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What is Lahembajin?

Ask any lover of Middle Eastern food about their favourite dish and many will rave on and on about lahembajin. One of the oldest, simplest and most delicious dishes in Lebanese cuisine, lahembajin literally translates to mean ‘meat on dough’.

lahembajin manoosh pizza sydney

What is Lahembajin? Like most Lebanese cuisine, ingredients and techniques vary widely from family to family and culture to culture. As always, fresh, quality ingredients are best and like most Middle Eastern food, the simpler it is the better.

 

A Lebanese classic

While meat on dough may not sound terribly impressive, there is a lot more to it than that. Lahembajin basically consists of a thin, round, flat bread topped with a mixture of ground meat, vegetables and herbs that is then baked in a wood fired oven. The meat is commonly lamb or beef, the vegetables are usually onion, capsicum and tomato, and herbs can include parsley, mint and cilantro.

An ancient delicacy

Like many elements of Lebanese cuisine lahembajin originated in the Levant region (modern day Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Palestine and Israel). Not surprisingly, once word got out about this delicious meal it was soon incorporated into many different cultural cuisines of the surrounding area, in particular Turkish and Armenian. It is for this reason that you will now see many different words used for lahembajin, such as lahmacune, lahmajun or even lahmajoon.

Old Lebanese house

CC image courtesy of Sergemelki on flickr http://bit.ly/1HeWcQA

How to make lahembajin

There is no one ‘official’ way to make lahembajin, with ingredients and techniques varying widely from family to family and culture to culture. As always, fresh, quality ingredients are best and like most Middle Eastern food, the simpler it is the better. Let’s take a look at the basics.

Lebanese ingredients

CC image courtesy of insatiablemunch on flickr http://bit.ly/1RjCQBO

The Base
The dough used in lahembajin is somewhat similar to pizza in that it contains yeast and needs to be rolled out extremely flat. Any decent lahembajin must have a thin and crispy base.

The Toppings
The secret to a great lahembajin lies in chopping up all those ingredients nice and small. Not only will finely minced meat cook better, but the smaller those vegetables are the easier it will be for them to combine well with the other ingredients. One of the best things about lahembajin is that you can get as creative as you like with your toppings!

The Spices
Traditionally lahembajin is on the sweet and spicy side of the taste spectrum though there are certainly many variations. Everything from paprika and cayenne pepper to cinnamon and cumin has been used to great effect.

The cooking
Once the dough is made, the meat and vegetables are usually sautéed briefly before being added as toppings. To cook lahembajin properly you need very high heat, which is traditionally achieved via a wood fired oven.

The Garnish
The finishing touches on a lahembajin are simple yet vital as they help to balance the flavours and bring out that lahembajin magic! A drizzle of olive oil, lemon juice and some fresh parsley, mint or cilantro will usually do the trick.

The Eating
You can eat your lahembajin however you like, though folding or rolling it are both popular techniques.

If you like meat you will love lahembajin! For an authentic lahembajin experience drop by Manoosh Pizzeria, or order online, we’d be more than happy to prepare a fresh lahembajin for you! Manoosh are plating up some of the best Lebanese food in the inner west!


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