The Yak goes one on one with…
…Beirut-born matriarch, Liza, who recently opened Lebanese eatery, “Zali from Beirut” in Pererenan.
Liza, what was it that made you fall in love with Bali?
I fell in love with this magical island and everything about it, including the Balinese people and their beautiful culture. The way they live and keep the traditions are inspiring, the people are humble, and the Balinese food is one of the tastiest cuisines you’ll find in Indonesia.
Can you give us a bit of a background to your life…
Back in the day my family owned a shoe factory, and I used to design the shoes we produced. And on a personal level, I always found joy in cooking for my family. After some years, I started a small bakery business in my house and would take orders from clients… This is when my kids and family friends started to encourage me to open up a restaurant. When a family friend suggested Bali as a location, I was intrigued at first, since it was so far from home, but then after doing some research on the island, I simply loved it. And the fact that there is no authentic Lebanese food here too was tempting for us.
Who inspired in you the love of cooking?
My mother and grandmother. When I was young, they loved cooking our Armenian food and I used to love watching them. They taught me a lot of the traditional specialties, especially the ones with dough and cheese. I always remember the old days when they used to make the famous Armenian Soubereg for the family’s big gatherings.
How old were you when you cooked your first dish?
I started really young, at 16 years old.
Tell us about Levantine cuisine.
It covers the eastern Mediterranean; it is home to one of the healthiest, freshest, most delicious and ancient cuisines on the planet. The Levantine cuisine has a wide palate of tastes embracing its agricultural healthy products such as olives, fruit and wheat. Levantine food is full of healthy dishes, as it uses more spices, olive oil, whole grains, lentils, chickpeas, cauliflower, other vegetables and other fresh ingredients. We don’t use processed food at all. Most of our dishes are grilled, baked or lightly cooked in olive oil.
What have been the challenges of opening up a restaurant in Bali?
The challenges were the ingredients. It is difficult to find Lebanese ingredients here, such as Zaatar, Sumac, some herbs, and a special cheese that we still cannot find here in Bali. Most of the time we have to bring these ingredients from Lebanon.
How easy or hard has it been to find the best ingredients for your style of cuisine?
The easiest ones to find in Bali are the common spices, such as cumin, dry mint, and dry coriander, as we use a lot of these beautiful spices in our dishes. And the hardest to find are the ingredients to make the most popular drink in our restaurant, which is the Lebanese special tea, called Zhourat. This kind of tea is made up of wild flowers and can only be found in Lebanon.
Has anyone else within your family decided to follow your passion?
Two of my sons, they love to cook and both share the same love of food.
Has any of the family joined you here in Bali? Yes, my two sons and my daughter.
What is your favourite herb? I love sumac, it is tangy, it has a nice palate especially in salads.
Who created the cocktails at Zali – the mezcal-based Zali Mule and the Miso Sage Fizz, they sound divine!
These were created by our in-house team. We combine international cocktail recipes using the Lebanese ingredients. They turn out to be amazing cocktails!
Weddings and outside catering, is this something Zali from Beirut offers?
At the moment, we do small-scale catering, maybe in the future it will be something that we will surely develop.
Have you had to adapt your menu to encompass the new Vegan movement?
A lot of our menus are already vegan-friendly. Using more vegetables as our main ingredients such as chickpeas, tahini, peppers, zucchini, olives, mint, lemon and yoghurt – all these are among the Levant’s staple ingredients, and perfect for vegetarians and vegans intent on an evening’s feasting, scooped up with our vegan Saj flatbread.
And lastly, do you have a life motto or favourite saying?
As a friend of mine says “Make Food Not War”!!
Thank you Liza for your time…