In 2016, millennials led the way in embracing the exotic tastes of Eastern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine. Halal cuisine is also becoming more popular. Halal refers to the food that’s allowed under Islamic law, and in some ways it’s similar to kosher cuisine. In 2017, it’s expected that the cuisine of the Middle East will become even more mainstream than ever before.
So if it’s your first time in a Middle Eastern restaurant, here’s a guide on the menu choices so you don’t just order blindly (or pester the waiter for lengthy descriptions).
So you love pizza? Try the Arabic version of it called manakeesh. This is round bread on which the chef sprinkles ground meat, cheese, and herbs called zaatar. There are of course different varieties depending on the restaurant you go to. Many places experiment on the cheese and meat they put on it.
You can’t really call yourself a foodie if you haven’t yet tried what’s arguably the most famous Middle Eastern dish of them all. This is also the national dish of Israel. Here you have chick peas or fava beans and spices, and then shaped into a ball or patty before it’s deep fried. It’s great for vegetarians too.
If you want it as an appetizer, you can serve it with hummus and tahini or with a salad. If it’s the main course, you eat it as a sandwich. You stuff it in pita bread along with tahini, tomatoes, and lettuce.
This is another vegetarian dish that even meat lovers will appreciate. It’s a salad with fresh vegetables, various spices, bulgur wheat, and olive oil. The traditional recipe calls for onions, tomatoes, mint, and chopped parsley. But many are trying other versions, which may contain other vegetables like cucumbers and carrots.
You can eat it as is with a fork, you can take it with pita bread.
The name is admittedly off-putting—exactly why is it called “foul”? Even its look of some brown mush with blobs in a bowl isn’t exactly mouth-watering either. It’s actually boiled fava beans with some spices mixed in, and sometimes it’s mashed.
Nonetheless, you need to try it out. Eat it with pita bread, and you’re going to forgive its foul name and look.
Hummus and Baba Ghannouj
Chances are that you must know all about hummus. This is another contender for the most famous Middle Eastern food item in the world. It’s a dip based on chickpea that also has tahini, garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice. It’s a great dip which you must try with pita bread.
But before you hail hummus as your number 1 dip, you need to try its main rival. Baba ghannouj is also a dip but this time it’s made from tahini and eggplant. The taste has a slight smoky flavor, and the texture is creamy and smooth. You can also try this with fresh or toasted pita bread, but it’s actually much more versatile than that. try it with your tortilla chips or potato chips, and you’ll be confused as to whether you like hummus more or not.
This is another salad, and you order this if you’re more partial to tangy tastes. A lot of people have fallen in love with this combination of crunchy fried pita bread squares, crisp lettuce, cucumbers, and diced tomatoes. Then you add some mint, olive oil, garlic, lemon, and onions. It’s one fantastic dish from the Middle East.
The fad for shawarma exploded decades ago, and nowadays it’s still a favorite in so many spots in the world. Many go to their favorite shawarma place after a drinking session, as they enjoy its taste that will supposedly prevent a hangover the next day. Whether that works for you or not, there’s no denying the satisfaction of gorging on tender slices of skewered chicken, salad, and garlic puree as it’s wrapped in pita bread.
Quwarmah Al Dajaj
So you love curry? Who doesn’t? But this is a new type of curry known as Kuwaiti curried chicken. It’s an explosive mix of various spices and flavors from the Middle East. It contains paprika, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, lime, baharat, turmeric, cardamom, cumin, and black pepper.
That’s a long list, so you should just let the restaurant prepare it rather than prepare it yourself at home.
It’s just baklava with a different spelling, right? Well, not quite. While in Greece they use honey to make it, in the Middle East they use for syrup either rosewater or orange blossom.
This is best enjoyed in a restaurant, though. You can make it at home as you Google the recipe, but making it will take you very long while. Order it for desert and it’ll make your meal complete.