One of the best things about different cultures is the diversity of foods they offer to the world. Every country makes use of the most abundant ingredients found on their lands, creating dishes that remain staples in their tradition. Today, we are casting light over the Levant region, exploring their culinary world, where succulent dishes exist.
In case you are not familiar with the Levant region, it embraces several Arab countries that share almost the same dialect and a similar culture. This includes Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, and Jordan. Levantine cuisine represents a significant part of the main dishes found in the Arab world as well. They love including tahini, olives, chickpeas, and feta to give their meals a unique flavour.
Some deem Egypt to be part of the Levant region. While some Egyptian dishes bear a remarkable resemblance to Levantine cuisine, they don’t belong to the same area. You can tell from the Arabic dialect spoken, which differs in Egypt from those countries.
We have gathered for you the best Levantine dishes to try out and embark on a delectable culinary journey across the Arab lands. So, let’s get started!
Most Traditional Dishes from the Levantine Cuisine
Similar to most cuisines around the world, there are a lot of succulent plates to fall in love with when it comes to Levantine food. However, the ingredients used and the cooking style make the Levantine dishes so unique. Levantine cuisine gained a lot of popularity worldwide, given its highly nutritious value. So, let’s go through the best dishes to try from this incredible region.
Levantine dishes include lots of highly nutritious salads with a tasty spin that gives them a unique flavour. Tabbouleh is one of the most popular Levantine salads, especially in Lebanon and Syria. It consists of tomatoes, cucumber, lots of parsley, onion, bulgur, and mint. All of these ingredients are chopped into small pieces to make eating easier.
Things don’t just end here. This deliciously nutritious salad is seasoned with lemon juice, olive oil, and sweet pepper, making the salad anything but dull. Variations may occur across different regions, where some people prefer adding lettuce or using semolina. We cannot stress enough how healthy and nutritious this salad dish is, not to mention its unique flavour.
Fattoush is another famous salad from Levantine cuisine that has a savoury flavour and is an excellent option for vegetarians. Unlike tabbouleh, fattoush is more prevalent in Lebanon than in any other Levantine country. However, it is still consumed among all communities in the Levant and even far beyond that.
Fattoush salad consists of mixed greens and vegetables, including lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cucumber, parsley, bell peppers, and mint leaves. It is seasoned with olive oil and lemon juice to boost the flavour. The vegetables in this dish are cut into large pieces, including pieces of “Khubz,” bread in Arabic. The bread is more often toasted, adding a nice crunch to the salad. In some regions, people call it the “bread salad.”
“Shawarma” comes from the Turkish word “çevirme,” which means “to spin,” and that is how this popular Middle Eastern dish is made. The meat cut is put into a cone-like shape and turns slowly while the meat is cut into finely thin slices. It is one of the most popular sandwiches from the Levantine cuisine, especially in Syria and Lebanon.
The origin of shawarma has been debated, claiming that this food idea originated in Turkey during the Ottoman Empire and then found its way into the Arab world. Others believe it to be Greek since it bears a great resemblance to their gyros. No matter where shawarma comes from, its palatable taste is agreed on by most food lovers, if not even all of them.
Falafel is one of the most popular street food in the Middle East, especially in Egyptian and Levantine cuisines. These deep-fried balls are made from either broad beans or chickpeas. In some cases, it is made from both of them together. Falafel has gained more popularity for being suitable for most vegan and vegetarian diets.
The origins of falafel may not be clear, but many people deem it Egyptian, and others claim it is a Levantine dish. In any case, this doesn’t stop people from enjoying these highly nutritious patties laden with fibre that can offer you satiety at any given time. The best part is that falafel plays many roles; it can be an appetiser, a snack during midday, or a fulfilling sandwich for dinner.
Mana’eesh is the popular form of man’oucheh, a typical dish from Levantine cuisine. It is also sometimes called Fatayer in some regions, including Egypt. Some people believe it to be the Middle Eastern version of pizza, for it is a spread-out dough with several ingredients that go on top before it enters the oven to get baked to perfection. Well, they sound pretty much alike.
Mana’eesh comes in different shapes and sizes, with a wide array of ingredients used to offer various tastes that are all equally tasty. Man’oucheh is more commonly topped with any type of meat, either ground beef or chicken, along with cheese, thyme, tomatoes, and bell peppers. There is also a vegetarian version where there is no meat and only cheese with various greens. It can be eaten either sliced like a pizza or folded like a sandwich.
Kibbeh is a delectable appetiser served before the main course and one of the most popular in Levantine cuisine and other Middle Eastern regions. This dish is based on ground meat shaped into croquette-like balls and fried to golden perfection, or shall we say brown in this case?
Kibbeh mixes ground beef, bulgur, onions, herbs, and grains. They are all grounded and mixed with wheat, which helps the delicacy hold its oval ball-like shape. It is then fried and served alongside the main dishes. This meal has lots of nutritional value since it provides the body with sufficient protein, minerals,