The Best Arabic Dishes Have Been Influenced By Both History And Culture
SOURCE: THE TRAVEL
BY: KATIE MACHADO
It’s easy enough to include Arabic cuisine into Middle Eastern Cusine, but when taking into account the sheer number of countries and cultures that make the Middle East what it is today, there’s no doubt that Arabic food, specifically, stands out. Across the region, there are many dishes that have been influenced by one another and have created unique fusions and Arabic food is at the core of that, being comprised of 22 Arabic speaking nations. With influences that date back as far as the Ottoman Empire, this cuisine has also been influenced by countries such as Lebanon and Syria in addition to its strong Turkish influences. Additionally, ingredients such as yogurt have become just as popular in Arabic cuisine as they are in Indian cuisine, while a dish such as hummus is believed to belong to the Middle East just as much as it belongs to the Greek region.
With that being said, there’s an entire world of Arabic cuisine to explore and with it, dishes such as these – which should all be at the top of anyone’s list.
Known as a ‘mezze’ or a ‘small plate,’ tabouleh is a staple in Arabic cuisine and is found in many countries around the Middle East. This dish is simple yet makes quite an impact when eaten prior to a meal which is when it’s normally served, taking the place of what would otherwise be an appetizer.
The salad is made with parsley, onion, mint, tomatoes, bulgar, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and its flavor truly speaks for itself with its bright and herby profile. This is a dish commonly recommended to those who are new to Middle Eastern food and it’s a great way to start off a large, family-style meal.
The origins of hummus are still somewhat unclear as no one quite knows where the dish originated, only that it has strong ties with both Greek, Israeli, and Middle Eastern cuisines. Regardless, this is a must-have dish when traveling through the Middle East and it’s one of the easiest to find considering it’s a common staple on nearly every menu.
Yet another simple starter dish, the base of a traditional hummus is made with blended chickpeas, tahini, lemon, and garlic. It’s seasoned simply but gets plenty of flavor from the tahini with a hint of brightness from the acidity in the lemon, making it a satisfying and healthy dish to start off any lunch or dinner. It’s most commonly eaten with pita bread, although it’s not entirely uncommon to dip vegetables, as well.
Mansaf is the national dish of Jordan but that’s not the only place it’s found. It also appears on local menus in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Palestine, and Iraq and is another popular Middle Eastern dish.
The dish is made with lamb which is the most popular meat in the region and highly regarded as one of the best. The lamb is traditionally cooked in a jameed broth; jameed is cheese-like and made by fermenting yogurt. Served alongside flatbread that’s topped with rice, the lamb is then placed atop that and finished with almonds, pine nuts, and jameed sauce.
Labneh is slowly gaining popularity in other parts of the world besides the Middle East and for good reason. This cheese is yogurt-like in its consistency but fairly mild and much thicker.
NDTV Food compares it to a creamier version of a traditional yogurt if all of the liquid were drained out of it, which makes for a deliciously thick snack or starter before a meal. With its thicker consistency, it can be eaten alone with pita or used as a topping for meats and vegetables. It’s commonly seen to be flavored with herbs and olive oil as well, but many appreciated it in its truest, purest form without and added flavors.
Speaking of worldwide foods, Kibbeh is a dish that has gained plenty of recognition outside of the Middle Eastern region. The Levantine dish is commonly made with ground beef, bulgur, and onions, although it can feature different meats depending on where a diner is ordering it.
As opposed to many other dishes, the meat and additional ingredients in Kibbeh are mixed together to create one, solid patty that practically bursts with flavor. This beefcake can be found easily around many countries in the Middle East and takes on the flavor of whichever meat is used, and it’s also easy to eat on the go, similar to street food.