When I was doing the research for my baking book, I kept coming across variations on the same breads throughout the Mediterranean, especially when it came to multi-layered breads. In some countries, the multiple layers are achieved by flattening the dough, folding it, then flattening it again (Moroccan r’ghayef, Tunisian mlawi or Algerian m’hajjib). In others, it is done by flapping the dough in the air to stretch it very thinly, then slapping it against a marble top and folding it (Egyptian fiteer or Turkish katmer), or it is achieved by rolling a disk of dough into a sausage, then squishing the sausage into a ring, and flattening the ring (Moroccan melwi).
Well, as you know I was recently in the Emirates, and while there I came across their own version of warqa which they call regag. They also have their own version of r’ghayef, called mukassab and their version of qatayef or beghrir which they confusingly call lgeimat (used normally to describe saffron-infused fritters drizzled with date syrup).
You can see all three being made by the lovely ladies in the clip above (they didn’t have a problem with their niqab or berga’ as the pretty copper-coloured mask is called — i have my own). I met them at a communal wedding (where several men get married during one ceremony, a common practice there sponsored by the ruler of the Emirate where they are taking place). I was told this is done for two reasons. One is to encourage youngsters to marry, and the other to help those who can’t afford to pay for the ceremony. Perhaps David Cameron should do the same here given how keen he is on married life.
In any case, there is always a group of women at these weddings who bake different specialities to offer to the guests. The lady on the left is making the lgeimat. The one in the middle the regag, which are slightly different from warqa in that warqa is more malleable and used to make briouats, pastilla or m’hanncha or fried, stacked and drizzled with custard for pastilla au lait, whereas regag are crisp and used in tharid, a delicious composite dish made up of layers of regag topped with stewed meat and vegetables. It was the Prophet Muhammad’s favourite dish. And the lady in the niqab is making the mukassab, the Emirati version of r’ghayef as well as a multi-layered Yemeni bread called m’lawwah.
All three are delicious, with the regag being my favourite. I have seen some women spread the dough with a CD case instead of using their hand because the plate is too warm. And as much as I loved the woman making regag, hers was not quite up to scratch. None of the others I have watched had to scrape any excess dough like she does. This said, I was an abject failure when I tried my hand at it, so, I really shouldn’t be criticising her or anyone else for that matter!
And here is an amazing post where you can see the Malysian version of warqa or regag. The wet dough for the popiah skins is more like that for warqa but the method is closer to that used for regag.
ps. And here is a picture of a stack of regag which I snapped in a kitchen where they were making tharid. I forgot I had it. Sorry!