pizza, among others. That's what qualifies for proper fast food. Then there are restaurants that are serving the standard appetizers of levante, together with grilled meat, fries and bread, plus some serve western best-sellers like fettucine alfredo and cesar salad. Proper Palestinian cuisine is rarely found in restaurants. Maybe Darna in Ramallah and Hosh Al Elleyya in Birzeit, among a few others. More recently, an increasing number of international fast food franchises are popping up throughout the city of Ramallah: KFC, Dominos, Pizza Hut, Chili House. Many customers of those franchise chains however, instead of using them for a quick bite on the run, would come with their entire family for a fine dining out at Pizza Hut, and spend hours in the restaurant to fully enjoy the western lifestyle flavour.

Fast-foodizing Palestinian Cuisine

It needs to be quickly prepared, have a standardized taste compatible with most people, come in standardized serving sizes, and be easy to transport and eat on the run.

So for instance musakhan, the olive oil soaked bread with onion-chicken topping. Make the bread slightly slimmer, reduce the amount of olive oil so that the customer will not get oily fingers. Remove the bones from the chicken, and then you roll it up shawarma-style, for easy carrying and eating on the run.

Or take maqluba, the bottom-up rice and vegetable dish with meat. Prepare it in large amounts, keep it hot, and fill it into standardized serving sizes like asian noodle boxes:

Where to Start

You would typically position your fast food restaurant around places that are full of walking or driving customers, in the city center, or along some main access street. Maybe Bethlehem would be an interesting place to start, since it is full of curious tourists that would love to taste some of the local flavours after standing for hours in line at the nativity church.
And to be honest, all the falafel booths that you find on nativity square are not too exciting for Europeans, who find falafel restaurants everywhere around the corner in London, Paris and Berlin.
Jerusalem old town would be also a good guess. Thousands of bypassing tourists every day. Or you could try Rawabi, once this new town is established. Or position your booths at Universities, where Palestinian students, who moved away from their home town to study, are missing their mom's cooking.

If you develop your products, you can develop a brand around it. Call it "MacLuba", "musakhan king", "handala deluxe", "occupied fast food", or whatever... and eventually you can sell it as a franchise, centralizing the supply chain and quality management of your restaurant network.

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