Lebanese food is a delicious and diverse blend of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors and ingredients. Whether you’re starting your day at a chic coffee shop, grabbing a quick bite to eat on the streets or sitting down at a restaurant for some fine dining, there is so much to offer that you might get confused with what to pick so here’s a simplified list of some of the foods to try when you travel to Lebanon.
Kaakeh (pronounced as Kaak in Lebanon) is a popular savory breakfast food that is typically shaped like a large, soft pretzel. It is made from a simple dough mixed with a generous amount of olive oil, giving it a soft and slightly chewy texture, with a golden, crispy exterior. The dough is traditionally flavored with za’atar, which is a fragrant blend of dried herbs, sesame seeds, and sumac, a Middle Eastern spice.
I tried the kaakeh with some eggs called Eggs and Kawarma which I ordered at a contemporary bakery in the vibrant Mar Mikhael area called Kaakeh Square. This is a small and impressively decorated place that offers fresh baked goods with many choices for beverage.
I ordered a dark, Turkish coffee with my kaakeh. The coffee was strong and the kaakeh was nutritious and filling, so this was the perfect combo to get me ready for the day!
The kaakeh cost me around $3 USD and the coffee was around $1 USD. Definitely recommend going to this place for some tasty breakfast food!
Manoushe is a Lebanese breakfast staple. It’s a freshly baked flatbread topped with a variety of savory or sweet toppings. The flatbread is typically made from dough that is rolled out thin and then baked to perfection in a traditional oven. The toppings for Manoushe can vary, but some popular options include za’atar, cheese, meat, vegetables, or sweet spreads like honey or chocolate. I ordered a cheese Manoushe for around $3 USD at BEYt, a beautiful garden café in Mar Mikhael. This cafe is a must visit!
Fattoush is a refreshing and colorful Lebanese salad that typically includes chopped vegetables such as lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and radishes, as well as herbs like mint and parsley. The salad is then tossed with pieces of crispy fried or toasted pita bread and dressed with a mixture of lemon juice, olive oil, and sumac. Fattoush is often garnished with additional herbs, such as thyme or oregano, and can be enjoyed as a side dish or as a light and healthy meal on its own. The Fattoush cost around $4 USD.
Moutabal is very similar to Baba Ghanoush. If you haven’t had either of these before, Moutabal is typically made with roasted eggplants that have been mashed or blended with tahini, garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil. The result is a smooth and creamy dip that is rich and smoky in flavor. Baba Ghanoush, on the other hand, is made with the same ingredients as Moutabal, but with the addition of yogurt, which gives it a slightly tangy flavor and a thinner consistency. Order a Moutabal for around $3 USD as an appetizer or meze dish (small dish) with some warm pita bread or raw vegetables for dipping.
Warak Enab bil Laban
Warak Enab bil Laban is a delicious and comforting Lebanese dish that has stuffed grape leaves cooked in a creamy yogurt sauce. The grape leaves are filled with a mixture of rice, ground beef or lamb, onions, and a blend of fragrant spices like cinnamon. You can have this either as a main dish or as part of a larger meze spread for around $8 USD at the Ahwet Zeitouna restaurant in Zaitounay Bay – the downtown marina in Beirut.
Arak is a traditional Lebanese spirit that is known for its distinctive flavor and refreshing qualities. It is made from distilled grapes and is often enjoyed as an aperitif or digestif. To enjoy arak, it is typically served in a small glass and mixed with water, which causes it to turn cloudy and take on a milky appearance. You can get a glass of arak for around $5 USD which is typically served with ice and goes well with small plates of meze like cheese, or hummus.
My most favorite food in Lebanon is the Tawouk which is marinated chicken skewered and grilled to perfection. The chicken is typically marinated in a blend of yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, and a variety of spices which makes the chicken very juicy and tender. You can have it with hummus or tabbouleh or garlic sauce and also inside a pita roll. No matter how you have your Tawouk, as a street food or in a sit-down restaurant, it is sure to satisfy your cravings for something tasty and extremely filling. The price of a skewer of Tawouk can vary but would cost around $2 USD.