Pop Up News
Palestinian pop-up debuts at hip St. Mary's wine bar
Ask any hungry local what's missing in the San Antonio food scene, and they are likely to say diversity. Although the area's regional fare has rightly earned a place on the gastronomic map, specific international cuisines can be hard to come by — preventing the city from reaching the dynamism of neighbors like Houston.
Consider Moureen Kaki, then, a game-changer. The former bakeshop owner and caterer will be debuting Saha, a love letter to Palestinian fare, at Little Death. The series of Saturday pop-ups will run at the St. Mary's Strip wine bar for 12 weeks, starting February 11.
Kaki has been sitting on the idea for a long time. But she tells CultureMap that Saha took shape after she responded to a tweet from Little Death proprietor Chad Carey, who was looking for a concept to operate out of the wine bar's Airstream. Although she briefly considered fusing Palestinian dishes with Texas barbecue, Saha took shape "in part, because [Palestinian food] is underrepresented.
"Food is a way for Palestinians to hang on to their identity," she explains. "We have beautiful foods that should be shared."
For North American audiences, the various foodways of the Mediterranean Basin tend to be lumped together, a fact she acknowledges with Saha's offerings, which include regional crossovers like hummus.
"On some level, there's massive overlap," she explains. "Migration patterns don't fit neatly on colonial mappings."
But Kaki makes no apologies for Saha's specificity. The launch menu includes knafeh, a dish Kaki explains "gets appropriated as Israeli food." Her version pairs kataifi (made from a phyllo-like dough spun to create fine, angle hair-like strands) with brined farmer's cheese, rose cinnamon syrup, and pistachios.
There's also a take on msakhan. Traditionally the sumac-spiced chicken dish is served on taboon, a fluffy flatbread cooked on an open flame on stones. Kaki substitutes the base with a thinner, more pliable bread called shraq to transform the dish into a more patio-friendly wrap.
Even the Saha name carries cultural oomph. Though not precisely translatable to English, Kaki says the Arabic term is part of an expression for health and prosperity. It is used similarly to the Spanish "salud" to say cheers.
That makes Saha both apt for its wine bar surrounds and as a marker of cultural identity — one that will hopefully inspire a broader culinary conversation. For now, locals have 12 weeks to try the concept. Though Kaki says she is open to future opportunities, the run at Little Death will end on May 6.