Food, food culture, food as culture and the cultures that grow our food

Kouba Libre
Supermarket Babylon

October 26, 2007

kouba box
Homemade ice kouba in a sponsored freezer

In the grain section there are more than 20 sorts of rice and then there’s a formidable bulgur department. How often does one get to write that, formidable bulgur department, but there is one. Never mind the lack of competition, Babylon is hands down the best Iraqi supermarket in Rotterdam.

In the non-food bits there’s more or less anything you’d want to outfit a home hammam and an extensive henna assortiment for hair, hands and nails. And for the guys there’s every imaginable spare part for a water pipe and an entire shelf filled with myrrh.

homemade kouba in the freezer
Bags and sacks of cracked wheat dumplings

Of course I’m here for the pickles of the house, with the secret ingredient that isn’t sumac. Totally delicious and made with love. And there’s an entire freezer devoted to homemade dumplings, where rice dukes it out with bulgur. Formidable bulgur.

Homemade pickles in the fridge
The secret ingredient isn’t sumac

In Hashim’s shop stocked with stuff from the Middle East, Central Asia and several countries to the right of the Stans, Supermarket Babylon is tiny but you can lose yourself for hours. I love that this place has been put together in a geo-politically poetic way and that buttinsky fellow customers spout home-sick recipes when you wonder aloud how to spell kouba, (the dumplings made of bulgur or rice).

bags full of kouba

debra at 0:59 | | post to


  1. “the best Iraqi supermarket in Rotterdam”
    how many are there I wonder… ;-)

    Comment by Kristi — October 26, 2007 @ 20:08

  2. I have no idea yet, but this will be revealed in the research. Probably there are a handful of Middle Eastern supermarkets in Rotterdam, but there’s a grey area if you consider the assortment and call the supermarkets Middle Eastern. And often the owners are not so picky about geo-political disputes as we are made to believe by watching the nightly news. So there will be partners that are Persian and Iraqi or Syrian and Iraqi.

    In Amsterdam we have 2 Persian supermarkets on the Rosengracht right across the street from each other in a nieghbourhood that one wouldn’t categorise as having much of a Middle Eastern presence. They’re both really well-stocked but I always go to the one and never go to the other for some reason that probably only has to do with crossing the street.

    Comment by Debra van Culiblog — October 27, 2007 @ 10:56

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