Levantine cuisine

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Ottoman Syria (in purple)

Levantine cuisine is the traditional cuisine of the Levant, known in Arabic as the Bilad ash-Sham. This region shared many culinary traditions with Ottoman cuisine before and during the Turkish-Ottoman Empire, and it continues to carry an influentially mainstream character in a majority of the dishes today. It is found in the modern states of Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and parts of southern Turkey near Adana, Gaziantep, and Antakya (the former Vilayet of Aleppo). In the broader family of Mediterranean cuisine, Cypriot cuisine also has strong Levantine influences.

Perhaps the most distinctive aspect of Levantine cuisine is meze including tabbouleh, hummus and baba ghanoush.

Levantine dishes[edit]

Fattoush is a Levantine pita bread salad that includes mixed greens and other vegetables.[1]
  • Arab salad
  • Arak (عرق): An clear, colourless alcoholic spirit distilled from anise seeds.
  • Baba ghanoush (بابا غنوج): A dip made from baked, mashed eggplant mixed with lemon, garlic, olive oil and various seasonings.
  • Baklava (البقلاوة): A dessert originating in the Ottoman Empire made of dense phyllo pastry filled with chopped nuts and soaked in syrup.
  • Bamia (بامية): A stew prepared with chunks of lamb meat with okra in a tomato-based sauce, served over rice.
  • Basbousa (بسبوسة): A small, sweet cake of cooked semolina soaked in rose water syrup, topped with almonds or walnuts.
  • Biryani (البرياني): A dish of seasoned rice with meat, spices and vegetables. Hard-boiled eggs and raisins are typical garnishes for the rice.
  • Dolma (محشي): A family of vegetables, typically aubergines, courgettes, onions, peppers and/or tomatoes stuffed with minced meat and rice.
  • Falafel (الفلافل): A dish of spiced mashed chickpeas formed into balls or fritters and deep-fried, usually eaten with or in pita bread and hummus.
  • Fasoulia (فاصوليا): A stew prepared with dry white beans and meat served over rice.
  • Fatteh (فتّة): A dish of chicken over rice, topped with yogurt and pita bread.
  • Fattoush (فتوش): A salad consisting of chopped cucumbers, radishes, tomatoes,and other vegetables together with fried or toasted pita bread.
  • Halva (حلوى): A flour or nut-based confection including fruit or nuts.
  • Hamin (חמין): An Israeli stew reserved for the day of Shabbat. It is made of slowly baked meat with barley and potatoes, prepared on a Friday and cooked overnight.
  • Hummus (الحمص): A thick paste or spread made from ground chickpeas and olive oil, lemon, and garlic, also common in Egypt and Israel.
  • Ka'ak (كعك): A type of biscuit/cookie shaped into a ring, occasionally sprinkled with sesame seeds.
  • Kabsa (كبسة): A rice-based dish commonly eaten with meat, lamb or chicken, cooked in a variety of spices and topped with nuts over rice.
  • Kanafeh (كنافة): A Palestinian dessert made with shredded filo and melted cheese soaked in a sugary syrup.
  • Kebab (كباب): A dish consisting of tender ground beef or lamb grilled or roasted on a skewer.
  • Kebab karaz (كباب كرز): A type of kebab consisting of lamb meatballs in a cherry-based broth with pine nuts and sour cherries over pita bread.
  • Kibbeh (كبة): A dumpling-like dish of ground lamb with bulgur wheat and seasonings, eaten cooked or raw. The Iraqi variant of kubba uses a rice crust instead of bulgur.
  • Kibbeh nayyeh (كبة نيئة): A mezze consisting of minced raw meat mixed with fine bulgur and various seasonings.
  • Labneh (لبنة): Yogurt that has been strained to remove its whey. Most popular as a breakfast food.
  • Lentil soup
  • Ma'amoul (معمول): Semolina cookies filled with dates or walnuts, commonly sprinkled with sugar.
  • Makdous (مكدوس): Stuffed oil cured baby aubergines, said to increase appetite.
  • Manakish (مناقيش): A pizzalike flatbread garnished with minced meat, thyme and/or za'atar. Commonly eaten during breakfast and lunch.
  • Mansaf (المنسف): The national dish of Jordan, made of lamb or chicken cooked in a sauce of fermented dried yogurt and served over rice.
  • Kousa Mahshi (كوسا محشي): Courgettes baked and stuffed with minced meat and rice in a tomato-based sauce.
  • Maqluba (مقلوبة): A rice-based casserole which includes meat, rice, and fried vegetables placed in a pot, which is then flipped upside down when served, hence the name maqluba, which translates literally as "upside-down".
  • Markook (مرقوق): A thin, unleavened flatbread baked on an iron griddle known as a saj.
  • Masgouf (مسكوف): An open-cut freshwater fish marinated with curcuma and roasted for hours in a traditional clay oven, and served with grilled onions and tomato, pickles and salad.
  • Meorav Yerushalmi (מעורב ירושלמי): A mix grill of chicken hearts, liver and spleens grilled and seasoned with black pepper and onion.
  • Muhammara (محمرة): A hot pepper dip made from fresh or dried peppers, breadcrumbs, olive oil, spices and ground walnuts.
  • Mujaddara (مجدرة): Cooked lentils together with groats, generally rice, and garnished with sautéed onions.
  • Mulukhiyah (ملوخية): A type of stew cooked with okra leaves and eaten with chicken in a thick broth.
  • Musakhan (مسخّن): A classic Palestinian dish, composed of a whole roasted chicken baked with onions, sumac, allspice, saffron, and fried pine nuts served over taboon bread.
  • Olives
  • Pita
  • Qatayef (قطايف): An Arab dessert commonly served during the month of Ramadan, a sort of sweet dumpling filled with cream or nuts.
  • Qidra (قدرة): A stew consisting of lamb mixed with chickpeas, garlic and spices, commonly served over rice.
  • Quzi (قوزي): A hearty dish of roasted lamb with raisins, nuts and spices over rice or wrapped within taboon bread.
  • Sambusac (سمبوسك): A triangular savory pastry originating from the Indian subcontinent, which is fried in ghee or oil, containing spiced vegetables or meat.
  • Sfiha (صفيحة): In contrast to the modern use of lamb or beef, traditional sfiha are open-faced meat pies made with ground mutton. Historically, sfiha were much like dolma—simply ground lamb, lightly spiced, wrapped in brined grape leaves.
  • Shanklish (شنكليش): Cow's or sheep's milk cheese formed into balls of approximately 6 cm diameter, rolled in Aleppo pepper and za'atar, and then aged and dried.
  • Shashlik ():
  • Shawarma (الشاورما): Roasted meat, especially when cooked on a revolving spit and shaved for serving in sandwiches.
  • Shish kebab (شيش كباب): Grilled or roasted chunks of meat prepared on a skewer, commonly served over flatbread or rice.
  • Sumaghiyyeh (السماقية): The ground sumac is first soaked in water and then mixed with tahina (sesame seed paste), additional water, and flour for thickness. The mixture is then added to sautéed chopped chard, pieces of slow-stewed beef, and garbanzo beans.
  • Tabbouleh (تبولة): A salad of bulgur mixed with finely chopped parsley, along with minced onions and tomatoes.
  • Tahini (طحينة): A condiment prepared from grounded and hulled sesame seeds. It is a primary ingredient which composes baba ghanoush and hummus.
  • Tepsi (التبسي): A casserole baked with minced meat, aubergine, potato and tomato slices. Served with pickles, rice and salad.
  • Toum (التوم): A paste containing garlic, olive oil and salt, typically used as a dip.
  • Turkish coffee (قهوة تركية): A method which involves simmering coffee beans, then served in a cup which the grounds finally settle.
  • Za'atar (زَعْتَر):
  • Zalabia (زلابية): An Arab fried dough pastry fried in balls or discs and dipped in a sweet syrup.

Levantine cuisine by country[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wright, 2003, p. 241


  • Wright, Clifford A. (2003). Little foods of the Mediterranean: 500 fabulous recipes for antipasti, tapas, hors d'oeuvre, meze, and more (Illustrated ed.). Harvard Common Press. ISBN 1-55832-227-2. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Sami Zubaida, "National, Communal and Global Dimensions in Middle Eastern Food Cultures" in Sami Zubaida and Richard Tapper, A Taste of Thyme: Culinary Cultures of the Middle East, London and New York, 1994 and 2000, ISBN 1-86064-603-4, p. 35.
  • Jean Bottéro, The Oldest Cuisine in the World: Cooking in Mesopotamia, University of Chicago Press, 2004, ISBN 0226067343