Food and Drink of Lebanon

Food and Drink of Lebanon Last updated on Wednesday 21st April 2010

Although the food varies little from country to country throughout the Middle East, it is when the Arab world meets the Mediterranean that it becomes really interesting.

Lebanese food combines the sophistication of European cuisine with the excitement of eastern spices, and it is Lebanon's culinary contributions that have been the greatest influence on modern Arabic cuisine. Dishes from the Lebanon provide the framework for the exotic cuisine recognized internationally as Arabic.

Many traditional Lebanese dishes are simple preparations based on grains, pulses, vegetables and fruit. Often the same ingredients are used over and over, in different ways, in each dish. Yoghurt, cheese, cucumber, aubergines, chick peas, nuts, tomatoes, burghul and sesame (seeds, paste and oil) are harmoniously blended into numerous assorted medleys. Parsley and mint are used in vast quantities as are lemons, onions and garlic.

Pastries are stuffed with vegetables and vegetables are stuffed with meats. Meat may be made into nuggets then cooked over charcoal. Presentation is always artistic: even the most basic dish is beautifully garnished -- a sprig of parsley here and a dab of yoghurt there.

A typical Lebanese meal starts with mezze (pictured) -- this can be an elaborate spread of forty or fifty hors d'oeuvres or simply a salad and a bowl of nuts. But it is always a social occasion when friends and family gather to enjoy appetizers and conversation before dinner. A meat, (lamb is the favourite meat) chicken or fish dish follows with salad and rice.

There are two types of bread, the flat pitta pocket (pictured) found everywhere in the Middle East, and marcook -- a thin bread baked on a domed dish over a fire.

Some popular Lebanese dishes are:

Baba Ghanoush: char-grilled eggplant, tahina, olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic puree -- served as a dip.

Baklava: a dessert of layered pastry filled with nuts and steeped in honey-lemon syrup, usually cut in a triangular or diamond shape.

Falafel: small deep-fried patties made of highly-spiced ground chick-peas.

Fattoush: salad of toasted croutons, cucumbers, tomatoes and mint.

Foul: slow cooked mask of brown beans and red lentils dressed with lemon olive oil and cumin.

Halva: sesame paste sweet, usually made in a slab and studded with fruit and nuts.

Hommus: puree of chickpeas, tahina, lemon, and garlic served as a dip.

Jebne: white cheese.

Kamareddine: apricot nectar.

Kunafi: shoelace pastry dessert stuffed with sweet white cheese, nuts and syrup.

Kibbeh: oval-shaped nuggets of ground lamb and burghul.

Kibbeh naye: raw kibbeh eaten like steak tartar.

Koshary: cooked dish of pasta, rice and lentils to which onions, chillies and tomatoes paste are added.

Kufta: fingers, balls or a flat cake of minced meat and spices that can be baked or charcoal-grilled on skewers.

Laban: tangy-tasting sour milk drink widely used in cooking.

Labenah: thick creamy cheese often spiced and used as a dip.

Lahma bi Ajeen: Arabic pizza.

Loubia: green beans cooked in tomato sauce.

Ma'amul: date cookies shaped in a wooden mould called a tabi.

Muhalabiyyah: silky textured semolina pudding served cold.

Musakhan: chicken casserole with sumac, a ground powder from the cashew family used as seasoning.

Sayyadiya: delicately spiced fish served on a bed of rice.

Tabbouleh (pictured): salad of burghul, tomato,
mint and parsley.

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