I could understand if Al-Paschas breakfast menu wasn’t for everyone. It’s hearty and heavy, but delightful and so tasty. So if you’re ever up for a perfect Msabaha or Fatteh like you’d get it in Beirut or Damascus, you should definitely stop by someday. After all, the culinary experience makes for a great entrance into new cultures.
Msabaha, for instance, is the long-lost sister of the global staple dish Hommus. What can I say? You’ve been missing out. Nobody actually knows who invented Hommus and nations have been arguing about it for quite a while, so don’t even try to ask who came up with the divine Msabaha. It’s guaranteed to be different every time you eat it. There’s no standard recipe. But what is Msabaha? Well, it’s made from basically the same ingredients as Hommus – chickpeas, lemon, garlic, tahini. But the chickpeas are not mashed and the texture of the dish is more like a rough guacamole with extra-olive oil than a creamy yogurt. It’s gentle and soft and you can eat it with the flat white Arabic bread or with a spoon or even with your hands. The messier it gets, the more authentic it is (I’m deriving this information from my own experience from my Syrian family).
My second favorite is the Manakish with Za’atar. It’s the classic snack of my childhood memories: a sort of pizza with special herbs, mostly Oregano and Thyme.
For the people who visit Al-Pascha regularly, it’s more than just the quality of the food. Here, the community meets up as if the little hole in the wall was an extended living room. Aside from the fact that the dishes are wonderful (to me they are especially so as this is the stuff my mother used to cook us in the mornings of special occasions), the people are, too: where Germans tend to be a bit reserved, downright distanced, Arabs are warm and welcoming, and they’ll have you join the family within seconds.
Al-Pascha is just one of many options in Neukölln and I bet there are plenty others all around Berlin. There might be nothing fancy or special about the little cookhouse and yet, within our group of friends, we just love to hang out there and enjoy it. The owners of the premises never let us get away without an extra pizza on the house and they’re always charming with their little jokes and the familiarity. The spot is super popular with the members of the Lebanese community and it is always filled to the brim with young Arab kids, families and guys who crave their favorite meals from “back home”, so if you end up there at rush hour, there’s a fat chance there’s nothing left to eat anymore.
So here’s some straight advice for you: if you ever pass by a traditional breakfast place like Al-Pascha, don’t miss out on your chance and jump right into the Foul, the Hommus, the Fatteh and the very special flavors of Arabic Manakeesh.
Update: Al-Pascha changed their management some time ago, and nowadays I prefer the Fatteh at Akroum. Al-Pascha is still very good though. More and more Fatteh shops are opening up on Sonnenallee and in fringes of Kreuzkölln, so keep your eyes open for these special Levantine dishes.