Ever tried the Syrian Dibis Flefle?

When I say Syria, most of us would picture a war-torn country in chaos, a country we often read about and see in the media, a country that doesn’t exactly give the feeling “I have to visit this country once, it must be on my bucket list”. Add to it the scenes portrayed by popular movies and web series – Phantom, Baaghi 3, The impossible spy, Towers of Silence, Of fathers and sons, Background to danger, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, etc. and the image in our minds is almost permanently sealed.

Since 8th century BC, Syria has been the ‘first glimpse’ of the Great Sea. a great land of culture, and home to some of the most beautiful ancient mosques and churches. The ancient cities of Damascus and Aleppo have been gateways to the Orient, with the ancient marble and tile-work decorating the medieval streets bearing testimony to the country’s glorious Biblical and Classical heritage.

Today, Syrian culture under attack unlike ever before. Its greatest buildings have been razed to the ground, the people have had to flee the country and seek refuge elsewhere. Despite this, there is no doubt that probably there are countless Syrians in say, Beirut or Berlin or Bradford, who are looking for the best tomatoes and lemons, pomegranates and parsley to make those dishes that remind them of their homes.

Syrians are considered to be the masters of adversity, and then around the world, is there anything that unites people together and inspires them like food does? It is said that a Syrian mother, with barely two pennies to rub together can work miracles in the kitchen and produce six to seven different dishes, each bursting with flavor, every day. Food indeed has the power to connect one to their past, like hardly anything else can.

Here, I want to talk about an amazing Syrian sauce I had tried out – Dibis Flefle. ‘Flefle’ means ‘chili’ in Syria, while ‘Dibis’ or ‘Deps’ means ‘sauce or paste’. Together, a Dibis Flefle is a Syrian Chili Paste. This paste is gradually making its presence felt in Middle Eastern food festivals and Arabic food festivals that often get held at reputed restaurants across our country. But it is never the star, it is never something that gets spoken about or written on menu cards. It is mostly something used in the back-end.

This paste is often referred to as the ‘Mother’, and rightly so, because it is the main sauce in several traditional Syrian dishes. From marinating meats and flavoring salads to mixing it with pomegranate molasses for making those delicious shawarmas, this sauce can wear multiple hats – just like a mother does! The paste is made by drying red peppers and chilies in the Sun then grinding them and mixing it with olive oil to create a thick red paste. In Syria, this paste is generally available in hot, medium or sweet variants, depending on how much chili it contains. This paste is also available internationally in Arab or Turkish supermarkets.

Here’s a recipe for this amazing Dibis Flefle.


10 Romano peppers, cut in half and seeded

4 red cayenne peppers or bird-eye chilies (Take more if you are looking to make a hotter version of the paste)

5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Salt to taste


Dry the peppers in the Sun for at least a month, until fully dry and crisp. If you live in a region that doesn’t have sufficient Sun’s heat available, you can oven-roast the peppers at the lowest heat in a pre-heated oven for about 8-9 hours. Be careful not to burn the peppers. Once the time is up, leave the peppers in the oven overnight to ensure complete drying.

Once the peppers have been dried, blend the chilies with the olive oil and salt. Add more olive oil, if required; we are looking for a generous helping here.

You can also add coriander, coriander seeds and cumin to add more flavor.

Once everything is blended together, store it in a jar till all the flavors have blended in completely into the paste. Once ready, use it for marinades, salad dressings, sauces, spreads, dips, etc.

A good Dibis Flefle will not taste anything like chili. Quite to the contrary, the paste has this mild touch of sweetness, which gets further enhanced by the generous portion of olive oil. The paste really isn’t that spicy as one imagines considering the number of chilies that have gone into it.

Now, use this paste can be stored for quite a few days. In fact, it is very akin to the omnipresent Indian achar/pickle, that mothers and grandmothers lovingly prepare for their loved ones, and pack off bottles for their children and grandchildren who are studying or working in other cities. The recipes are also passed on down the generations in the households.

Do you have any such traditional pastes or sauces that are known in your household? Do tell me about it, would love to hear your stories. Drop me a line in the comments or email me at bhavi.irma@gmail.com

To read more about Syrian wines, visit: https://banjaranfoodie.com/2020/05/15/worlds-most-dangerous-wines/

Penny for your thoughts!