The Lebanese gastronomy is a rich mixture of various products and ingredients coming from the diverse Lebanese regions. Olive oil, herbs, spices, fresh fruits and vegetables are commonly used, as well as dairy products, cereals, fishes and various types of meat.
The Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest in the world. Lebanese cuisine in particular enjoys a worldwide reputation for its richness and variety as well as, of course, its Mediterranean health factor. The Lebanese gastronomy is a rich mixture of various products and ingredients coming from the diverse Lebanese regions. Olive oil, herbs, spices, fresh fruits and vegetables are commonly used, as well as dairy products, cereals, fishes and various types of meat.
A visit to Beirut is no real visit unless you try (at least once) the traditional Lebanese Mezze or Meza, an elaborate variety of thirty hot and cold dishes. A typical Mezze may consist of salads such as the Tabboule and Fattouch, together with the caviars: Hommos and Moutabal, and some patties such as the Sambousseks and finally the stuffed grape leaves, with of course the Lebanese flat pita bread which is essential to every Lebanese Mezze.
The Arak, an anise-flavored liqueur, is the National Lebanese alcoholic drink and is usually served with the traditional convivial Lebanese meals. Another Lebanese drink, which is worth savoring, is the Lebanese wine, which is now enjoying a worldwide reputation.
- Mankoushé: a Lebanese pizza, or at least that's what it looks like, the Mankoushé is a baked pizza-shaped dough with either a mixture of local cheeses or thyme (or a mixture of both) on top, can be bought from all bakeries as well as special Forn Mankhoushé which specialize in this type of food, usually had for breakfast. Cost between 1.000L.L and 3.000L.L .
- Ka'ek: a different version of the classic bagel, only about a foot in diameter and hollow, normally filled with thyme but you can ask for cheese spread as well. The only place to buy these are from the local street vendors (no shops sell them) that ride bicycles or motorized scooters and honk a manual horn. Although not of Lebanese origins, they're quite popular and are always found near Rawcheh area, they're worth a try. Cost about 1.000L.L .
- Roastery Nuts: roasted nuts are certainly the local favorite appetizers particularly with the older people. Local brands such as Al Rifai and Al Andalous have dedicated roasteries where customers walk in and order fresh. They produce some of the best nuts in the region, and certainly the most varied. Pecans, Cashews, Macadamias, Hazelnuts, Almonds, Pistachios, Peanuts its all there. Ask for Krikri in thyme, spice, or cheese flavor.
Beirut's different cultures brought different tastes for food, and restaurants of all different origins have opened all around the city, particularly in the Ashrafieh District. Restaurants have different price ranges, depending of course on the quality of the ingredients used; check the different districts for the listings.
If you're on a tight budget, or if you simply miss the food that you can get back at home, fast food is your best option. All major international fast food restaurants have opened chains in Beirut (KFC, McDonald's, Burger King, Hardee's, TGI Fridays, Domino's Pizza, Pizza Hut, Dunkin' Donuts, Subway etc...), but many local fast food restaurants have sprung up to compete with the major franchisers.
Food In Daily Life
Lebanese cuisine is Mediterranean. Pita bread is a staple. The Lebanese enjoy hummus (a chick pea dip), fool (a fava bean dip), and other bean dishes. Rice is nearly a staple, and pasta is very popular. Salted yogurt is common in many dishes. Red meat and chicken are common but are usually eaten as part of a dish. Pork is less popular, since it is forbidden under Islamic law.
The family cuisine offers also a range of dishes, such as the stews or Yakhnehs, which can be cooked in many forms depending on the ingredients used and are usually served with meat and rice vermicelli. The Lebanese flat pita bread is essential to every Lebanese meal; and can be used to replace the usage of the fork.
Eating in Lebanon is tied to family: people almost never eat alone. The Lebanese consider eating out a social and almost aesthetic experience. Hence, restaurants usually have a pleasant view, of which Lebanon's geography affords many.
The Lebanese cuisine is extremely rich in flavors and colors and yet often offers recipes easy to prepare and suitable for a healthy diet. At a time where the Mediterranean diet was proven to be one of the healthiest diets in the world, the Lebanese cuisine succeeded in combining health and pleasure.
Food Customs At Ceremonial Occasions
Social events play a significant role in the Lebanese gastronomy, as some dishes are particularly prepared on special occasions: the Meghli dessert, for instance is served to celebrate a newborn baby in the family.
Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, is the occasion for large meals at sundown. Soup, fatteh (a chick pea and yogurt dish), and karbooj (a nut-rich pastry) are especially eaten during Ramadan.
During Lent, Christians eat meatless dishes and at Barbara (Halloween) they eat a variety of wheat-based dishes.
Every religious or national event sees stalls set up on sidewalks outside churches and in public squares, where traditional Lebanese sweets are sold such as: Maamoul, Ktaef, Halawet el Jibn, Halawet el Riz,and Ashta. If you're lucky enough to come across those be sure to give them all a try, otherwise visit any pâtisserie such as the famous Sea Sweetwhere the same sweets can be purchased (but of course lacking the same authenticity!).