The sheep brain sandwich at Syrjeia was one of Shadi's favorites. "It's a magnificent sandwich. They cut [the brain] like you cut a tomato, put it in the bun and toast it. Then they put tomatoes, Syrian pickles and lemon juice with garlic."
The rich, fatty brain contrasts with the crunch and zing of the pickles, lemon and garlic.
"It just melts," Shadi says. "When you eat it, it's over very quick."
Shadi also added baharat, sometimes known as seven spices. It's a mix found across the Middle East, and while it varies a bit by region, it usually has cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander, cumin, cloves, paprika and black pepper. (Aleppo was once a hub of the global spice trade. Its market was built during the Ottoman Empire, in the 1400s and 1500s, and stood for centuries. In 2012, in the midst of the war, the market was destroyed.)
Remember the amazing sandwich baguette at Syrjeia that Jen described? Well, France occupied Syria for decades after World War I. Hence, French bread.
Shadi says some of Syrjeia's sandwiches use spicy red pepper, which comes from a strong Armenian influence. During the Armenian genocide, refugees poured into Syria. In fact, many Armenian recipes call for Aleppo pepper.
The mayo is homemade, and it has garlic in it. The pickles vary depending on the season, sometimes cucumbers, sometimes peppers. If you ask for it, they'll put a salad on your sandwich that's made from olives, thyme, oregano and lemon juice. The brain is boiled with bay leaves, rosemary. If you boil it too long it turns to mush. It has to be just right, and you have to chill it to be able to slice it.
Imad says, "We love our craft. We were raised doing it."
The sheep brain sandwich at Syrjeia, a legendary sandwich shop in Aleppo. Served with tomatoes, Syrian pickles and lemon juice with garlic, it was the stuff of legend and longing for locals and visitors alike. But did it – and Syrjeia — survive the Syrian civil war?
"Perfect," Shadi said with a mouth full of food. "Same taste. Takes you back home. It just hits you."
"We try to remember the good stuff. Then when you get something like this, you get everything back. You recognize that you're not going back anymore. That's it. That's how you're going to remember where you lived."