Yummy Facts About Lebanese Food
Food is something all humans require for sustenance and each culture’s cuisine is as unique as the cultures that birthed them. When it comes to Lebanese food, people do not know much about the country of Lebanon or its culture. As with many cultures, though, one can get to know them through their love of particular foods and what they find tasty.
Here are a couple of Lebanese food facts most people don’t know:
1. Multiple Influences
The structure of many cultures is influenced by people from another land. And with their mix of cultures, countries have often gained new words to their respective languages and the ‘fusion’ of drastically different ingredients.
Foods from the Roman, Persian, and Levantine empires have had a substantial influence on how the Lebanese cook their food in the modern day.
2. Lebanese Food Doesn’t Have Huge Portions
Many of the restaurants across the United States share similar sizes in drinks and the food ratios per dish. I have been to a handful of restaurants myself where the food I ordered would have fed two people.
In the Lebanese culture, they do not believe in large portion meals. In their stead, a mezze – or group of small dishes is served. These dishes are intended to be shared among the group they are served to.
3. Arak is Their National Drink
The majority of countries have their respective national alcoholic drink. Traditional drinks of the United States are bourbon and whiskey, while the national drinks of both Lebanon and Levant are Arak.
Whiskey is typically made of different types of grain that include corn, rye, and wheat. Lebanon’s national drink is made with grapes and aniseed.
Yes, it’s an alcoholic beverage but it is one of the only drinks that has less than 5 ingredients. Made up of only grapes and flavored with the crushed aniseeds, the licorice tasting translucent liquid is often served with traditional Lebanese meals.
4. Seasoning is a Major Focus
Whether you are cooking a large piece of tri-tip steak or baking a lemon meringue pie, the proper flavor is an absolute must in your dish. The Lebanese are no different with their food and make it a central focus of their cuisine.
Seasonings may include lemon juice, fresh herbs, olive oil, garlic, tahini, and even mint. And if you’re looking to bring a new flavor to your salad, try the popular pomegranate molasses.
5. Pita Bread is Served with Meals
As a half-Mexican/half-Puerto Rican, I understand the importance of having bread at dinner. Some cultures might see bread as an unnecessary addition to the meal. For my cultures and the Lebanese, the bread you choose can often be the flavor that was missing from the meal.
A Lebanese host will make it a point to ensure that you have flavorful bread with your meal. With most meals, you will receive a serving of flatbread or Pita.
If you frequent places that sell Lebanese food, you know how much more bread, fresh produce, and rice they eat compared to meat. It’s crazy to know how similar my culture’s food is to the Lebanese.
6. Lebanese Cuisine is Vegetarian-Friendly
When you are an omnivore (eats meats and vegetable/fruits/grains), it is not hard to find a good place to eat. There is far more of a struggle if you have made the lifestyle choice to be a vegetarian. If being a vegetarian has made it a struggle to find any good place to eat, you may want to look at Lebanese foods or restaurants.
A great deal of Lebanese food brings legumes to the forefront as a source of protein, but some may use cheese or yogurt. With a culture so focused on the herbs and spices of the dish, you don’t have to worry about your vegetarian meal lacking the flavor you’ve been searching for.
7. A Lebanese Host Will Offer More
There’s nothing like having a fulfilling meal, even if you feel like there is room in your stomach. That being said, it is actually pretty common for a Lebanese host to offer their guest more food even after finishing a plate.
For the Lebanese, food is a major cornerstone of life. When one shares with others, they are doing their best to share their joy and delight.
If you have a Lebanese friend and are invited over for dinner, expect them to offer you food even after you state that you couldn’t possibly eat more. They are simply displaying proper Lebanese manners.