For the last four decades, Lebanon to me was the land where Kahlil Gibran was born , but a recent visit to Beirut showcased this fascinating country ,where two religions (60% Islam, 40% Christians) thrived together.They spoke Arabic, but with a smattering of French.The women were gorgeous and each one a fashionista- Beirut is called the Paris of the East. What left a lasting impression is the Lebanese cuisine- visually appealing and bursting with flavors yet light. From salads to starters through main course to dessert, the Lebanese meze is "more than just food, it's a way of life' as said by Kamal Mouzawak, Beirut based food writer.
|The blue mosque,Beirut. Lebanon has two predominant religions the Christianity and Islam and they live in harmony,just as both the churches and mosques glow into the Lebanese night.
|Meze, a mind boggling spread of dishes which owes its origin to the Ottoman empire. There are salads and cheeses, and meats, and desserts but at the heasrt of it is the idea of communal eating and large hearted hospitality.
|from top, clockwise:hummus,goat cheese(jebne beida),tabouleh, and fatoosh.All part of the elaborate Meze meal.
|Mankoushe. light and flavourful, Lebanese cuisine is low on trans fats and high on fiber. The predominance of lime and olive oil, adds to the subtlety of their cuisine as well as shows the western and greek influence on the middle eastern palate.The cuisine of Lebanon is part of the Levantine cuisine.
|Arak, an alcoholic drink made of aniseseed. The concentrate is colourless, and on adding water , the aniseseed oil forms an emulsion with the water ,giving the drink a milky hue.
|Shawarma, the most well known of the Lebanese cuisine, enjoys its universal popularity, and yet it is actually a street food patronised as food on the move, and does not have the honour of being part of the Meze.
|Having tasted shawarma in the beach side chowpatti of Goa, or the malls in Bombay, this was the chance to taste the authentic, and the proclaimed best in Shawarma at Manos in Beirut, Lebanon.
|Lebanon and the Mediterranean sea.
|Bite sized eat, a slice of bread, with bastarma and toped with a quail egg. A mouthful of deliciousness!
|A bowl filled with ice cubes and akki deni. A delicious fruit , which tastes like a cross between the apple, pear and a mango. chilled fruit, a great way to end the Meze.
|Baklava, a dessert almost synonymous with the region, made famous by the number of food channels, and George calombaris of Masterchef Australia. great to eat and great to take back as gifts for friends and family.
|unsweetened cream sandwiched between two deep fried pastry sheets, sprinkled with pistachio, is first drenched in sugar syrup and then enjoyed as a sinful dessert.
|Icecreams served in bowls made of ice. The Lebanese sure no how to serve their desserts in style.
Lebanon, has so much to see and experience in terms of natural beauty, the sea scapes, the ruins of Byblos (Jubayl ), and last but not the least the Jeita Grotto. The Jeita Grotto, is beautiful and awe inspiring beyond words. You must see it to believe it, and unfortunately photography was not allowed.It seems as if one is in a 3 D movie, so unreal is the beauty of the place. This natural wonder was considered for the wonders of the world but lost out to its better known counterparts. Nevertheless it inspires wonder.
|Fadi, our host in Lebanon. Thankyou for your hospitality.
Food trail :Lebanon as seen through the eyes of Barnali Bhattacharya, with expert inputs from Nada Nehme.
|Mereelle Jabbour, Barnali Bhattacharya and Nada Nehme.