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Written on December 11, 2005, and categorized as Secret and Invisible.
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In Brazil, Arab food is a big hit, despite the fact that immigrant Arab population is low at 7%. This BBC feature tells of the success of the Habib’s chain.

The GGF is from Palestine and I have to admit, the food I have eaten since we began to love has been the most delicious, varied and nourishing of any cuisine I have ever eaten. It borrows from everywhere, yet has a certain palette which is its own. It is fragrant and makes you enjoy the act of eating. It manages spicy, sweet and sour flavours in beautiful balance. Olives, figs, yoghurt and herbs. I like Palestinian food for the same reasons I like Greek and Turkish food, but it has some things of its own. Maqlubeh Bitunjan is a good example of a uniquely Palestinian dish – “aubergine upside-down”; a layer of meat, chicken or lamb flavoured with cardamom, cinnamon and allspice, then a layer of aubergine, then rice, all slow cooked in a big pot.

Habib’s, which sports various different format eateries, was started by the enterprising Portuguese emigre Mr Saraiva – clearly a man I need to learn from – who

“took over the bakery, during what he describes as “the most difficult time of my life”.

“In that padaria, I learned to be a businessman,” he said, in an interview with the BBC News website.

“After that, I had other businesses that I built up and sold in order to continue studying. In one of those businesses, I got to know an Arab cook – an old man of 70, retired – who came to me to ask for work.

“So I learned Arabic cuisine from him. Then I realised that Arabic restaurants in Brazil were very traditional places, not aimed at the majority of the population, and I saw there was a niche there ready to be discovered.”

There is definitely money to be made by following his formula. So here is (free!)

“Mr Saraiva’s Formula For Success”

  • give them what they want
  • don’t give them what they don’t want
  • vary the format
  • keep the standards high
  • keep the prices low
  • treat customers with respect
  • listen to the voice of experience
  • I’m going to print that out big and put it on the wall.

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    One Comment

    1. Indigobusiness
      Posted 13 December, 2005 at 6:12 am | Permalink

      I’m into Arabian tacos.

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