Arabian Nights

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Arabian cuisine is sometimes described as refined art; such is its diversity and richness. It is influenced by dozens of cultures, and its spicy dishes reflect the fact that the Arabian nations that also includes Egypt was either the source or the way for spices that eventually spread to the whole world. Rice and various legumes, especially lentils and chickpeas are staples of main course dishes and it also includes lots of salads made from both fresh vegetables and fruits. Meaty items like lamb, chicken and beef plays an important role in the cuisine, be it in grilled or barbequed form and blends of common ingredients like coriander, cumin, mint and other Arabian spices adds to the uniqueness of this fare. Lebanese cuisine plays a very important role in placing Arabian food in the world map of exotic food.

A very common thing in a typical Arabian is the ‘mezze’, the starters that usually includes a falafel which are fava bean fritters and lentil soups. It would be unfair to think that the lentil soup would be a light one, since Arabian food has the dominance of meats in it, the soups are heavy and cooked with meat broth and sometimes even garnished with shredded meat. Even though falafel is the national dish for the Israelis, the entire Arab community considers it to be a part of their cuisine. Falafels can be served either as fritters or stuffed in pita bread along with garlic/yogurt sauce and onions. Either way, the results are mind blowing.

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The much adored Shish Taook and Shawarma are the most delicious items on the main course where the former ones are chunks of meat barbequed over a slow flame and served with sliced pita bread with a spicy sauce coating whereas the latter Shawarma is shredded meat cooked and garnished with onions, tomatoes and chilli sauce and served in a pocket of Pita bread. The best combo ever is possibly the one that I had tasted in Cairo; a platter that consisted of flavored rice, a falafel, shish kabab, green salad, one slice of pita and a dollop of hummus...yummm!
Arabian desserts range from Hareesa and Mahalabbiya are the top ranking ones where the former is semolina cooked in milk and the latter is a rice pudding (very much like our Payesh or kheer) but served warm and sprinkled with cinnamon powder. The best dessert is of course the baklava which is again the monopoly of the Lebanese but is available in all the Arab nations; a rich, sweet pastry made of layers of filo pastry with chopped nuts and and sweetened with syrup or honey…sinful but amazingly tasty.

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