Lebanese cuisine includes an abundance of starches, fruits, vegetables, fresh fish and seafood; animal fats are consumed sparingly. Poultry is eaten more often than red meat, and when red meat is eaten it is usually lamb on the coast and goat meat in the mountain regions. It also includes copious amounts of garlic and olive oil, often seasoned by lemon juice.
Rarely does a meal goes by in Lebanon which does not include these ingredients. Most often foods are either grilled, baked or sautéed in olive oil; butter or cream is rarely used other than in a few desserts. Vegetables are often eaten raw or pickled as well as cooked. While the cuisine of Lebanon doesn’t boast an entire repertoire of sauces, it focuses on herbs, spices and the freshness of ingredients; the assortment of dishes and combination are almost limitless. The meals are full of robust, earthy flavors and, like most Mediterranean countries, much of what the Lebanese eat is dictated by the seasons.
In Lebanon, very rarely are drinks served without being accompanied by food. One of the more healthy aspects of Lebanese cuisine is the manner or custom in which their food is often served, which is referred to as mezze. Similar to the tapas of Spain and antipasto of Italy, mezze is an array of small dishes placed before the guests creating an array of colors, flavors, textures and aromas. This style of serving food is less a part of family life than it is of entertaining and cafes. Mezze may be as simple as pickled vegetables, hummus and bread, or it may become an entire meal consisting of grilled marinated seafood, skewered meats, a variety of cooked and raw salads and an arrangement of desserts.
Although simple fresh fruits are often served towards the end of a Lebanese meal, there is also desert and coffee. Balawa is also a popular Lebanese dessert.
A unique cultural past has helped make Lebanese food the most popular of all Middle Eastern cuisines. For most of its past, Lebanon has been ruled by foreign powers that have influenced the types of food the Lebanese ate. From 1516 to 1918, the ottoman Turks controlled Lebanon and introduced a variety of foods that have become staples in the Lebanese diet, such as cooking with lamb.
After the Ottomans were defeated in World War I (1914–1918), France took control of Lebanon until 1943, when the country achieved its independence. During this time, the French introduced some of their most widely eaten foods, particularly treats such as caramel custard dessert dating back to the 1500s, and buttery croissants.
The Lebanese themselves have also helped bring foods of other cultures into their diet. Ancient tribes journeyed throughout the Middle East, carrying with them food that would not spoil easily, such as rice and dates.
The Lebanese gastronomy is a rich mixture of various products and ingredients coming from the different Lebanese regions. Olive oil, herbs, garlic and lemon are typical flavours found in the Lebanese diet.
The Mezze, an elaborate variety of thirty hot and cold dishes, had made the Lebanese cuisine renowned worldwide. A typical Mezze may consist, of salads such as the Tabouleh and Fattoush, together with dip such as Hoummous, Baba ghannouj or Moutabal, and some patties such as the Sambusacs and finally stuffed grape leaves.
Family cuisine offers also a range of dishes, such as stews or Yakhnehs, which can be cooked in many forms depending on the ingredients used and are usually served with meat and rice vermicelli.
The Lebanese flat bread is essential to every Lebanese meal, and can be used to replace the usage of the fork.
Arak, an anise-flavored liqueur, is the Lebanese national alcoholic drink and is usually served with the traditional convivial Lebanese meals. Another drink is Lebanese wine, which is now enjoying a worldwide reputation.
Known among the great variety of Lebanese sweets, are pastries such as Baklawa, the Lebanese ice cream with its oriental flavors, and the Lebanese roasted nuts variety and mixes as part of culture.
Social events play a significant role in Lebanese gastronomy, as some dishes are particularly prepared on special occasions: the Meghli desert, for instance is served to celebrate a newborn baby in the family.
This is a selection of appetizers that can be eaten alone as in breakfast, as well as important ingredients of Lebanese dishes)
- Ackawi – white cheese originating from the Palestinian town of Acre or Akko
- Baba ghanouj – char-grilled aubergine (eggplant), tahina, olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic puree—served as a dip.
- Baklawa – a dessert of layered pastry filled with nuts and steeped in Attar Syrup (orange [or] rose water and sugar), usually cut in a triangular or diamond shape that originates in Lebanon.
- Roasted nuts – a mix of more than 20 kinds and flavors of kernels, mostly dry roasted.
- Balila – known as Cumin Chickpeas.
- Batata Harra – literally “spicy potatoes”.
- Fattoush – ‘peasant’ salad of toasted pita bread, cucumbers, tomatoes, chickweed, and mint.
- Falafel – small deep-fried patties made of highly-spiced ground chick-peas.
- Fried Cauliflower
- Fried eggplant
- Foul Mdammas(Vicia Fava) slow cooked mash of brown beans and red lentils dressed with lemon olive oil and cumin.
- Halawa – sesame paste sweet, usually made in a slab and studded with fruit and nuts.
- Hoummous – dip or spread made of blended chickpeas, sesame tahini, lemon juice, and garlic, and typically eaten with pita bread
- Kenefeh pastry dessert stuffed with sweet white cheese, nuts and syrup, or more commonly the version with semolina pastry served on a sesame bun with sweet sugar syrup (very popular for breakfast). Generally these can be found in sweet shops, as well as bigger bakeries.
- Kibbeh– the national dish, mainly stuffed, can be made in different forms including fried,uncooked, and cooked with yogurt.
- Kibbeh nayyeh – raw kibbeh eaten like steak tartar.
- Kafta– fingers, stars or a flat cake of minced meat and spices that can be baked or charcoal-grilled on skewers.
- Kousa Mehshi– stuffed squash, many varieties are used
- Kubideh – served with pivaz (a mix of minced parsley, onions, ground cumin and sumac).
- Labneh– strained yogurt, spreadable and garnished with good olive oil and sea salt.
- Znood Es-sett – filo pastry cigars with various fillings
- Lahm Bajeen a pastry covered with minced meat, onions, and nuts.
- Ma’amoul – date, pistachio or walnut filled cookies shaped in a wooden mould called a tabi made specially for Christian (traditionally Eastern) and Muslim holidays (such as Ramadan).
- Makdous – stuffed eggplant in olive oil
- Manaeesh – mini Flat Bread loke pizzas that are made in any number of local bakeries or Furns, traditionally garnished with cheese, Zaatar, spicy diced tomatoes, Kishik in its Lebanese version, or minced meat and onions. Some bakeries allow you to bring your own toppings and build your own or buy the ones they sell there.
- Mujaddara (Imjaddarra) – cooked lentils together with wheat or rice, garnished with onions that have been sauteed in vegetable oil.
- Mulukhieh – A stew with mallow leaves, chicken, beef, and in the Lebanese fashion, topped with raw chopped onions, and vinegar over rice. It sometimes has toasted pita chips under the rice.
- Mutabbel – made from eggplant
- Pastirma or Bastirma
- Samkeh harra – literally translated to “hot fish” – grilled fish that has been marinated with chilis, citrus,and cilantro
- Shanklish -string cheese
- Shawarma – marinated meat (either chicken or lamb) that is skewered on big rods and cooked slowly, then shaved and placed in a 10 inch pita roll with pickles, tomatoes, and other tangy condiments.
- Shish taouk – grilled chicken skewers that utilize only white meat, marinated in olive oil, lemon, parsley, and sumac
- Siyyadiyeh – delicately spiced fish served on a bed of rice. fish cooked in saffron and served on rice with onions, sumac, and a tahini sauce (the most important part of the dish) originated in Saida (saidon).
- Tabbouleh – diced parsley salad with burghul, tomato, mint and Extra Virgin Olive oil. A Lebanese delight.
- Tahini – sesame paste
- Toum – garlic sauce
- Wara’ Enab – stuffed grape leaves
- Za’atar– dried thyme and sumac that can differ from region to region and from family to family. Most are made in house, but can be bought at Lebanese larders.
- Beit Shabab: Riz bi-Djaj (chicken with rice)
- Douma: Laban Immo (cooked yoghurt and lamb with rice)
- Hammana: Fasoulya Hammanieh (kidney bean stew)
- Kfar meshki: Kebbe bil-Kishk (meat mixed with wheat and yoghurt)
- Baskinta: Makhlouta (meat, rice, and nuts)
- Tripoli, Lebanon: Mjadrah and Fattoush (crushed lentils and salad)
- Broummana: Deleh Mehshi (stuffed rib cage of lamb)
- Baino: Kebbe and Lahme bil-khal (meat mixed with crushed wheat and meat soaked in vinegar)
- Dhour Choueir: Shish Barak (dough balls stuffed with ground beef and cooked in yoghurt)
- Firzel: Freikeh (cooked wheat with meat)
- Ehden: Kebbe Zghartweih (oven-cooked meat and crushed wheat blend)
- Beit Mery: Kebbe Lakteen (pumpkin-flavoured meat)
- Beirut: Samkeh Harra and Akhtabout (spicy fish and octopus), Roasted Nuts
- Greater Beirut : Kenefeh bil Jibin and Tabbouli
- Jabal libnan: Kibbeh Nayeh and Asbeh saouda (Raw Kibbeh Meat)
- Zahle: Kebbe Zahleweieh (meat and crushed wheat blend)
- Rashaya Al-Wadi: Kebbe Heeleh (meatballs)
- Ras al-Metn: Fatet (yoghurt, fried bread and nuts)
- Ain-Zibdeh: Hareeseh (wheat and chicken)
- Rashana: Mjadrat Fasoulya (lentils and kidney beans)
- Beiteddine: Kafta Bithine (spiced meat with sesame concentrate)
- Ihmej: Ghameh (stuffed cow intestines)
- Saida: Riz bil-Foul (Rice and fava beans)
- Bsharri: Koussa bil-Laban (meat and rice-stuffed zucchini cooked in yoghurt)
- Deir al-Kamar: Fatet Batinjan (yoghurt, fried bread and aubergine)
- Saghbeen: Zinkoul bil-Laban (meat filled pastry and yoghurt)
- Sour: Saiyadit al-Samak (rice and fish)
- El-Koura: Abu Shoushe (topinambur and lentils stew)
- Baalbek: Safiha Baalbakieh (meat-stuffed puff pastry)
- Jbeil: Koussa and Wark Inab bil-Kastaletah (stuffed zucchini, grape vines and steak)
- Kalamoun, Lebanon: Fresh Carrot juice with ice cream inside
- Almaza Beer
- Sharab ettout Black current Berry juice
- Lebanese wine
- Turkish coffee
- White coffee
- Arabic coffee qahwa sada (plain coffee) is plain and more bitter,although it originates in Lebanon, it is popular in many the Levant countries.
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