Lebanon, to the constant astonishment of the Lebanese, keeps attracting foreigners. Opinions on the cause of attraction diverge widely, although I have the strong suspicion that food might play a central role in the game. The phrase, “The way to the heart is through the stomach,” is obviously proven by the Lebanese art of preparing and hosting meals. Here are five local dishes that foreigners love:
This chickpea dip is a fantastic mezze item, which can also be enjoyed as a dip with vegetables or chips. I’ve tried the minced lamb variation (hummus awarma) but still prefer it plain, with a generous splash of olive oil and puffy pita bread.
There is nothing quite like the smell of freshly made manakish in the morning. The taste of slightly bitter zaatar on warm bread is nothing short of divine and I have recently developed a penchant for the “cocktail” (half cheese, half thyme) option at my local bakery so I can enjoy the best of both worlds!
3. Kebbeh bi sannieh
This meat-wheat cake served with laban, is particularly popular with foreign folk like me. It is a dish we are unfamiliar with, yet manages to remind us of our grandmothers and our childhoods!
There is no denying that the modest fattoush is actually a work of art. The combination of fresh lettuce leaves, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and radishes, topped with crunchy pita-bits, guarantees an explosion of colors. I particularly love the taste of sumac and pomegranate molasses in the sauce, so much so that I make it a point to order extra dressing every time.
5. The fruit cocktail
It took some time before I stopped wondering why people would insist on going to grab a fruit cocktail. When I finally discovered what all the fuss was about, I got hooked. My lunch is now often replaced by a cocktail: avocado and mango juice topped with fruit salad, honey, almonds and a generous dollop of ashta. It’s as good as a meal and will keep you going for hours.
Article by Lucia Czernin