Explore the Middle East
Middle East Food and Drink
Even though the cultures and people of the Middle East can be quite different there are remarkable consistencies in the kinds of cuisines that are typically prepared. Ingredients like olive oil and olives, sesame seeds, chickpeas, mint, honey, pita bread and more are seen throughout the Middle East and belong to no particular culture.
The Middle East is a region of culinary importance, both currently and historically. Fermentation was developed in this region allowing for the development of leavened breads and beer. In addition, wheat, pistachios, figs and dates were among those items to be cultivated at a very early period in time.
The Middle East is also an area whose cuisine has been influenced by many outside countries and people. The Mongol invaders introduced dumplings, trade with India introduced exotic spices such as garlic, cumin and turmeric, okra came to the area by way of Africa and the New World contributed tomatoes to the development of the regional cuisine.
Today, many regional dishes in the Middle East are made with tahini which is a sesame seed paste. It is a common ingredient in baba ghanoush and hummus, and is often served alongside kofta, keftes, falafel and vegetables.
When dining in the Middle East be aware that in many regions it is considered to be rude and offensive to eat with your left hand, and food is often eaten with one’s fingers or with the use of pita bread.
In Afghanistan, qabili palau is considered by many to be the national dish. This dish is a combination of various lean meats, rice, raisins, nuts, carrots and saffron which is a very popular spice in the Middle East. There are many versions of qabili palau, and they vary from region to region. Tea is very popular in this country; served to guests and drunk in vast quantities, it is the unofficial national drink.
Cyprus borrows heavily from its Mediterranean neighbors and there are many similarities between the food in Cyprus and that found in Greece.
Israel is a melting pot of cultures and while there is no firm consensus on a national dish, many consider falafel and blintzes to be most common. Coffee is very important in Israel and in much of the Middle East.
The national dish of Jordan is a combination of herb seasoned lamb cooked in yogurt and served with rice. This delicious dish is called mansaf, and can be served spicy as well as mild.
In Lebanon one finds kibbeh. This is a torpedo shaped wheat crust that is stuffed with a spicy lamb filling and then deep fried.
Turkey is home to the famous doner kebap, and the entire kebap style of preparing and serving meat. This national dish shares the honor with kofte, which are fried meatballs.
As mentioned, coffee is a staple in the Middle East, and easily many nations national beverage. Arak is the most popular alcohol, and it is very potent. This alcohol is often served with water and ice and this changes the look of the alcohol, producing a cloudy milk-like product, fondly named “the milk of lions”, but it immediately indicates your inability or unwillingness to handle the spirits straight.
Many of the countries in this region have similar dishes and utilize similar flavor profiles, they all also serve plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and choose leaner cuts of meats and legumes to provide protein. Finally, it is all simply delicious
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