Freddie’s and Linda’s Ashurbanipal Restaurant
Cover Photo: Homemade table with dishes ordered by Ashurbanipal restaurant
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At the first closure of restaurants due to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, I started the @home section. In it I discuss the supply of food and drinks from favorite restaurants.
@home articles are rating-free zone and aim to promote and help all entrepreneurs from the hospitality business, whose situation, as we know, is in a very difficult situation now.
At the center of this story is the Ashurbanipal restaurant and its owner, Freddie Benjamin. Many years ago he decided to stay in Bulgaria and to our joy we have the opportunity to enjoy his delicious exotic dishes by ordering by phone and receiving on the spot or by taxi.
Who are Ferdi and Linda and what does Ashurbanipal mean
I came across a post from Multikulti.bg, which called for help in favor of Freddie Benjamin and Linda Auanis. They are Catholic Christians who arrive in Bulgaria from Iraq 26 years ago and decide to stay here because they like the smiles of the Bulgarians. They learn our language wonderfully. In time, they open their restaurant Ashurbanipal, near the Women’s Market in Sofia.
Ashurbanipal was a great Assyrian ruler, the last of this mighty empire.
Freddie cooks himself in the kitchen of the restaurant and it is very tasty. While he was a soldier in Iraq, one of the commanders accidentally ate lentils made by him and has been cooking professionally ever since. His culinary talent saved him from being sent to the front.
Freddie is an engineer by profession, but he is also a calligrapher. He speaks 7 types of writing in Arabic. And his mother tongue is Aramaic, which roots date back to the 11th century BC. Jesus spoke a variety of Aramaic. If you remember Mel Gibson’s great film, The Passion of Christ, with many nominations and awards, part of the dialogues, and it is between Jesus and his followers, that this language is used to give the film its authenticity. I remind you that the film also stars two Bulgarians – Hristo Shopov, in the role of Pontius Pilate and Hristo Zhivkov in the role of St. John.
Linda is the chair of the board of the Bulgarian women refugee organization. Both help integrate migrants.
Freddie and Linda have always been helpful to their community. Traditionally, at Christmas they gather many friends, prepare a delicious treat and gifts for the children.
However, in this restless and cruel 2020, just before Christmas, their house in a village near Sofia burns to the ground. Linda makes Christmas cookies with her granddaughter when she it happens. At first they don’t feel anything, they just see the fire that broke out, which consumes everything in minutes. They barely manage to jump out in time in the cold, in thin clothes and flip-flops. Linda thanked God for keeping them alive. They can’t save anything from the furniture. All they have left is an Aramaic bible and an icon.
When we talked to Freddie, he told me that he regrets only that they could not make the children of the community happy again with the traditional gifts. It is clear that this time it is the community’s turn to take care of them. They are grateful to everyone who is involved in the restoration of their home.
Freddie says that people’s love is the greatest strength and the greatest wealth. That thanks to it he has the strength and energy to cope with the difficulties he encountered in his life, and they were not few.
Freddie and Linda refuse to ask for financial help. Then MultiKulti offered to organize a campaign, selling food vouchers from Ashurbanipal restaurant. I also bought one. And Freddie’s dishes are just fantastic!
Freddy’s own signature in his cuisine
Freddy uses Iraqi cuisine as a base, but adapts recipes to European taste. He borrows ideas from Bulgarian cuisine for kebabs, meatballs, beef head and legs. The difference is that he uses beef and lamb for the minced meat. He buys meat from the best butchers at the Women’s Market. Puts quality and puts 100% meat in its minced meat. He likes to have breakfast with traditional Bulgarian tripe soup and meat balls soup.
We tried both hummus and ful dips. Uniquely delicious both!
Ful resembles hummus, but is based on beans.
The Sambuses (small triangular patties) are stuffed with mashed peas and potatoes, they are slightly spicy, we also liked them a lot. Order more of them, because you may not have enough. You can order raw and cook them at home on a pan with some oil until golden. Thus, they are warm and tender just before consumption.
And for vegetarians, I also recommend green beans with dried apricots and rice. Freddie’s version of rice biryiani, (a traditional Indian recipe with basmati rice), is so delicious that the kids ate it with great pleasure. It’s amazing!
The meat is very tender in all dishes. In one of them, veal in curry sauce, I came across an unfamiliar and very different taste and aroma. It turned out to be due to the dried lemon in it, which is used in Indian cuisine.
The chicken bites have a lot of nice and well-balanced spices without being spicy, and the kids really liked them. They are accompanied by a milk sauce, which you can ask to be separate if you are worried that the children will not perceive it well on the chicken pieces, but they are much tastier with it.
The eggplant with tomato sauce was great too!
I, on the other hand, became a huge fan of veal and lamb meatballs with green apple – very tender, fragrant, wonderful!
The lamb ribs are tender, masterfully made, with a bare bone, for which you can grab them and eat with your fingers if you want. Sprinkle with milk nipple on top. Awesome See them in the movie.
One of the most remarkable dishes was mainly beef in cinnamon sauce – the aromas of the two are very nicely combined.
The one that grabbed my full admiration was kebap with veal minced meat- a little spicy, just incredible!
Don’t forget to get baklava for dessert – they make it there. It’s one bite to sweeten your coffee at the end.
How to order and prices
Freddie and his family need help right now, but he does not forget to show his gratitude to customers for supporting him and not forgetting him in difficult times. He adds a tomato and cucumber salad with sumac sauce and Arabic bread as a gift.
If you are already impatient to taste Freddy’s cuisine, buy yourself a voucher from BGN 30 to BGN 300 from multikulti.bg, which can be used until the end of the year, in parts or at once. Of course, you can call by phone and just pay on the spot at the restaurant without buying a voucher on +359 87 660 8887.
The prices of the restaurant are shamefully low, for the quality of the food there and if you ask me, they deserve to be at least 50% higher. Many foreigners, guests of Sofia, visit Ashurbanipal and are also amazed by the low prices of this delicious and unique food. When the bill finally comes, they leave twice as much.
When I tell Freddie that he can easily take more money for his creations, he answers me in pure Bulgarian: “I’m happy with what I have!”
Follow placescases.com here or on its social networks pages in Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter to see the articles from the new @home rubric, where I tell about my experiences with the delivery of other establishments that keep servicing their customers, although forced to close doors to them during the Covid 19 pandemic.