Each time Saameh Kajaan talks about food in the Syrian city of Aleppo, a true culinary zealot emerges.
The restaurateur is so serious about local dishes that along with his black, slicked-back hair, confident charisma and 40-year-old bulky frame, he could pass for a Hollywood-type mobster.
“Our homes are all schools for learning how to cook,” he said recently in a tone that belied his good nature. “It comes from Aleppo’s air, its environment … the four seasons we have here.”
Kajaan’s devotion to traditional food has remained intense despite Aleppo’s transition in recent...