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Dine Like a Local: Top Lebanese Eats & Drinks

May 4

Introduction to Lebanese Cuisine

History of Lebanese cuisine

Lebanese cuisine is a rich tapestry of flavours and traditions that date back centuries. You will be delighted to discover that various civilisations have influenced Lebanese cuisine, creating a unique blend of tastes and cooking techniques. From the Phoenicians to the Ottomans, each culture has left its mark on Lebanese dishes, resulting in a culinary heritage that is as diverse as it is delicious.

Popular ingredients in Lebanese dishes

As you explore the world of Lebanese cuisine, you will find that certain ingredients are staples in many dishes. Get ready to tantalize your taste buds with the vibrant flavours of fresh herbs like parsley, mint, and cilantro. Olive oil, garlic, and lemon are also commonly used to add zest and depth to dishes.

Additionally, you will encounter a variety of nuts, such as pine nuts and walnuts, that bring a crunchy texture to salads and desserts. Keep an eye out for sumac, a tangy spice that adds a pop of flavour to meat and vegetable dishes.

Embrace the aromatic allure of spices like cumin, cinnamon, and allspice, which are essential in creating the distinct taste profile of Lebanese cuisine. With such a diverse range of ingredients, Lebanese cuisine offers a culinary experience that is both tantalizing and satisfying.


Traditional Lebanese Dishes

Kibbeh and Hummus

When it comes to traditional Lebanese dishes, two classics that you cannot miss are Kibbeh and Hummus. Kibbeh, a beloved dish made from bulgur wheat, minced onions, and ground meat, offers a delightful blend of flavours and textures.

The crispy outer shell encases a mouthwatering filling that is sure to tantalize your taste buds. Pair it with creamy hummus, a savoury dip crafted from chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, and garlic, for a perfect balance of richness and tanginess.

Tabbouleh and Fattoush

Delve into the refreshing world of Lebanese salads with Tabbouleh and Fattoush. Tabbouleh, a vibrant salad comprising parsley, mint, tomatoes, onions, and bulgur and seasoned with lemon juice and olive oil, bursts with freshness and zesty flavours. On the other hand, Fattoush offers a crunchy medley of toasted pita bread, cucumbers, tomatoes, radishes, and lettuce, all tossed in a tangy dressing. These salads not only make for colourful additions to your meal but also provide a healthy and satisfying dining experience. 

Embark on a culinary journey through Lebanese cuisine by savouring these traditional dishes that showcase the richness and diversity of flavours that this culinary tradition has to offer.


Street Food Delights

Shawarma and Falafel

As you dive into the world of street food delights, two must-try options are Shawarma and Falafel. Picture this – succulent, thinly sliced meat packed into a warm pita, topped with fresh veggies, a drizzle of tahini sauce, and a sprinkle of spices – that's Shawarma for you. The flavours meld together in a delightful explosion with every bite, leaving you craving more.

And then there's Falafel, crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, made from ground chickpeas or fava beans, herbs, and spices. The combination of textures and the burst of flavours in every bite will have you coming back for seconds.

Manakish and Sfiha

Now, let's talk about a Lebanese street food classic – Manakish and Sfiha. Imagine a warm, freshly baked flatbread topped with a savoury blend of za'atar, olive oil, and sometimes cheese or ground meat – that's Manakish. It's a flavorful snack that hits all the right spots. Moving on to Sfiha, a savoury pastry topped with a spiced meat mixture, tomatoes, and pine nuts. The aromatic spices and the rich flavours come together harmoniously, making it a street food favourite.

Indulge in the vibrant and diverse world of Lebanese street food, where each bite tells a story of tradition, flavour, and culinary craftsmanship.


Lebanese Sweets and Desserts

Baklava and Atayef

As you explore the delectable world of Lebanese cuisine, don't miss out on the heavenly treats of Baklava and Atayef. Picture this – layers of flaky phyllo pastry filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with honey or syrup, creating a delicate balance of crispy and sweet in every bite – that's Baklava. The richness of the nuts and the sweetness of the syrup will transport your taste buds to a place of pure indulgence.

Now, let's delve into Atayef, delicate mini pancakes filled with creamy ricotta or nuts, folded into half-moon shapes and lightly fried to perfection. The mix of warm, velvety filling with crispy edges creates a symphony of flavours that will leave you craving more.

Ma'amoul and Halawet el Jibn

Indulge in the irresistible Ma'amoul and Halawet el Jibn, traditional Lebanese sweets that are sure to delight your senses. Ma'amoul, delicate shortbread cookies filled with dates, pistachios, or walnuts, are a staple during festive seasons. The blend of buttery dough and luscious fillings creates a perfect harmony of textures and tastes.

Moving on to Halawet el Jibn, a heavenly dessert made from cheese dough filled with sweet cream, topped with rose water syrup and pistachios. The combination of cheesy goodness, floral notes, and nutty crunch will captivate your palate and leave you yearning for more.


Lebanese Beverages

Arak and Lebanese Wine

As you continue your exploration of Lebanese delights, don't forget to savour the unique flavours of Arak and Lebanese wine. Arak, a traditional anise-flavoured spirit, is a popular choice for those seeking a taste of Lebanon's cultural heritage. Its refreshing and aromatic notes will surely elevate your dining experience.

On the other hand, Lebanese wine, with its rich history dating back thousands of years, offers a diverse range of options to suit every palate. From bold reds to crisp whites, Lebanese wine embodies the passion and dedication of the country's winemakers, promising a memorable journey through its vineyards.

Jallab and Ayran

Indulge in the delightful Jallab and Ayran Lebanese beverages to quench your thirst and tantalize your taste buds. Jallab, a traditional drink made from dates, grape molasses, and rose water, offers a sweet and floral flavour profile that is truly unique. Served chilled with ice and topped with pine nuts, it is the perfect companion for hot summer days.

As for Ayran, a refreshing yoghurt-based drink mixed with salt, its tangy and savoury taste provides a delightful contrast to the rich and flavorful Lebanese cuisine. Whether you are looking for a sweet indulgence or a cool refreshment, Jallab and Ayran are sure to add a touch of Lebanese charm to your dining experience.


Must-Try Lebanese Restaurants

Recommended restaurants in Beirut

As you delve deeper into the world of Lebanese beverages, the journey won't be complete without exploring the vibrant dining scene in Beirut. Head to Em Sherif for an unforgettable culinary experience where traditional Lebanese flavours are elevated to a whole new level of sophistication.

The cosy ambience and impeccable service will make you feel right at home. If you're looking for a rooftop dining experience with breathtaking views of the city, make sure to visit Liza Beirut. Indulge in a feast of traditional Lebanese dishes crafted with a modern twist, all while enjoying the lively atmosphere around you.

Hidden gems in local neighbourhoods

Venture off the beaten path and uncover hidden culinary gems in the local neighbourhoods of Lebanon. Make a reservation at Tawlet for a truly authentic Lebanese dining experience. This communal kitchen showcases the best of home-cooked Lebanese dishes prepared by talented local chefs. The ever-changing menu ensures you'll always have something new to try with each visit.

For a cosy and intimate setting, head to Enab Beirut. This charming restaurant exudes Lebanese hospitality and serves up delicious traditional dishes that will leave a lasting impression. Embrace the local flavours and warm hospitality as you explore these hidden culinary treasures scattered throughout the neighbourhoods of Lebanon.


Dining Etiquette and Customs

Table manners in Lebanon

When you find yourself indulging in the culinary delights of Lebanese restaurants, remember that table manners play a significant role in enhancing your dining experience. In Lebanon, it is customary to greet everyone at the table individually before starting your meal.

A common practice is to say "Sahtein" to wish others a double serving of health. While dining, be sure to keep your hands above the table at all times and avoid using the left hand for eating. Additionally, it is polite to accept food or drinks that are offered to you, as declining may be seen as rude in Lebanese culture.

Traditional ways to enjoy a meal

As you immerse yourself in the rich culinary culture of Lebanon, embrace the traditional ways of savouring a meal. Begin your dining experience by tasting a variety of mezzes, such as hummus, tabbouleh, and baba ghanoush, to awaken your palate. When enjoying a main course, take your time to appreciate each dish and engage in conversations with your dining companions.

Always express your appreciation for the meal by complimenting the host or the chef. To conclude your meal on a sweet note, indulge in decadent Lebanese desserts like baklava or knefeh. By respecting these traditional customs, you will not only enjoy the delicious flavours but also immerse yourself in the warmth and hospitality that define Lebanese dining experiences.


Cooking Classes and Food Tours

Opportunities to learn traditional Lebanese recipes

Immerse yourself even deeper in the vibrant Lebanese culinary culture by taking part in cooking classes that offer the chance to learn traditional recipes firsthand. Discover the secrets behind crafting flavorful dishes like hummus, falafel, and shawarma under the expert guidance of local chefs.

By participating in these classes, you'll not only master the art of Lebanese cooking but also gain a deeper appreciation for the cultural significance of each ingredient and technique.

Guided tours to explore local markets

Embark on guided food tours that take you through bustling local markets, where you can witness the vibrant sights, sounds, and aromas of fresh produce and spices. Engage with friendly vendors, learn about the diverse range of ingredients used in Lebanese cuisine, and even sample delicious street food along the way. These immersive experiences offer a unique opportunity to dive into the heart of Lebanese food culture, allowing you to connect with the community and gain a deeper understanding of the culinary traditions that shape the country's gastronomic landscape.



Next steps to enjoy Lebanese eats and drinks at home

Immerse yourself even further in the rich tapestry of Lebanese culinary delights by exploring the myriad of cooking classes and food tours available. Take advantage of the opportunities to learn traditional Lebanese recipes firsthand and unlock the secrets behind crafting iconic dishes like hummus, falafel, and shawarma. Engage with knowledgeable local chefs who will guide you through the process, allowing you to master the art of Lebanese cooking while gaining a deeper appreciation for the cultural significance of each ingredient and technique.

Embark on guided tours that will lead you through bustling local markets teeming with fresh produce and exotic spices. Immerse yourself in the vibrant sights, sounds, and aromas of the market, interact with friendly vendors, and sample delicious street food along the way. These immersive experiences provide a unique opportunity to delve into the heart of Lebanese food culture, fostering connections with the community and enhancing your understanding of the culinary traditions that define the country's gastronomic landscape.

By participating in these enriching activities, you will not only expand your culinary skills and knowledge but also create lasting memories and connections in the vibrant world of Lebanese cuisine. Get ready to embark on a flavorful journey that will tantalize your taste buds and deepen your appreciation for the culinary wonders of Lebanon!