Ashurbanipal A welcoming home with incredibly tasty Middle East cuisine, large portions and low prices
174 Knyaz Boris Str., Sofia
(Mon - Sun)
- Kind: Restaurant
- Multi Kulti Recommended
- Vegetarian friendly
Freddy came to Bulgaria more than 10 years ago. Before becoming a chef he was doing calligraphy in Arabic, mainly for advertising signs. Fluent in the 7 types of writing in Arabic.
What he likes the most about Bulgaria is the peaceful, calm and free life. He likes Bulgarians a lot. “Nice people!”, he says. “Bulgarian culture is similar to Iraqi culture, so it’s not hard for us to live together, we don’t feel so far away from home.” Freddy is a Christian and it’s easier for him to live among Christians in Bulgaria. “And the weather here is nice,” he added, and concluded: “Yes! I Love Bulgaria!”
His favorite Bulgarian dishes are tripe soup, meatball soup, Shopska salad, kavarma, pork with cabbage, chicken with rice.
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What he misses the most from his home country are his mother, loved ones and family.
His favorite childhood dishes are:
- Dolma (in Turkish) or prahe (in Iraqi) – similar to Bulgarian vine-leaf sarmas, but filled with lots of onions, beef or lamb mince, rice, peppers and spices;
- Biryani rice (biryani)
- Basmati rice noodles, peas, carrots, potato cubes, 8-10 spices, sprinkled with almonds, raisins, cinnamon and cardamom, can be served with chicken or veal.
The restaurant was opened in early 2013. Years ago Freddy had another restaurant in the area of the Women’s Market, closed it and then opened several shawarma shops and in the mean time he completed a chef course in Bulgarian cuisine, worked with Bulgarians in a traditional Bulgarian restaurant, but eventually returned to the idea of his own Iraqi restaurant.
Ashurbanipal is an Assyrian ruler of the lands of present-day Iraq during the VII century BC. Freddy honors history, and that’s why he’s named the restaurant after this illustrious ruler.
Dishes worth visitng the restaurant for are tapsy – which literally means big tray – it consists of baked eggplant with peppers, onions, tomato sauce, garlic and spices, biryani rice, groats with noodles and chickpeas, okra with beef or lamb, spinach with chickpeas. “There are no boundaries in the kitchen, says Freddy. The restaurant recreates all Iraqi traditions related to nutrition . We have sop, calf ‘s head, pacha, which sound very Bulgarian, but are prepared in a traditional Iraqi way. Iraqi beans are also different. When Bulgarians come to the restaurant and learn that Iraqis eat with their hands, they want to immerse themselves in this tradition and begin to eat with their hands too. We cook with lots of spices. For Iraqi visitors we prepare meals without compromising with the spices, but for Bulgarians we try not to overdo it.”
The most frequent visitors are Iraqis, Greeks, Spaniards, Italians and other foreigners living in Bulgaria. Bulgarians come often too, about 30-40% of the total number of customers. Often customers buy takeaway. Over the years, Freddy has established a good reputation and customers follow him wherever he goes.
Interview and photos: An Fam
Translation from Bulgarian: Boyan Boychev
Illustration: Kremena Cholakova for Compote Collective
November 30, 2013