About Us

L

Welcome to
LeMirage Pastry

Le Mirage Pastry has been in business for over 20 years. Providing Pastry, Cakes and Middle Eastern sweet to the local community around the Anaheim, California area. As per the current e-Commerce situation and with the need to expansion to reach more markets and customer, it is time to go online and to permit customer worldwide to place purchase products and to expand the business.

Maher Nakhal

Owner

Maher Nakhal, who imported the kind of ice-cream machine used in the historic parlor Bakdash, in Damascus, said, “I wanted to bring my childhood back to the United States.”

Maher Nakhal

Bakdash, the most celebrated ice-cream parlor in the Middle East, is a hundred-and-thirty-eight-year-old shop located in the al-Hamidiyah Souk, an Ottoman-era marketplace in Damascus’s Old City. Men in butcher caps, white gloves, and coats staff the long, narrow space, serving customers who over the decades have included King Faisal, of Iraq; Tony Blair; and Lawrence of Arabia. But the real spectacle is toward the back of the store, where younger men in tight white T-shirts stand behind chilled buckets wielding giant wooden pestles. They rhythmically pound what’s inside: bouza, an ice cream made with mastic, a tree resin that’s the key component of chewing gum, and sahleb, a flour derived from orchid roots. Those two ingredients, and the vigorous beating, give bouza its distinctive consistency of cold, stretchy taffy.

 

Maher Nakhal, who runs a bakery called Le Mirage Pastry, in Anaheim, California, grew up in Damascus eating at Bakdash once a week, a promised treat at the end of days spent shopping with his family. The fifty-five-year-old has been a baker since his late teens, and came to the United States in 1992 at the invitation of his sister. In 2003, he opened his bakery, at the north end of Anaheim’s Little Arabia district. More than twenty-five thousand people, primarily of Syrian, Lebanese, Palestinian, and Egyptian descent, live around a four-mile stretch of the district’s main thoroughfare, Brookhurst Street, making it one of the largest Middle Eastern enclaves in the United States. Hookah lounges, mosques, kebab houses, and Arab grocery stores occupy shopping plazas that also host tattoo parlors, smoke shops, and car alarm stores. “There were a lot of Arabs when I opened, and there’s even more now,” Nakhal, who has blue eyes, a sturdy mustache, and the affability of a favorite uncle, said on a recent weekday morning. “This can be the next Dearborn, Michigan.”

 

Around five years ago, just before the Syrian civil war escalated, Nakhal travelled to Damascus to visit his family. The neighborhood around Bakdash, which contains national treasures like the Mausoleum of Saladin and the Umayyad Mosque, has seen little violence during the country’s conflict (although its owners opened a satellite shop in Amman some years ago to serve the half-million Syrians who have fled to neighboring Jordan). Soon after Nakhal returned to the U.S., an influx of refugees reached Anaheim, and Nakhal had the idea to serve bouza in his shop. He ordered a machine over the phone from the Syrian manufacturer who makes Bakdash’s models; with shipping costs and tariffs, it cost him around twelve thousand dollars. “I wanted to bring my childhood back to the United States,” he said.

 

The contraption looks like a taco cart—wheeled, rectangular, waist-high—with a compressor and a freezer instead of a gas tank, and a built-in steel tub that chills the ice cream to forty degrees below zero. Nakhal commissioned a handcrafted brass bas-relief to decorate its sides; it features a man who stands behind a similar machine as he holds a pestle almost as large as he is. Above the man, in Arabic, are the words “Arabic Ice Cream.” Other than these custom details, there’s nothing particularly unique about Bakdash’s bouza machine; Alibaba lists similar models (complete with a fake Bakdash logo and the wrong year of its founding) for under a thousand dollars. But Nakhal insists that he needed an authentic model in order to make bouza right. When I visited his bakery on a recent morning, as he and his brother Humam prepped a new batch, Nakhal told me, “If I want to do something, I do it the proper way—no monkey business.”

 

To make the bouza, Humam first took a canteen of batter (known as sahlab in its liquid state) and ladled it continuously along the sides of the frosty tub for about fifteen minutes, until the walls were completely coated. Once it had congealed, he scraped the sahlab into a slab the size of a telephone book. “Now comes the work,” he said with a smile, as he grabbed a yard-long pestle made from walnut wood. Humam is tall and slender, but with arms like a welterweight. He smashed the bouza for about three minutes, with the force of someone trying to crush rocks. Humam flipped the bouza slab and Maher sprinkled Turkish pistachios (“best in the world”) into the tub as his brother began to pound again. “I’ve eaten it in the United States from regular ice-cream machines,” Maher said. “It’s not good. It tastes flat, and it’s no longer doughy.”

 

After about ten minutes, Maher rolled up the finished bouza. It looked like a cheese log with the girth of a baseball bat. He sliced off chunks into two ice-cream glasses, splashed them with rosewater, and handed the glasses to me and my friend Rida Hamida. Hamida, a staffer for the California assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, is the daughter of Palestinian immigrants. After Trump’s election, she teamed up with a Mexican-American friend to promote Latino-Muslim unity by organizing culinary tours of Little Arabia and stationing halal taco trucks outside of mosques.