Most of us are familiar with at least some aspects of Middle Eastern food whether we actually know it or not. No trip to the superstore is complete for many people without a pot of hummus, for example, or maybe some falafel. And who among us isn’t familiar with a kebab of one form or another?
But food from the Middle East is about a lot more than these better-known dishes and it’s gathering pace in Western countries as the go-to choice. This is true for both meat-lovers and vegetarians alike: few international cuisines offer as many truly flavorful and generally interesting fayre as traditional Middle Eastern recipes.
Perhaps of all the Middle Eastern countries, it’s Lebanese food that really leads the way in terms of increasing knowledge from consumers and its overall fashionable status. Lebanese takeaway food is particularly popular with young people in urban environments. It’s not hard to see why: it's flavor-packed and truly different from Western cuisine.
For example, whole grains feature heavily along with fruits and vegetables from the region. Fresh fish and seafood are always popular while animal fats are eaten far more sparingly than in the USA. Chicken is also popular as is lamb or goat. By tradition, goat meat was consumed more by Lebanese and other Middle Eastern people from mountainous regions, while lamb was more popular in coastal areas.
Perhaps, though, it’s the prevalence of garlic, olive oil, parsley and lemon juice that truly “marks” Lebanese cuisine, along with the use of chickpeas in various forms - most notably as hummus, of course.
Another famous Lebanese savory dish is baba ghanouj. This is a tasty dip made using char-grilled eggplant and has a great smoky edge to it. Then there's shawarma, Lebanese sandwiches made using heavily marinated meats (most commonly lamb in Lebanese restaurants in the US) which are skewered, cooked on large rods then wrapped up, usually in a flatbread.
Non-meat eaters always welcome the deep-fried patties known as falafel, which are made using ground fava beans, chickpeas and spices and pack a flavorful punch. But no Lebanese meal would be complete without at least some hummus, served with pitta bread and usually lemon juice and olive oil.
As for dessert, perhaps the best known of all is baklava. Filo pastry is layered with nuts, date syrup or honey. Other desserts are made especially for parties or festivals such as meghli, a rice pudding spiced with caraway seeds, aniseed and cinnamon. By tradition, this delicious dish is not made very often, as it's only ever cooked to celebrate the arrival of a new family member!
The increasing popularity of Middle Eastern food in the US is a real phenomenon. This reflects a wider societal trend as people want to eat more interesting, wholesome, fresh, varied and healthy foods. The fact that this is also some of the most delicious food on the planet is simply a bonus.
Published by super sunny