Check Out The Street Foods From These 6 Arab Countries
By: Katie Teague/Arab America Contributing Writer
Having a memorable trip requires an adventurous spirit – one that will push you to explore what is foreign, but rewarding. This is especially true with food, since trying new flavors and culinary concepts bring a newfound awareness to your mind (and your taste buds!) Street food is an excellent way to get your foot in the door, and in the Arab world, you will not be disappointed. Let’s dive into some of the Middle East’s most iconic street dishes that are sure to have you back for more.
By far, Lebanese street food is some of the most popular in the Arab world. You’ll want to start with trying Lebanese shish kebab, which is traditionally cooked using lamb and “marinated in a mix of garlic, salt, pepper and your choice of spices, before being skewered along with vegetables such as capsicum, onions, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes, then grilled.” Take this one step further by finding the best shawarmas in town. The meat is cooked the same way but is thrown into a delicious pita bread sandwich with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and French fries.
Egypt is another foodie’s dream destination. As seen in the video, there are tons of unique dishes for visitors to try. One such dish is called mahshi, which is deliciously cooked peppers stuffed with spiced rice. My personal favorite, however, is kushari. This national Egyptian dish incorporates rice, pasta noodles, brown lentils, chickpeas, tomato sauce, and fried onions all into one. It sounds bold to mix all those flavors, but the result is a hardy meal that will leave you feeling full for hours.
The most important street food you must have while traveling to Jordan is falafel. Although this is traditionally an Egyptian dish, the Jordanians are known to have adopted and perfected the iconic food. Head to a local falafel shop for some of the best tasting falafel sandwiches. Be sure to also give knafeh or baklava for dessert, with so many pastry shops in the neighborhoods.
Looking for a drink in the streets of Morocco? Say no more. Since this North African country is a big producer of sugar cane, you’ll find plenty of stands offering sugar cane juice for those interested in a sweet refreshment. From there, you’ll want to taste chfanj, or the national Moroccan donut, which is also paired well with Moroccan tea (green tea with mint and sugar, and a classic drink). If donuts aren’t of interest, be sure to have Moroccan Mille-feuilles. “Mille-feuilles is originally a French pastry, meaning in French ‘thousand layers’ as it is made with pâte feuilletée (puff pastry). However, Moroccans have appropriated this pastry and love it more than French people do.” Finally, for the daring are ghlal, or Moroccan snails. “The snails are cooked in a broth with special spices and herbs, which are told to be health-empowering (cold, rheumatism, ..) and very beneficial for women, especially the ones dealing with fertility issues. The snails and their broth are served in small bowls, and toothpicks are used to take the snails out of their shell. Even if Moroccans love to eat Ghlal during the winter, it still can be enjoyed all year round in most Moroccan cities.”
Palestine is an incredible destination for food from the Levant. It will consist of all your classic favorites, each with their own Palestinian spin. Take kubbeh, for example, a “mixture of ground beef or lamb, bulgar wheat, onions and fragrant Middle Eastern spices, rolled into a ball and deep-fried.” Although this street food is offered throughout the Middle East, Palestinians have added their own take on the dish. For example, “kubbeh from Nablus is much bigger, and formed of a thick crust of bulgar wheat enveloping a tasty center of spiced meat.”
You’ll also want to try manqousheh: “a flatbread usually topped with salty cheese, or olive oil and za’atar (thyme). Many street food manqousheh stalls have a traditional brick tanour oven, into which the vendor will toss the discs of fresh dough until they become perfectly plump and the cheese melts, before rolling them up ready to eat on the go.”
Try all your Middle Eastern favorites and more in the streets of the United Arab Emirates! Samboosa is a triangular stuffed pastry filled with meats, vegetables, and spices. Their small size makes them the perfect snack while you explore. Lugaimat is another pastry that will end your meal on a sweet note. “Lugaimat are fried balls of dough, made perfectly so the outside is crispy while the inside is still fluffy and piping hot. To finish it off locals will lightly sprinkle date syrup or rose-flavored honey over the top of these bite-sized donuts.”
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