Enjoying Favorite Dishes in Lebanon

Dana samples hummus (left) and tabbouleh. 

I live in Lebanon, a Middle Eastern country of more than 6 million people. Lebanon is known for its delicious dishes, which feature lamb, eggplant, tomatoes, and cucumber, among other ingredients. Favorite spices include cinnamon, mint, parsley, oregano, and nutmeg. Lebanese mezze—small plates of vegetables, salads, and meats—are often shared with friends and family.

One of the most famous Lebanese dishes is tabbouleh. This vegetarian salad has been in the Arabic diet since the Middle Ages. To make it, diced tomatoes, parsley, mint, and onion are mixed with bulgur (cracked wheat), and then seasoned with lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

“Tabbouleh is definitely my favorite dish,” said Rayan Abou Ghali, 13, who is a classmate.

Another well-known dish is kibbeh, a combination of spiced ground meat and bulgur. It can be served grilled, fried, or raw.

Hummus is also popular in Lebanon. The dip, which is a mixture of mashed chickpeas, spices, tahini, and lemon juice, is often served on pita bread.

“I see Lebanese cuisine as a mixture of all of the past generations,” said Maya Zreik, 13, another classmate. “Personally, my favorite dish is hummus.” 


Tabbouleh, hummus, and traditional Lebanese sweets


Lebanon was once part of the Ottoman Empire, so our cuisine has several dishes in common with nearby Turkey. Such dishes include baklava, shawarma (meat cut into thin slices and roasted on a rotisserie), and kebab (meat or fish roasted on a skewer or spit). 

Baklava, which is our most famous dessert, is filo pastry filled with chopped nuts and held together with syrup. Meghli, a rice pudding that is both gluten- and dairy-free, is traditionally served to celebrate the birth of a baby. 

Lebanese dishes are a big draw for tourism. But I asked my classmates how often they have such traditional fare at home. “Lebanese food is almost an addiction in my household and served daily,” Maya said.

Mustafa Itani, 13, was also enthusiastic. “Lebanese food is served almost every day at my house,” he said. “We can’t get enough of it.” 


Photos courtesy of the author