Humusçu Nedim Usta is a tiny storefront in an alley just down from our hotel in Antakya where I was staying in the spring of 2022, long before the devastating earthquake. Like many small restaurants, this was a family affair, starting with the grandfather, Kamil Serbetgi, the father, Memmet Nedim Yogurtgu, and now the son, Adnan. The specialty is hummus, whipped by hand and finished with a garden of bright toppings.

At Humusçu, Adnan uses a tremendous amount of elbow grease and a large wooden pestle to mash the chickpeas. Then he adds a good helping of tahini, a bit of salt and garlic, and a squeeze of lemon juice to freshen it up. What is most refreshing is how he serves the hummus, spread out on a metal plate and topped with spices—cumin and chili—and then parsley, tomato, one or two types of pickles and thinly shaved carrots.

Back at Milk Street, we turned to our tried-and-true soaking and cooking method for dried chickpeas (or any dried beans): soak overnight in 2 quarts water plus 1 tablespoon kosher salt. The weaker sodium ions replace some of the calcium and magnesium ions in the skins, allowing more water to get into the bean (along with salt, of course). For cooking, we also add baking soda to the cooking water to weaken the pectin in the beans, speeding up cooking. The result is plump beans without blowouts and—something few think about—beans that are nicely salted from the inside out.

Unlike at Humusçu Nedim Usta, we pulled out the food processor to make this recipe home cook-friendly, adding garlic, salt, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil and cumin as well. Adding back some of the cooking water (about 1 cup) will produce just the right texture, but you can fiddle with this amount as you like. We finish the hummus with oil and Aleppo pepper, but the real fun—and what makes this a special Antakya dish—is what goes on top: pickles, tomatoes, red onion, toasted walnuts, parsley, etc. It’s a good time to discover the artist inside.

To make a donation: Much of Antakya was destroyed in the earthquake. If you would like to support efforts to help rebuild this historic region (Antakya is also the site of the first Peter and Paul church, a cave carved into Mount Starius), please check out