Do you know what I miss almost as much as travelling at the moment? Eating new and amazing foods on my travels.
Walking into a restaurant and choosing something off the menu that I’ve never heard of. Picking up street food from the locals’ favourite food stall. I can’t wait to get back to treating my tastebuds to sensational new flavours once things start to settle down and international travel is back on the cards.
One place I can’t wait to visit to try some authentic cuisine is the Middle East. Whenever I’ve had Lebanese and Turkish meals in London restaurants and cafes, I’ve always been struck by how even the most simple dishes have so much flavour packed into every mouthful.
Choosing to go on a Jordan group tour or maybe even a tour of Egypt can seem like a huge decision to make right now – but no matter which Middle Eastern country is your first stop, make sure these dishes are on your radar!
Hummus is used in all kinds of ways in the Middle East – it could be a dip, a spread, or even a savoury dish on its own. In Palestine and Jordan, hummus is often served with bread for any of your three main meals a day (even breakfast!), while in Egypt it’s usually flavoured with cumin for even more zing. (If you fancy trying your hand at making some while we’re all at home, why not give this recipe from The Mediterranean Dish a go?)
Resembling a pizza, manakeesh (or manakish) is a flat, baked dough that you’ll find in Middle East countries such as Israel and Lebanon. It’s become a staple food that’s eaten at either breakfast or lunch, and is often topped with ingredients such as cheese, chilli or minced lamb.
Salads can often be a little boring, but definitely not fattoush! You’ll often find its flavouring changing from season to season thanks to its mix of vegetables that are growing at that particular time. Fattoush also has a base of fried pita bread, making it feel a little more filling than your average salad.
Layered with filo pastry, chopped nuts and syrup or honey, baklava is a popular dessert originating from the Ottoman Empire. Each Middle Eastern country has a different approach to their baklava – in Iran, for instance, your baklava may be flavoured with rose water, while in Armenia it’s often spiced with cloves and cinnamon.
Although I don’t eat meat, maqluba must surely get a mention for its inventiveness. Found in several countries including Lebanan, Jordan and Iraq, maqluba is made up of rice, meat and fried vegetables – everything is placed in a pot which is flipped upside down when served. The word maqluba translates literally to ‘upside-down’.
6. Loubieh bi zeit
A popular mezze dish throughout Levantine, loubieh bi zeit is one of the simplest – but most effective – dishes on this list. It’s made up of four of my favourite ingredients of all time: green beans, olive oil, tomatoes and garlic!
Luqaimat is a sweet fried dumpling that’s mostly eaten during the holy month of Ramadan. With a crispy exterior but soft centre, a dip of honey or syrup gives extra flavour.
You might be familiar with dolma – these are found in different pockets of the world, including the Middle East and Central Asia. They’re made up of vegetables (such as pepper, tomato and aubergine), stuffed and wrapped up inside a vegetable or leaf.
Known as the national dish of Syria, kibbeh is made by combining bulgur wheat with meat and pounding it into a fine paste. It’s then formed into small balls that are toasted with various spices.
While falafel is one of the most popular Middle Eastern dishes that practically everyone’s heard of, did you know that there are all sorts of versions available? In Egypt, for instance, falafel’s made with fava beans, while elsewhere it’s mostly made with chickpeas.
My Lebanese friend says that sfiha is one of his absolute favourites – and he loves his food, so I’m not going to argue! Similar to manakeesh, sfiha is made up of flatbread that’s topped with a minced meat topping along with other flavourings including onion and spices.
This post is created in collaboration with Jules Verne. However, all words, thoughts and love of food are my own!