Cooking Around the World | Lebanon
January 8, 2021
Welcome to the first Cooking Around the World post! I am so excited for this cooking series. A few months ago, I ran across a Reddit forum that asked one simple question- "What food is your country most known for?" This forum blew up and hundreds of people responded what they believed is their country's most popular food. I was so fascinated by all the foods I never even heard of before that my husband and I decided to embark on this culinary journey. Because of my Type A personality, I immediately organized all the data into my own list on Excel. Currently, there are 130 countries on our list, and I hope that it continues to grow as we discover more countries to add to it. My goal with this challenge is to really capture the culture of each country by cooking recipes from bloggers that are actually from that country or grew up eating those foods. We turn on that country's music and watch YouTube videos that talk about the country's food/tourist attractions/culture. You can find the Reddit list here.
The Country: We used a random number generator to select which country was first. It chose Lebanon! I was so excited it chose food from a country that I hadn't tried before.
Tidbits about Lebanon:
- Official Language: Arabic
- How to Say 'Hello': Marhabaan
- How to Say 'Thank You': Shukraan lak
- How to Say 'Goodbye': Wadaeaan
- How to Say 'The food is delicious.': Altaeam ladhidh
- Capital: Beirut
The Recipes: After doing some research online, I discovered the blog Zaatar & Zaytoun. This blog is packed full of great authentic Lebanese recipes which is exactly what I was looking for. From the list, Lebanon's top two dishes were Kibbeh and Warak Enab.
Kibbeh: Kibbeh are football-shaped and made mostly of bulgur wheat and meat. According to The Spruce Eats, bulgar wheat comes "from cracked whole-grain kernels of wheat that get parboiled and dried before packaging." I couldn't find this in our everyday grocery store, but I did find it on Amazon. I ordered the Yupik Organic Bulgar Fine Grind. It tasted great and worked really well for the recipe.
After doing some research, I learned that there are different types of kibbeh. There is fried kibbeh, kibbeh baked in a tray, kibbeh cooked in a yogurt sauce, and even raw kibbeh. I am really intrigued by the raw kibbeh, but we decided to play it safe and go with the fried version.
The kibbeh recipe from Zaatar and Zaytoun is a meat/bulgar casing that is filled with more meat. Oh, and lots and lots of yummy spices! For the casing, the bulgar wheat is mixed with the ground meat along with onions and spices. Following Zaatar and Zaytoun's recommendations, I used half ground beef and half ground lamb. The casing's spices include 7 spice which consists of garam masala, turmeric, black pepper, cinnamon, paprika, coriander, cumin, and cayenne pepper.
The casing is stuffed with a delicious filling made of ground meat, onions, 7 spice, chopped walnuts,sumac, and Kibbeh spices. I made my own Kibbeh spice mix following Zaatar and Zaytoun's recipe. It includes cumin seeds, rose petals, black peppercorns, marjoram, dried mint, cinnamon, 7 spice, and salt. These spices smelled so good that I'm glad I made extra so I can have some already made for other dishes!
The kibbeh are formed into a shape that resembles a football. They are deep fried to perfection and then ready to eat! We served them with a yogurt dipping sauce.
I learned that kibbeh is not something you make for a quick bite. These take multiple steps especially if you are making your own spices too. However, that's the whole point of cooking around world. To really get into the food culture of the country and enjoy the whole process even if it takes all afternoon!
Warak Enab: Warak Enab means leaves of grapes. They are stuffed with rice and meat or rice and vegetables. They reminded me a lot of dolmas which I absolutely love! I decided to stay on Zaatar and Zaytoun's blog and make their Warak Enab Bi Zeit or Lebanese Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves.
Since I have no idea where to buy fresh grape leaves, I opted for jarred grape leaves. I bought Orlando California Grape Leaves from Amazon. They were very tasty, but a little tricky to pull out of the jar! Just have to take it slow and be very careful when pulling the whole bunch out.
Just like with the kibbeh, the warak enab can be a little time consuming as well. Each grape leaf is stuffed with tomatoes, onions, rice, and 7 spice seasoning. They are rolled into a tube-like shape, covered with water and lemon juice, and cooked until the rice is done. Oh yeah! They are also placed on top of sliced potatoes. Honestly, the potatoes were just as good as the warak enab to me!
We served all this bread (not a traditional Lebanese bread- just one found at the grocery store) dipped in a za'atar oil. I can't recommend these two recipes enough for your next stay-at-home trip to Lebanon. Both were excellent, and I can't wait to make them again!
Playlist: I have found some fun Lebanese songs on Spotify. We listened to this while we were cooking and eating and really put us right into the country! You can find the playlist to all these songs here!
YouTube Videos: There's so many great YouTube videos over Lebanon. I found this one from Luke Martin which had some really great footage and details over Lebanon street food. I loved that they ate Kibbeh and Warak Enab in the video so I could see what it looked like when served in an actual Lebanese restaurant. I'd say ours looks ~pretty~ similar! Here's another awesome video from Mark Wiens with footage from a 14 hour Lebanese food tour! I want to try everything that he eats!
I hope you enjoyed reading about "our trip" to Lebanon! If you take a virtual trip to Lebanon too, let me know down in the comments!
أتمنى لك وجبة شهية ['atamanaa lak wajabat shahiat!] - translation of Bon appétit! in Arabic
January 8, 2021 by Laura Bullock