Arab cuisine of the Persian Gulf
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Arabic cuisine of the Gulf includes cuisines that are shared by most Arab populations in the Persian Gulf area.
Originally, the Arabs of the Arabian plateau relied heavily on a diet of dates, wheat, barley, rice and meat, with little variety, and with a heavy emphasis on yogurt products, such as "leben" (لبن) (yogurt without butterfat). Due to the nomadic nature of the original Arab tribes, their food preferences changed as they moved to new terrains coming into contact with cuisine of new cultures. Globalization and contact with ancient civilizations such as the Romans, Persians, and later on with the Ottomans brought the Arabs in close contact with dishes of several other cultures, as well as introducing several new ingredients in their diet.
As with most Asian cultures, the culinary heritage can find its root in either Persian, Indian, or Chinese cuisine. In fact the food structure of Persian-Arabian civilization began with cooking techniques innovated in ancient Persia and carried forward by Persians during the Sassanid Dynasty. With subsequent development and growth of the Ottomans (Turkish empire), Arab culture came in contact with the Ottoman empire; Turkish contributions to the Arabian culture included "kebabs", which were originally part of the cuisine of the early Persians, but were heavily favored by the Turks.
This multicultural inclusion in part, became possible, after advent of Islam, and with the growth of Arabian influence after invasion of Persia, Balkans, and North Africa, making it possible for merchants of different nations to travel long distances coming into contact and being influenced by or influencing local cuisines they encountered. The exchange of customs and food was bidirectional, with Arabs also exporting their dietary preferences such as dates, figs, and lamb to the areas they traveled to or conquered including the Persian empire and the Turkish population of Balkan. This interchange of goods and ways of life, was significant in forming the current modern Arab diet. Interestingly, Arabs later on transferred these newly gained cuisines on their conquests to Africa, and as far as North Africa, West Africa, and South of Spain. In fact, certain Spanish desserts such as polvorones, tocino de cielo (custard and caramel) and yemas de San Leandro (marzipan based) are heavily influenced by the Moors. Though these influences were not carried out by the original Arabs of the Arabian sub-continent, their west ward expansion into Egypt, and Morocco led to dissemination of Chinese, Indian, Arabian, and Persian cuisines and eventually their vicarious adoption by the North Africans.
Arab cuisine of the Persian Gulf today is the result of combination of diverse cuisines, incorporating Lebanese, Indian, Chinese, and Persian cooking styles, and many items not originally indigenous to the Persian Gulf region, which were most probably imported on the dhows and the caravans. There is a strong emphasis in the Arabian cuisine on lamb, yogurt, mint, thyme (often in a mix called za'atar), the inescapable tea (preferably Ceylon), sesame, curry powder, saffron, turmeric, garlic, cumin, cinnamon, rice (the staple), and fish. In addition, the cuisine is heavily dosed with spices, from hot sauces to every variety of pepper, to tea. This cuisine also favors vegetables such as cucumbers, eggplants, and onions, and fruits (primarily citrus). Notably, many of the same spices used in Arabian cuisine are also those emphasized in the Indian cuisine. This is a result of heavy trading between the two regions, and of the current state of affairs in the wealthy oil states, in which many South Asian workers are living abroad in Arab states of the Persian Gulf.
- Kuwaiti cuisine: Gabout (قبوط), Margoug (مرقوق)
- Bahraini cuisine
- Emirati cuisine
- Saudi Arabian cuisine
Essential to any cooking in the Arabian Peninsula is the concept of hospitality. Meals are generally large family affairs, with much sharing and a great deal of warmth over the dinner table. Formal dinners and celebrations generally entail large quantities of lamb, and every occasion entails large quantities of Arabic coffee. In an average Arab household in the Persian Gulf, a visitor might expect a dinner consisting of a very large platter, shared commonly, with a vast mountain of rice, incorporating lamb or chicken, or both, as separate dishes, with various stewed vegetables, heavily spiced, sometimes with a tomato sauce. Most likely, there would be several other items on the side, less hearty. Tea would certainly accompany the meal, as it is frequently consumed. Coffee would be included as well.
There are many regional differences in Arab cuisine. For instance mujadara in Syria or Lebanon is different from mujadara in Jordan or Palestine. Some dishes such as mensaf (the national dish of Jordan) are native to certain countries and rarely if ever make an appearance in other countries.
Unlike in most Western cuisines, cinnamon is used in meat dishes as well as in sweets such as Baklava. Other desserts include variations of rice pudding and fried dough. Ground nut mixtures are common fillings for such treats. Saffron is used in everything, from sweets, to rice, to beverages. Fruit juices are quite popular in this often arid region.
The following cuisines have influenced, or have been influenced by the Arab cuisine of the Persian Gulf, either due to trade (mostly maritime from the far east), or as a result of ancient contact:
- Chinese cuisine
- Pakistani cuisine (including Baloch cuisine)
- Persian cuisine
- Turkish cuisine
- African cuisine
- Japanese cuisine
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- Advameg, Inc. (2010). "Culture of United Arab Emirates". Archived from the original on 1 January 2011. Retrieved December 25, 2010.
- Ministry of Information, Media Information Department (Kuwait). "Kuwait Cuisine". Retrieved December 20, 2010.
- Advameg, Inc. "Food in Iran". Retrieved December 25, 2010.
- Marbella Guide (August 24, 2009). "Arabic Influences in Spanish Food". Archived from the original on 7 January 2011. Retrieved December 25, 2010.
Media related to Arabic cuisine at Wikimedia Commons