13 March 2010
How To Make Arabic (or Turkish) Coffee
When I lived in Damascus I would sit around on Saturday afternoons with friends, drinking coffee and telling our fortunes with the grounds. I was drinking coffee in a meeting with some Syrian cabinet ministers one afternoon, and out of habit I flipped my cup upside down over the saucer when I was finished. Everyone laughed at how the foreigner was acting like a superstitious housewife. I was horribly embarrassed, but I think they all took it as a sort of compliment, and it certainly broke the ice! Here's how to make strong intense, sludgy-at-the-bottom Arab style coffee.
1. The coffee: the coffee must be ground at the finest possible setting. While you could technically use any coffee, I find those ground specifically for Arabic-style coffee are the best. A popular Arabic brand is Najjar. Some chose to grind cardamom in with their coffee, or add a pinch of cardamom when cooking.
2. The vessel: technically the beak-lipped pot is calleda rakweh or ibrik, but any tall narrow long-handled vessel will do.
3. The sugar: sugar should be added before cooking, otherwise if you stir in sugar after serving you'll stir up the grounds which should remain at the bottom. Sugar levels are as follows: saddah- no sugar, wasat- medium sugar, helou- sweet enough to give you cavities.
4. The proportions: You will use a teaspoonful of coffee for every espresso-sized cup you plan to serve.
5. The fortune: Turn your cup over when you're done and let the designs in the grounds tell your fortune.
What you do:
1. Measure the water into the pot by using a demitasse cup (ie, if you want four cups of coffee measure out 4 demitasse cups). Add the sugar. Bring to a boil.
2. Pull the pot off the heat and stir in as many spoonfuls of coffee as cups you will be serving. Stir rapidly in a circular motion and return the pot to the heat.
3. Watch the pot like a hawk. When the coffee begins to boil over, pull it off the heat, let it settle, and return it to the heat.
4. Let the coffee foam up again and pull it off the heat. (you can boil it more than twice, but then you'll lose the foam which is undesirable). Let the coffee settle briefly, then pour into your serving cups.