Food plays a vital role in Lebanese culture. It is one of our greatest loves, it is the key to our good health, and it is central to our social and family lives. To us, there is nothing better than sharing a meal with friends and family, especially when it is as delicious as our cultural cuisine. The history of Lebanese food is as old as it is intriguing; here is a brief look at how it has evolved.
Like most Middle Eastern cuisines, Lebanese food is based on that of ancient Levant, a region that includes modern day Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Palestine and Israel. The influence of the Levant is most obvious in our use of spices, for instance, za’atar (which is used extensively in Lebanese cooking) has been enjoyed in this region for thousands of years. Classic Lebanese dishes, such as hommus and manoosh, can also be traced back to ancient roots in Levantine cuisine.
One of the main things that differentiate Lebanese food from other Middle Eastern cuisines is the influence of those who have occupied this ancient land throughout its history. Let’s take a look at two of the most influential occupiers.
The Ottomans – By far the biggest impact on Lebanese cuisine has come from the Ottoman Empire via their occupation of more than 400 years (1516 – 1918). Under the Ottoman influence, lamb became the meat of choice, the stuffing of meat and vegetables became popular, and strong, dark Turkish coffee was introduced. The Lebanese also have the Ottomans to thank for their delicious assortment of baklava, as well as a wide range of nuts, fruits and breads.
The French – When the Ottomans were defeated in World War 1 the French took their place as occupiers of Lebanon, bringing with them a very different cultural cuisine. While the French would only be here until 1946 (when Lebanon gained its independence), they certainly left a lasting impact. The biggest influence of the French came via their pastries and desserts – to this day treats such as croissants and custard flan remain strong local favourites (baklava anyone?).
Lebanon has long maintained links with other parts of the world, which is why you can find elements in our food that have come from all corners of the globe. Lebanon’s capital, Beirut, was once known as the Paris of the Middle East and for thousands of years nomads would pass through with all sorts of exotic delicacies, such as dried fruits and spices from the Far East. Nowadays Lebanese people live in almost every country on earth and often bring new spices, flavours and influences back to Lebanon when they come home to visit.
While Lebanese food has undergone many changes over the years it has always maintained a strong connection with its roots. If you are looking to try one of the world’s freshest, healthiest and most delicious cultural foods, you have come to the right place. Drop by Manoosh or order online and prepare yourself for something special.