Where to eat, food and drink Lebanon
It was already mentioned in the Bible that the country of Canaan, which is now Lebanon, offered a gastronomy of great finesse and variety thanks to its wonderful Mediterranean climate, which allows it to have everything at plentiful fresh fruit and vegetables year round.
Lebanese cuisine has been enriched with new flavors from elsewhere and, over time, it has refined basic dishes of mountain origin to achieve great refinement.
It is a set of different appetizers that can range from six (small mezze) to more than a hundred dishes (wedding mezze) placed on the table and served with the help of Lebanese bread.
It includes a clever choice of the following specialties: tabouleh (salad of chopped parsley, cracked durum wheat, tomatoes, onions and mint), the fattouche is the other star salad. It is a mixture of seasonal vegetables: purslane, lettuce, radish, tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley and mint; the batenjan, also called baba ghanouj or metabal, is an eggplant puree often decorated with pomegranate seeds; the houmous, a chickpea puree with sesame puree (tahini or tahini), sometimes decorated with fried pine nuts and meat; the kebbe, fresh mutton or veal, beaten with cracked wheat, seasoned and served raw, fried or grilled; the labneh, a kind of creamy cheese similar to yogurt, the rkakates are small puff pastry turnovers filled with goat cheese, crab or meat.
Their cousins, filled with selk (chard) or kechk (delicious yogurt, fermented, dried then reduced to powder), are called fatayers or sambousecks, the warak enab, stuffed grape leaves, and the foul medammas are beans in oil.
A more elaborate mezze includes several kinds of roasted, fried or grilled meats, fish and vegetables.
Despite the richness and abundance of these mezze, which provide a balanced diet and can represent a meal in its own right, Lebanese cuisine offers many other specialties that it is impossible to name. Some, which take a long time to prepare, are not on the restaurant menu, but can be enjoyed with the family.
Two of the best fish dishes are the sayadiyah (pieces of fresh fish cooked with onions, almonds, pine nuts and spices and served with browned rice), and the samak tajen bi tahiné (fish cooked in the oven with sesame oil), the samak nahri from villages along mountain rivers.
Lamb meat is the most popular in Lebanon, where it is used in many traditional dishes such as kafta (minced meat accommodated in multiple ways: mixed with parsley and onions, this is halabi; associated with cheese, it is tochka; batenjane is prepared with eggplant and khaskhash with tomatoes and chilli) and the kebabs. Legs of lamb are often stuffed with rice, pistachios and almonds.
Also try the chicken moghrabie, stew of small pieces of chicken and mutton with couscous, beans and spices or the farrouj méchoui, grilled chicken served with garlic sauce or chich taouk (chicken skewers marinated with spices).
The most common categories are khoubz arabi (discs the size of a plate that open in two, horizontally, when they are broken), the markouk (round mountain bread, the thickness of a sheet of paper, the diameter of which can reach one meter), the manakish (flatbread, covered with finely chopped thyme, sesame seeds and olive oil, baked in the oven, which is often eaten for breakfast) and the lahm bi ajine (very thin Armenian pizza with meat, tomatoes and spices).
Lovers of sweets, rejoice! Lebanese desserts are exquisite. The most common are: osmaliyeh, a cake having the appearance of vermicelli, filled with creamy cheese and covered in syrup; the ma'moul (pasta filled with pistachios or walnuts); the mouhalabia (custard or orange blossom cream); the bi haleeb rice (a rice pudding with orange blossom and / or rose water).
Where to eat ?
In Lebanon, there are many catering options available to you depending on your budget and your culinary tastes.
- On the go: In all the main streets you will find stalls of fallafels (dumplings of mashed chickpeas served in a round loaf) and shawarmas (the equivalent of fallafel with meat). These are tasty, filling and inexpensive. Many stalls offer more Western products like pizzas, etc.
- The classic taverns: they are also numerous and offer snack-type meals based on mezze.
- Typical restaurants are also widespread offering the essential mezze, but also with a large choice of dishes based on meat or fish. All along the main coastal road there are restaurants specializing in fish.
- Chic restaurants offering Lebanese specialties and restaurants of international cuisine are also numerous in Lebanon, a heritage of multiculturalism that makes this country so rich.
- The traditional arabic coffee: the coffee ritual is an integral part of Lebanese hospitality. There is thick, strong and lightly flavored, jellab, a delicious grape drink, served with pine nuts, and ayran or leban, a yogurt drink.
- The Lebanese wines: the tradition of wine in Lebanon dates back to the ancient Phoenician era and it persists today with a certain talent! The Lebanese terroir, fortified by exceptional climatic conditions, is obviously one of the keys to this success. Three grands crus perpetuate a noble thousand-year-old tradition and are internationally known: Ksara, Musar and Kefraya. But new quality vintages are needed in recent years.
- Thearak: it is a drink made from distilled grape alcohol with Damascus anise. We drink it mixed with fresh water (Lebanese pastis!). Arak often accompanies traditional meals such as mezze.