In the city of São Paulo in the 1950s, in a diner called Dunga, the brothers Jorge and Fauze Farah served a sandwich with roast beef, tomato and cheese to their clients when one day they ran out of sliced bread.
The brothers adapted with Syrian bread and gave it an extra touch with zatar – a fine herbs seasoning. The two sons of Syrians decided to name their newest creation Beirut, in homage to the capital city of Lebanon.
But why not the capital of Syria? "It’s because Damascus would sound a little strange as the name of a sandwich," jokes Paulo Abbud, nephew of the Farahs.
In Portuguese, "Damasco", the name of the Syrian capital, also means "apricot". Abbud is the owner of Farabbud (union of the two surnames), a charming Arab food restaurant located in the neighborhood of Moema, in São Paulo.
The dish created by the Farahs became a national sandwich. But, according to Paulo, there are variations that are uncharacteristic of the original Beirut.
"Today, everything that goes on Syrian bread is called Beirut," he says. The real thing, he explains, has to have tomato, cheese and zatar. When there is roast beef, it has to be cooked. And the sandwich has to be very thin. At Farabbud, as well as the original, Paulo created adaptations with tenderloin, chicken and even kaftas. The "Farabbud" Beirut takes ham and tenderloin strips.
Paulo Abbud comes from a family with a special liking for Arab cooking. As well as his uncles, his father also owned a restaurant, the Flamingo. And a traditional restaurant called Bambi, which existed for 50 years, belonged to another of Paulo’s uncles.
Farabbud has been in operation for four years and serves, on average, 3,500 people per month. The idea, says the owner, is to serve Arab dishes tasting like grandma’s home cooked meal.
Indeed, there are in the menu exclusive recipes made by Paulo’s grandmothers. One of them is the Abbud version to Herice soup, made with grains of wheat and shredded chicken. Another, passed from generation to generation, is the family recipe of Chacrie, pieces of beef cooked in curd. "We grew up eating this food," recalls Paulo.
Apart from the culinary bond, Paulo doesn’t hold anything else of the Arab culture. "My grandparents came when they were children. Nothing remained, not the customs, not the language. I am a typical Brazilian", he says.
But the food remained. Luckily for the fans of Arab food, who can taste the classics raw kibbeh, rolls, tabule and, of course, Beiruts, everything as the families Abbud and Farah used to eat.
Alameda dos Anapurus, 1253, Moema, São Paulo, Brazil
Telephone: (+55 11) 5054-1648
Anba – www.anba.com.br