31 Mar A Brief History Of Lebanese Cuisine
Those who visit us may be delighted, or just fascinated, to find a Lebanese restaurant in Balham. That will depend on whether one is familiar with the country’s cuisine or just curious to try it.
For some, of course, the interest will only go as far as finding something they really enjoy and coming back for future visits. For others, however, there may be a deeper fascination with where Lebanese food culture has come from, how it has developed and what ways it differs from other Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines.
Lebanon is small country, located to the north of Israel and south of Syria. This means it is located in a part of the world that has seen plenty of turbulence down the ages and up to the present, but is also a melting pot of different cultures, where Greek, Roman, Arabic, Druze, Christian, Ottoman and French influences have all played their part in shaping the nation’s culture, history and food.
The Ottoman element is the most prominent. If you love baklava, Laban, lamb meat, stuffed vegetables and Turkish Coffee, you can thank the Ottomans, for these are all major staples found across the former Ottoman empire, which was centred on Turkey but stretched from present-day Libya to Eastern Europe over its 400 years in existence.
At the same time, baklava is not the only flaky pastry dish you can try. There are also croissants and other tasty desserts, which are a key influence of the French territorial period in ten first half of the 20th century. These are an element of Lebanese food not found in other national cuisines of the region.
However, the history of Lebanon is also one of travel and trade, with Beirut being such an important port. This has led to elements of other cuisines from around the world being fused into Lebanese dishes, such as rice and spices from the Far East.
All this means that Lebanese cuisine has been the result of the mixing of peoples, ideas, customs and foods in two directions, both in terms of what those who colonised the country brought in and also what Lebanese seafarers brought back from afar.
Of course, there are also elements of Lebanese cuisine that are common across the region. There will be olive oil and garlic, hummus and freshly-baked bread. All these were made from produce grown, milled, mixed, baked or pressed across the Mediterranean world in Roman times and before. They are still part of the scene today.
A visitor to Lebanon today may easily find restaurants serving other cuisines, of course, for the Lebanese have always been willing to mix and match, experiencing what others have to offer as well as enriching their own dining experiences. But the experience we offer is a distinctive Lebanese one.
That means when you visit us, you won’t just get to try delicious, flavour-filled food; you will be enjoying tastes that have been shaped by many people over thousands of years. Whether you are fascinated by history or not, that is what you will be tasting when you experience the unique combinations of Lebanese cuisine.