Cuisines Missing from the Lebanese Dining Scene

Although many of us were raised to believe that Lebanese cuisine trumps all (let’s be real, it does), sometimes it doesn’t hurt to explore what else is out there. In the words of Saint Augustin, “the world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”

Indulge me for a few minutes, why don’t you, as we travel to faraway destinations for a foray into their forage. Trust me, by the time we’re through, you’ll agree we Lebanese suffer from a dearth of international gastronomy within our borders.

  1. Neighbors on the Mediterranean we may be, but Greece is host to a cuisine quite distinctive from our own. Consider moussaka, the Hellenic equivalent of Italian lasagna drawing on eggplant and béchamel. Tzatziki is a tart yogurt and hollowed-out cucumber dip owing its kick to garlic and typically slathered on grilled meats, vegetables, and souvlaki. Another vegetarian hit is spanakopita, layering filo dough and fresh spinach greens in alternation. Photo 1

  1. Caribbean cuisine draws on influences from Africa, Europe, the East Indies, and China, among other regions and nations. Staples include rice, plantains, beans, cassava, coconut, and coriander. Green herbs are often mixed and muddled to form typical seasonings, which in turn define the flavor profile of the Caribbean. Trek to Trinidad to discover doubles, pillowy bread cradling curried chickpeas and polished off with tamarind or mango chutney. We’re talking about all five basic tastes merged into one explosive mouthful! Photo 2

  1. Brazilian restaurants around the world pay homage to churrasco, or grilled meat on spits brought tableside and shaved onto diners’ plates in generous heaps. Apart from these meaty morsels are fried cheese balls called coxinhas stuffed with chicken and cream, or catupiry. The Brazilian answer to our sambousik is pastéis, a pocketful of cheese, beef, codfish or whatever else can double as a stuffing. Finish on a sweet note with brigadeiro, decadent chocolate truffles crafted with condensed milk and chocolate sprinkles. Photo 3

  1. Swedish food is far more interesting than meatballs and lingonberry jam, despite what the international furniture specialist Ikea would lead you to believe. But hey, around these parts, we love kebab karaz, so we’ll take meatballs with jam any day of the week! The Swedes also cherish their crayfish, bite-sized freshwater shellfish common during warm summer evenings. Pea soup and pancakes are another tradition, ordinarily served on Thursdays. Photo 4

  1. Newsflash! Stuffed cabbage rolls, better known as me7she malfouf, are not uniquely Lebanese constructs. In fact, in Poland, you’ll find something bizarrely identical called golumpki, or boiled cabbage leaves wrapped around minced beef, diced onions, and rice (or barley). Kielbasa or sausage is a cornerstone of Polish cuisine and comes in a variety of tastes and textures. In the finger food department, the Poles are known for pierogi, dumplings caching meat, potato, cheese, mushrooms and sauerkraut. Photo 5

Contributed by Danielle Issa from

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