Also known as baba ghanoosh, baba ghanouj is a type of smoked eggplant dip that has been part of Lebanese cuisine for thousands of years. It is believed to have first been eaten in the Levant (a region comprising modern day Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine and Israel) though nowadays everyone from Egypt to Turkey has their own version. As is the case with any popular food, there is much debate surrounding what constitutes the real thing; here is a brief look at what goes into making traditional Lebanese baba ghanouj.
If you like eggplant you will love baba ghanouj as it is all about the aubergine. The secret is to roast the eggplants directly over an open flame as this leaves behind a delicious smoky flavour that is the trademark of this traditional Lebanese food. Once cooked, the eggplant is peeled and strained – as this prevents the flavours from being watered down – and finally, that soft aubergine is gently mashed until it is as smooth or chunky as you like.
You can’t have baba ghanouj without garlic, although opinions vary regarding the quantities required. Recipes differ from family to family, with some adding one clove of garlic for every eggplant while others add just the one clove to the entire batch. Whatever your taste, for your baba ghanouj to be considered authentic it needs a noticeable kick of garlic.
Baba ghanouj requires a definite touch of citrus, which is traditionally provided by way of lemon juice – again, opinions vary regarding the level of citrusy zing necessary. Ideally, you want the citrus flavours to compliment the smokiness of the eggplant but without overpowering it.
Many styles of baba ghanouj don’t contain tahini, but the traditional Lebanese version certainly does; however, keep in mind that the role of the tahini is to compliment the other flavours, not steal the show. Only by balancing the nutty flavour of the tahini with the smokiness of the eggplant, the zap of the garlic and the zing of the lemon can you create that real baba ghanouj magic!
Every Lebanese family has their own way of seasoning their baba ghanouj, though thanks to all that garlic, lemon and tahini only the slightest extra touch of flavour is needed. Salt, cumin and even chili powder are often used and some people mix fresh herbs directly into their baba ghanouj to provide a burst of flavour. Mint and parsley are by far the most popular garnishes.
Like almost every Lebanese dish, baba ghanouj isn’t complete without a drizzle of olive oil on top. A popular approach is to pour a moat of olive oil around the edge of the dish prior to serving, as this ensures that there is a taste of that delicious oil in every bite.
Lebanese foods don’t get much healthier, more delicious or authentic than baba ghanouj. To get a taste of what all the fuss is about, drop by Manoosh or order online – you haven’t lived until you’ve tried our baba ghanouj!