Lebanese cooks are experts at transforming simple ingredients into flavorful dishes or mezzes. In some places the cuisine is influenced by the temperate Mediterranean climate, with bright citrus flavors adding liveliness to dishes and salads, and olives and olive oil making an appearance at nearly every meal.
Though Lebanon is a small country there are many regional specialties. In the mountains the cuisine often features lamb meat and dairy, and is a bit heavier than the cuisine of the coastal regions. The Bekaa Valley is famous for its fertile soil in which grow grape vines and many fruits and vegetables.
Lebanese have long prided themselves on the excellent cuisine of their country and Beirut is a great place to sample some of the country’s best.
Lebanese food often features plenty of vegetables, fruits, olive oil, and locally sourced products. Mezzes (small plates) are typical of Lebanese cuisine and often include salads and other dishes made with eggplant, peppers, chickpeas, grilled meats, fresh cheeses, yogurt, and fresh or pickled vegetables.
Pomegranate sauce or pomegranate molasses is sometimes used to add a bit of sweet or sour flavor to dishes and salads, and spices and herbs such as sumac, red pepper, za’atar (wild thyme), mint, and more are used to liven up many plates or top salads or dips such as hummus (made with chickpeas, tahini, garlic and lemon), tabbouleh (bulgur, parsley, tomato, lemon, olive oil), baba ghanoush (grilled eggplant dip), mutabbel (eggplant and tahini), and muhammara (made with red pepper and walnuts).
Kibbeh is a dish made with minced meat, and can be prepared in a variety of ways; it can be grilled like kebabs, baked into a meat ‘pie’, or prepared and eaten as a raw dish similar to a tartare (kibbeh nayyeh).
Fatayar are little triangle pastries filled with spinach. Manaqishare Lebanese flatbreads sometimes topped with olive oil and za’atar for a delicious breakfast snack or topped with cheese or spiced meat. Manaqish are cooked on a dome shaped griddle called saj.