A small dessert shop in downtown North Bay offers Middle Eastern treats for those craving something a little out of the ordinary to satisfy a throbbing sweet tooth.
Golden Syria offers a wide array of baked sweets but one, in particular, has become a customer favourite.
Baklava is a very sweet, pastry. Chopped nuts are found between the many layers of phyllo dough. Special spices give it a unique flavour.
Customers are pleasantly surprised to learn that baklava comes in a variety of flavours.
“It can be made with cashews, pistachios, walnuts or there is even chocolate baklava. Sometimes we mix cashews with pistachios. Each kind has a different taste,” explained Hashem Jabr co-owner of Golden Syria located on Wyld Street.
Walnut baklava is described as crispy, nutty, and extra syrupy filled with chopped walnuts and garnished with honey syrup.
Pistachio baklava is comprised of finely crushed pistachios, butter, and a simple syrup made of sugar, water, and lemon juice.
Bukaj baklava is traditionally filled with pistachios or a combination using cashews.
Warbat is thin phyllo dough filled with cream or a choice of pistachios.
Jabr says they often bake with Ghee, similar to butter, but it punches up the nutty flavour.
Pistachio baklava and cashew baklava rank high among customer favourites.
“Baklava is popular not just in Syria but all over the Middle East. It is really popular,” said Jabr.
Baking starts hours before the shop opens its doors at 10 a.m.
“It can take four or five hours to make the desserts,” Jabr explained.
Jabr along with a brother and cousin moved to North Bay from his home in Daraa, a city in southwestern Syria, six years ago.
“We were working hard when we came. We knew we had to open a business so we worked for four or five years. We had background experience making desserts like baklava and some other middle-eastern desserts. So we got that experience and were ready to open,” explained Jabr.
“When we were 12 years old, we worked in a dessert store, me and my cousin. We worked there for almost 10 years, so when we thought we knew how to make it (desserts) we thought to bring it to North Bay.”
The food has been well received locally.
“From the first day we opened, we found a lot of support from the North Bay people. So that was really great for us as a beginner,” said Jabr.
The menu is not limited to baklava.
“And we have sesame cookies, sesame and pistachio cookies. Those are really popular. And date cookies.”
The sesame and pistachio cookie is a Syrian cookie made with sesame seeds and crushed pistachios flavoured with spices, vanilla, and honey.
Another popular sweet is the bird’s nest, a very fine stringy dough wrapped around pistachios or cashews and lightly fried.
Customers purchase the sweets a few at a time or select their own personalized assorted platters.
“Most of the people buy it by weight. We have a scale here so people can mix whatever baklava they want.”
Golden Syria offers delivery and catering services.
“If there is a party, wedding, or anything, we can do catering.”
Jabr says he sees the day when the business might serve more than just desserts at this takeout business.
“When we are ready, we are going to do it. We are going to grow the business.”
Once people have had a taste, they keep coming back for more.
“We are so happy we opened here,” Jabr grinned.