When people think of Middle Eastern cuisine, the first that comes to mind is Lebanese cuisine, followed by Turkish cuisine.
Though both Lebanese and Turkish cuisines are similar, there’s no doubt that the most popular and most favoured cuisine in the Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) region is Lebanese. So what can we tell you about the ever-popular cuisine that you don’t know already? Nothing really! But in this Food File, we can tell you that there are countless Lebanese restaurants in Qatar but Marhaba helps you pick the most highly recommended Lebanese restaurants in the country.
There are a variety of dishes on a table in a Lebanese house or restaurant, the meal starts with small portions of appetizers known as mezza along with dips and salads. They may be as simple as picked vegetables or raw vegetables, hummus and bread or an entire meal consisting also of meat kebabs, grilled, marinated seafood and salads.
- Tabbouleh – diced parsley salad with burghul, tomato and mint.
- Fattoush – ‘peasant’ salad of toasted pita bread, cucumbers, tomatoes, chickweed, and mint.
- Falafel – small deep-fried patties made of highly spiced ground chickpeas.
- Hummus – dip or spread made of blended chickpeas, sesame tahini, lemon juice, and garlic. Typically eaten with pita bread.
- Tahini – sesame paste
- Labneh – strained yogurt, spreadable and garnished with good olive oil and sea salt.
- Kibbeh – mainly stuffed, can be made in different forms including fried, uncooked, and cooked with yogurt.
- Kibbeh nayyeh – raw kibbeh eaten like steak tartar.
- Za’atar – dried thyme, sesame seeds and sumac that can differ from region to region and from family to family. Most are made in house, but can be bought at Lebanese larders.
- Baba ghanouj – char-grilled aubergine (eggplant), tahina, olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic puree—served as a dip.
Lamb is the meat of choice and appears in many dishes, including kafta, in which minced lamb is rolled into sausage shapes and cooked on the barbecue or in the oven. Poultry is more popular than red meat, but lamb and goat are popular. Generous amounts of olive oil, garlic, lemons are also essential flavours in the Lebanese diet.
- Kafta – fingers, stars or a flat cake of minced meat and spices that can be baked or charcoal-grilled on skewers.
- Manakeesh – Mini pizzas (usually folded) that are made in any number of local bakeries or Furns, traditionally garnished with cheese, Za’atar, spicy diced tomatoes, kashk in its Lebanese version, or minced meat and onions. Some bakeries allow you to bring your own toppings and build your own or buy the ones they sell there. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. (Lebanese style pies)
- Fatayer – a turnover pastry, often made with sbanegh (spinach)
- Shawarma – marinated meat (either chicken or lamb) that is skewered on big rods and cooked slowly, then shaved and placed in a 10 inch pita roll with pickles, tomatoes, and other tangy condiments.
- Shish taouk – grilled chicken skewers that utilise only white meat, marinated in olive oil, lemon, garlic, parsley, sumac and various oriental spices (cinnamon, cumin, etc)
Lebanese desserts – there are many variations of filo pastry, combined with nuts and syrup; there are creamy sweets filled with a clotted cream called ashta plus melting shortbread sometimes filled with a date paste or nuts and much more. Sweets are generally served separately to a meal with black coffee or tea.
- Kunafi – either shoelace pastry dessert stuffed with sweet white cheese, nuts and syrup, or more commonly the version with semolina pastry served on a sesame seed bun with sweet sugar syrup (very popular for breakfast) made with ” angel hair” butter and pistachios or nuts. Generally these can be found in sweet shops, as well as bigger bakeries.
- Baklava – a dessert of layered filo pastry filled with nuts and steeped in Attar syrup (orange or rose water and sugar) or honey, usually cut in a triangular or diamond shape that originates in Lebanon.
- Qatayef – a sort of sweet dumpling filled with cream or nuts.
- Ma’amoul – biscuits made from semolina with date, pistachio or walnut filled cookies shaped by a wooden board called a tabi made specially for Christian (traditionally Easter) and Muslim holidays (such as Ramadan).
Marhaba Picks: Independent and hotel restaurants, offering Lebanese cuisine in Qatar (in no particular order):
- Layali, Salwa Road, Souq Najd | 4431 0005
- AlNafourah Garden, Airport Road | 4402 3333
- Al Tabkha, The Pearl-Qatar, 18 La Croisette | 4495 3542
- Al Balad Restaurant, C Ring Road, Al Emadi Financial Square | 4491 8692, 6611 5749
- Assaha Lebanese Village, Al Hilal Building, Hamad Al Kibeer Street, Al Doha Al Jadeeda, | 4435 5353
- Al Hamra, Al Rayyan Street, Musheireb | 4436 1300
- Al Mayass, Waterfront, Porto Arabia, The Pearl-Qatar | 4002 8411
- Al Sufra, Marsa Malaz Kempinski, The Pearl-Qatar | 4035 5555
- Al Khaima Restaurant, Al Sadd Street, Al Sadd | 4444 6962, 4444 6824
- Al Mourjan, Doha Corniche and Souq Waqif | 4436 5539
- Al Bandar, Souq Waqif | 4431 1818
Author: Ola Diab
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