Let’s tell you about Sit Hindawa El Helou
From the very first moment I talked to Sit Hindawa El Helou on the phone, I noticed something
special about her. She had a welcoming voice and a sweet tone. You will fall in love with her
before you even meet her in person. Sit Hindawa is a mouneh producer, yet despite her old
age, she knows well how to use modern communication tools such as Whatsapp.
Upon connecting, she immediately sent me photos of her products and shared a location with
me. Coincidently, at the moment of the call, she was cooking tomato paste, and she shared with
me some tempting live photos. It is tomato season after all.
It was Saturday, September 12, 2020, an afternoon, that the Atayeb al Jabal team including
Dana (Comms Coordinator), Boushra (Design Coordinator) and myself, hopped into our car
heading to Ghbatiyeh, Jezzine District, South Lebanon Governorate to visit Hindawa.
We arrived at the location she shared with us via maps to find a small shop attached to an old
house. The first thing that caught our eye was the saj in front of the house. Apparently, Sit
Hindawa bakes saj bread for all the neighbours. Was there something she couldn’t do?
She welcomed us into her living room, where you could see mouneh everywhere, a table with
mouneh jars and bottles, a center table full of zhourat bags, in the corner, we caught:
- Apricot jam
- Bitter orange peel jam
- Whole berries strawberry jam
- Figs jam
- Bell pepper paste
- Tomato paste
- Boiled, dried, and ground chickpeas powder
- Dried garlic powder
In addition to her exclusive wild mint syrup and many more.
Sit Hindawa started telling us about her products, describing the process of each recipe, and
answering all our questions.
Sit Hindawa started producing mouneh some 30 years ago but she admits that she still has a lot
to learn and improve in her cooking skills so she searches the internet, talks to some famous
chefs, and regularly sends samples for lab testing; all in an effort to perfect her craft.
We asked her about the sales and if she was affected by the financial circumstances in
Lebanon, her answer was that people were buying local mouneh products over imported goods
and that was a great thing. She shared that mouneh has been and will always be a source of
pure cooking and a healthier option than commercial foods. She is an example of hard work and
persistence and she embraces the spirit of continuous learning.
We walked from the house to the adjacent kitchen, where all the mouneh is produced, a small
kitchen with some utensils, a vegetable drying machine, and two large stoves. On top of one of
them was a large bowl of grape sauce being cooked at exact temperatures. Can you imagine
the smell? Delicious.
Sit Hindawa showed us just how detail-oriented she is in her production. She showed us cool
gadgets that she uses like a handheld refractometer with an optical view that allows you to test
food moisture levels. She follows modern and traditional practices to ensure a long shelf-life,
food quality and consistency.
We left the house with some great knowledge about traditional mouneh, a large mouneh box,
You can shop Sit Hindawa’s authentic products, and many other vendors from rural areas in
Lebanon on our website www.atayebaljabal.com.
Operations Coordinator at Atayeb Al Jabal.