Middle Eastern food is the embodiment of adventurous flavor, with its tantalizing spices and wide array of ingredients. Including Arab, Iranian, Israeli, Kurdish, Turkish, Syrian, and Lebanese cuisines, each is unique in its own right, but sharing ingredients like sesame seeds, pitas, honey, sumac, barley, mint, parsley, chickpeas, garlic, yogurt, pomegranates, eggplant, and dates.
Let’s take a deeper dive into three of the Middle East’s premier cuisines: Israel, Lebanon, and Syria.
Israeli Cuisine boasts a blend of classic Middle Eastern flavors with Mediterranean inspired influences by introducing olives, chickpeas, fish, eggplant, and zucchini to their meals. It is prized for its hummus, falafel, couscous, shawarma (meat cooked on a roasting pit – think gyros), and Za'atar Spice Blend. Za’atar, a common appetizer for the Israeli people, is mixed with olive oil to form a paste and served on toasted pita bread.
Syrian cuisine has formed from a diffusion of many different cuisines: Turkish, Lebanese, Iraqi, Palestinian, and Jordanian. Most Syrian meals begin with mezes, or small appetizer plates, such as hummus, dolma (stuffed vegetables), tzatziki, and souvlaki (roasted meat). These mezes are always served with Arabic flatbread. Syrian cuisine is also known for Baharat, a spice blend used as a rub for lamb, fish, chicken, or beef, and Aleppo Pepper, common in baba ganoush, hummus and tomato based soups.
Deep rooted in history, many dishes in Lebanese cuisine can be traced back thousands of years to the Roman era. Known for it's health-conscious ingredients, Lebanese cuisine has an abundance of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and fresh seafood. Animal fats are served sparingly, and most dishes are grilled or sautéed in olive oil. In most restaurants, you will find mezes of Tabbouleh (a Lebanese salad), pickled vegetables and stuffed grape leaves over meat-based dishes.