18 Mar A Quick Introduction To Lebanese Food
The last two years have brought home to us all just what a treat it is to eat out! No one could have imagined that this pleasure would be denied to us for so many months, or made complicated by lots of rules and restrictions. It seems that now, our dining out culture can at last return to normality, to the relief of many of us.
If the hiatus has given you an appetite to experiment and try pastures new, then now may be a good time to sample Lebanese food, if you have never tried it before. If you are already familiar with it, no doubt you have some favourite dishes that you are keen to revisit. Here’s a quick introduction to the culture and cuisine of the country.
Due to its geographical location, with the Mediterranean Sea and Cyprus lying to the West, and land borders with Syria and Israel, Lebanon is regarded as a gateway nation. This means it has a very rich and diverse food culture, with influences from both France and Asia, as well as some unique native dishes.
One of the most well-established traditions is mezze, which is an assortment of small dishes, in a manner similar to the Spanish Tapas. You can sample a range of foods such as hummus dips, baba shanoush, flatbreads, meatballs, and hard cheeses.
If you are ordering mezze in a restaurant, you can expect between 20 and 30 types of plated food, from which you can make up a whole meal. This is different to other Mediterranean eateries, where tapas is generally served as an appetiser. The food tends to arrive as it is ready, rather than all at once.
Mezze was originally designed as a way of providing catering at less formal social occasions, allowing diners to drop in and out, and take a portion of food to suit themselves. Many of the dishes are finger foods, which can be eaten without the need for a set place at the table.
A typical mezze spread will include various dips, including hummus, the popular chickpea, garlic and lemon dip. You may also find cucumber and yoghurt dip, and muhammara, which is a spicy thick dip made from red peppers and walnuts.
Some mezze will include kebabs; skewers of either grilled meat or vegetables, or a mixture of the two. They will often be flavoured with rich aromatic spices. There will usually also be a type of salad, sometimes known as tabbouleh, which consists of green leaves, tomatoes, parsley, cucumber, and bulgur wheat.
Stuffed vine leaves are another popular mezze food, which is also commonly eaten throughout many Mediterranean countries. The fillings consist of rice, onion, and parsley, and they may be served hot or cold.
A typical mezze spread would probably be sure to include one of the most well-known of all Lebanese dishes, falafel. For those of you who have never tried this delicious dish before, it’s a mixture of ground chickpeas or fava beans, mixed with herbs and spices and wrapped up in a flat pitta bread.
If you are tempted to try a Lebanese in Balham, get in touch today!