The Cuisine of Lebanon
Chef Demetrios Haralambatos
The civilization of Lebanon can be traced back seven thousand years. Lebanon was originally home to the Phoenicians, a seafaring community, that traded spices from the Far East and travelled throughout the Mediterranean.
The region came under the rule of the Roman Empire, then subsequently was conquered, and occupied by the Assyrians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Arabs, the Fatimids, and the Crusaders. In the 16th century, Lebanon was conquered by the Ottomans, remaining under their rule for the next 400 years.
After World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, modern Lebanon, came under the control of France. While under French control, its capital, Beirut, attracted many tourists, and become known as ‘The Paris of the Middle East’.
Over the centuries, Lebanese culture has evolved, borrowing from all these groups. Its diverse population of different ethnic and religious groups, has further contributed to the country’s festivals and musical styles, as well as its cuisine.
Lebanese cuisine is similar to that of many countries in the Eastern Mediterranean, such as Greece, Cyprus, Syria, and Turkey. Characterized by a healthy mixture of herbs, fruit, labneh (yogurt), nuts, olives, olive oil, rice, vegetables, and khubz and markook (flatbreads).
Sitting for meal in a Lebanese restaurant, or as a guest in someone’s home, will begin with a wide array of Mezze (a selection of shared dishes presented all at once on several small plates, with savory dishes, like dips, salads, and even pastries). Mezze is usually followed by meat or fish, then finished with Arabic coffee, fresh fruit, and occasionally a selection of traditional sweets.
Let’s dive into some of the more popular Lebanese offerings. More are available here.