Wednesday, May 29, 2013

food trail:Lebanon


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.

The Mediterranean sea, which gives the name to the Mediterranean cuisine, held  much fascination prior to visiting Lebanon. Once in Lebanon though, the people and places, the cuisine and the general warm hospitality of the people held central importance and the sea faded into the background. Whenever we speak of Lebanon or its cuisine, it generally gets generalised with Mediterranean countries and their cuisine. Lebanon gave me a deeper insight into the Mediterranean way of life and showed that even a small country has so much to offer. There are snow capped mountains and the sea, a rich cultural heritage and a vibrant night life, all this and more is Lebanon.

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.

Lebanese women in their head scarves roaming the streets at 1 o clock at night. The  Lebanese women  are  beautiful and  passionate and live a complete and full life. They drive SUV cars, dress in the latest in fashion, and are not afraid to show their absolute love for their country and culture.


Food trail :Lebanon as seen through the eyes of Barnali Bhattacharya, with expert inputs from Nada Nehme.

Mereelle Jabbour, Barnali Bhattacharya and Nada Nehme.