I'd heard of the famous dish "Imam Biyaldi" before, but never really knew what the hype was all about. Being a Sicilian who also loves Turkish and other Mediterranean foods, I thought I had tasted just about every dish where peppers, eggplant and garlic were smothered in olive oil. For some reason, the one I've just tasted was different- in a totally delectable way.
"Imam biyaldi" is the Turkish phrase for "the imam fainted". It is said but not known for sure that an imam, or Muslim spiritual leader, tasted this recipe and was so overcome my the intensity of flavors that he fainted! Well, I didn't exactly faint but I do agree with some foodies who say this could be the original ratatouille, one of my favorite dishes in the world.
On a homespun tablecloth decorated by vased fresh flowers, Imam Biyaldi was served to us at our favorite ethnic market, the Mediterranean Oasis Mart in Naperville, IL. We've been shopping there for years and most recently enjoying generously portioned pita sandwiches stuffed with delights like lamb shish kabob, grilled chicken and grilled sirloin tips. Now, they've enticed us further by expanding their menu to include entrees, salads and desserts and even setting up tables in and out on the storefront for their customers to enjoy these foods.
Although our Imam Biyaldi was not served in eggplant shells (the traditional method) it was plated like a salad and served cold with pita bread to scoop.
If you're ever in the suburbs of Chicago, you must visit this store. You'll probably be welcomed with a glass of mint tea or mango juice, just like you've come to visit a relative. Shop around then sit down to enjoy one of the many delightful dishes on the menu. No matter what you pick, I don't think you'll be disappointed. Oh, and tell Abu Shoosha I sent you..
Mediterranean Oasis Mart is located at 357 Bailey Road in Naperville, IL 60565. (630) 420-9507.