Middle Eastern Cuisine
Middle Eastern Cuisine a variety of spices make up a significant portion of Middle Eastern cuisine. These dishes typically incorporate flavors like ginger, turmeric, baharat and black pepper as well as cinnamon, nutmeg and paprika.
From breakfast favorites like shakshuka and tagine to dinner party staples like kofta and labneh, these recipes showcase bold, exotic flavours. Many are also incredibly healthy!
A staple of this region’s cuisine, meats like lamb are frequently slow-cooked or wrapped in pita for shawarma and are added to hearty stews. Due to Muslim and Jewish prohibitions of pork consumption as well as ancient cultural taboos, you may find less beef and pork in Middle Eastern dishes.
Other protein staples include poultry and fish and dairy. Low-fat yogurt is often eaten in place of sour cream and used as a base for salad dressings. Eggs are also a common dish ingredient.
Other popular staples include olive oil, a variety of nuts, stuffed vegetables (like grape leaves and cabbage), cheeses like feta or halloumi, and desserts such as baklava. The cuisine is a crossroads of cultures and civilizations, with influences from North Africa, Asia, and Europe.
Aside from grains, vegetables are essential to Middle Eastern cuisine. Whether boiled, stewed, grilled or stuffed, they make an appearance in many dishes and are an important part of the diet. Leafy vegetables like cabbage, chard and spinach are popular, along with squash, tomatoes, eggplant and okra. Beans are also widely used, especially lentils and chickpeas.
Fruits and seeds are also commonly consumed in the region. Olives, honey, sesame seeds and dates all crop up regularly. Fresh herbs such as mint and parsley add a vibrant flavor to meals.
Milk, yogurt (plain or flavored), cheese and other dairy products are widely available in the Middle East. In addition to kebabs and stews, they are a staple in the region’s salad dressings, dips and spreads.
Bread, often referred to as the staff of life, is an essential dietary staple in many cultures around the world. In the Middle East, it holds an even more profound significance, interwoven within a tapestry of cultural traditions and culinary heritage.
The Fertile Crescent, home to ancient Mesopotamia, is where wheat was first cultivated, as well as rye, barley, lentils, pistachios, dates and other regional favorites. It is also where the art of fermentation was discovered, which led to leavened bread.
Throughout the region, various types of bread are served, each with its own unique flavor, texture and historical narrative. Popular dishes include hummus (mashed chickpeas mixed with tahini, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil), falafel (fried chickpea balls seasoned with ethnic spices) and ful mudammas (mashed fava beans served with toasted pita).
Other notable Middle Eastern breads are lavash (leavened flatbread that is cooked against the walls of a clay oven), kabobs, saj bread, baklava and manakish.
In Middle Eastern cuisine, spices are a major player in creating the flavors of dishes. These warm, nutty and earthy spices are used to enhance the flavors of meats, beans, rice, salads and vegetables.
Cumin is a very distinct spice that is found in many Middle Eastern dishes. This bold spice has a warm, nutty flavor and hints of lemon. It pairs well with root vegetables and lentils.
Sumac is another common spice used in Middle Eastern cooking. This sour-flavored spice comes from the berries of the Sumac plant and is used to season stews and certain dressings.
Other popular Middle Eastern spices include ginger, cinnamon, turmeric and cardamom. They are used to add sweetness and depth of flavor to sweet desserts and drinks.