Lebanese Meze

labne with olive oil

The Lebanese are real “snackers”, a point brought home by Mazen Hajjar, the owner of 961, Lebanon’s first (and only) craft brewery that told me if I went into someone’s home in Lebanon and they offered a drink – but no bowl of nuts or seeds, “You should go…just get up and leave immediately.”

961 beer in Lebanon

Fortunately I never had to, because true to his word, each and every place in Lebanon where I was offered a drink, a generous bowl of bzoorat – some tasty combination of peanuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, etc. – were offered. And I always seemed to have my hand in a dish of them.

arak White Lady (gin cointreau lemon juice)

So it’s no surprise I went nuts, so to speak, at Al Rifai, considered one of the best nut roasters in Beirut. When I walked in, I was immediately drawn to the glowing glass and stainless-steel bins, radiating with the heat coming off the piles of freshly roasted nuts.

nuts

I picked up a few bags to bring home and it’s fun to choose your own from the dozens of nuts and seeds they offer. Some are plain, other spiced or glazed. And it’s fun to mix ‘em up. Showing true Lebanese hospitality, as I selected each one, the woman at the counter plunked down a little bowl of them for me to snack on while weighing and filling my bags. Good thing they didn’t weigh me on the way out, because I’m pretty sure I ate as much as I bought.

nuts, pistachios, etc

And now, I’m officially just as hooked as the Lebanese are. So it was a good thing Al Rifai has a large kiosk at the airport where I stocked up on even more bzoorat, along with all the locals, who also wanted to be as certain as I that we would have plenty of nuts and seeds while outside of the country. (Either that, or they were also looking for a way to pass their time when their plane got delayed for nine hours, too – oof.)

Another treat that people in Lebanon snack on are fresh fava beans. I saw people waiting in line at butcher shops and souks, biding their time, shucking the long shells, and popping the smooth little beans in their mouths. Lebanese people seem to eat them, well…everywhere.

only in Lebanon

If you’re seated at a table (as opposed to an office desk, which admittedly might get a little messy), the beans get dipped in a bit of olive oil and I like them with a few crystals of salt as well.

green almonds

Other pre-meze snacks include very young green almonds, and Lebanese people eat the entire thing – fuzzy green casing and all. They weren’t my favorite, nor were the tiny, green underripe plums, which were too sour for my taste. Interestingly, they also sold tubs of both at the airport as well.

961 beer tiny green plums

If having a drink by the sea, you might get pickled seaweed, marinated in a salted brine with a bit of lemon to go along with your cocktail or “Mexican beer”, which sounded odd to me as I couldn’t understand why beer from Mexico was so prevalent in Lebanon. Until I realized it just refers to a glass of beer served in a salt-rimmed glass.

pickled seaweed

A popular drink for an aperitif, or even to accompany the entire meal, is arak, a high-test distillation flavored wtih anise seeds; the arak-maker of Domaine de Tourelles told me the best were from Syria, but due to the unfortunate strife in their neighboring country, they weren’t going to be able to get more in the future. So drink up!

Lebanese salad, purslane, sumac, etc olive oil

The rule I learned when you eat with the Lebanese, whether in a restaurant or in someone’s home, is to not to eat everything the is first set down on the table. (I also learned, like bowls of nuts on tables, if there isn’t the obligatory carafe of thick, golden olive oil on the table, you should leave as well.) Bowls and bowls, and bowls and bowls of meze will be brought out after you’re done with pre-meal drinks and snacks. And while it’s hard to resist dipping the pita or saj bread into absolutely everything within reach, you need to steel yourself for the main courses, which will arrive just when you think you can’t eat any more. And I have the tummy to prove it.

pre-dinner nibbles

The most famous meze is hummus, a smooth chickpea paste made with tahini. The Arabic word for chickpeas is “hummus” (spelled various ways in English, as are other dishes) and it’s rare that you see hummus flavored with anything; additions are added to the shiny olive oil pooled in the middle.

Everything from more chickpeas, to za’atar, pine nuts, sumac, and even preserved lamb cooked in its own fat (awarma) are spooned in the oily well and scooped up.

mixed greens sumac cheese houmus

Other dips include eggplant-based mutabal (also spelled moutabal), which is what we often refer to as Baba Ganoush in the west. And there’s Labneh a spreadable fresh cheese, eaten like a dip, made by draining yogurt for several hours or overnight. You can easily make it at home and some Greek yogurts are basically labneh, although apparently there is a good amount of controversy over what constitutes Greek yogurt these days due to companies taking liberties with the terms and process.

But it’s one of the easiest meze to put together and you just smear it onto a plate, or a shallow bowl, take a spoon and make some divots in the surface, and pour on the olive oil. I like mine with toasted nuts and sumac, a red seasoning that’s tart and tangy, and used liberally in Lebanese cuisine.

Arab cheese (shanklish) with za'atar and fava beans

One curiosity I liked was Chanklish (or Shanklish), a blue-molded cheese whose fermented flavors are best enjoyed crumbled, with olive oil poured over the salad and leaves of za’atar, an herb with flavors reminiscent of thyme and savory, get scattered here and there over the top.

fried haloumi cheese

One of my very favorite meze dishes is Halloum Beajine, or fried haloumi cheese. I like it so much that, as you can see, I scarfed most of it down before I took a snap of it. I often ate this for breakfast, where it was served at room temperature, cubed and soaked in spiced olive oil, and served with olives.

Clos St Thomas haloumi with olive oil

Almost all the meze I had were vegetarian and would certainly fall into the “healthy” category, as most contained, nuts, seeds, olive oil, fresh herbs and cheese, and vegetables. So if you like vegetables as much as I do, it’s definitely a pleasure to be in a place where they are celebrated and served in abundance. I never get when people make derisive comments about vegetarian cooking because I could eat this way for the rest of my life and be happy.

Herbs, cheese, pickles, nuts, seeds, and fresh fruits and vegetables are an integral and important part of Lebanese cuisine. I especially enjoyed a vegetable-rich version of labneh known Labneh al Balad, where finely diced fresh vegetables were mixed into the thick, white spreadable cheese. Both that, and the fried haloumi, are on my list for things to put in my regular rotation at home.

herbed labne

Big, generous, leafy salads figure into Lebanese cuisine and I couldn’t get enough Fattoush, a mixed bowl of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and fried or toasted pita chips, all seasoned with a dusting of sumac and pomegranate molasses.

fattoush salad

I was over-the-moon happy to discover Fatteh, a dish named after the crumbled bread (fattat), which is a baked casserole cooked with deep-dried crumbled pita chips, and sometimes chicken, eggplant, or hummus, then can be served with pine nuts and dried mint scattered over it. It was so good I was glad I went to Al Balad the last day because I had to have it one last time.

Tabbouleh is another popular salad and unlike versions elsewhere, Lebanese tabbouleh usually has just a slight scattering of bulgur (ground wheat) in it. Or sometimes, none at all – it can be offered as just a big bowl of dressed, shredded flat-leaf parsley with bits of tomatoes.

tabbouleh

Until a half a head of raw cabbage was plunked down in front of me, I didn’t realize this, but tabbouleh is absolutely delicious eaten by tearing off a cabbage leaf and using it to scoop up and eat the herbal salad.

cabbage Al Balad in Lebanon

Other times, people use leaves of romaine lettuce, which are a bit more decorative – but just as effective.

Lebanese tabbouleh



Related Links and Posts

Shakshuka

Haj Kahil

The Hummus Factory

Eggplant Caviar

Cucumber and Feta Salad


Note: You’ll notice certain dishes and ingredients are spelled a little differently in various places in this post. Since they were translated from Arabic, there are variations in how they read and are pronounced in English. (Such as hummus, labne, and moutabal.) I provided the terms that were written on menus in Lebanon or those that seemed to be the most commonly used.

95 comments

  • To anyone near the 15e looking for Greek yogurt (the real stuff, not Danone) you could do far worse than Les Délices d’Orient. (52, Av. Emile Zola). They usually have 3 different brands in addition to labneh and just about everything else David has mentioned in his posts from Lebanon. As an added bonus, they’re open on Sundays!

  • It is customary to eat fresh fava beens directly from the shell in Italy in this season too… it is often accompanied by some pecorino cheese. Back to this meze glory: it was very naughty of you to post this right before lunch David!

  • ooops, forgive my many spelling mistakes, I think my growling stomach distracted me… I meant fava “beans” and “they are often accompanied” of course!

  • All of this food looks absolutely delicious. I just returned from Israel and they too are snackers. I felt like I was eating at all times of the days. I thought it was a nice way to live instead of having crazy huge meals like you do in America.

  • Your comment about leaving someone’s house if you were not offered a snack reminds me of when I was young growing up in Scotland. Tea or coffee was considered ” too wet” without a biscuit or a piece of cake. I think I prefer the nut option! Thank you for your wonderful descriptive posts, I love Lebanese foods.

    • The woman I traveled through Lebanon with told me that if someone invites you to their home for a mean, whether you are a friend or stranger, it’s rude to say no due to Lebanese hospitality. Instead, if you can’t make it, you say “Next time.”

  • Suggestion for a future post: best Lebanese restaurants in Paris. There are a lot of so-called Lebanese restaurants but which ones are the best?

    • I haven’t found a very good one, which is unfortunate (and odd) because there are a number of Lebanese people here. When I was in Beirut I asked some French people about it and they said it was because the terroir was different. (Um, ok..)

      I used to go to a Lebanese place in the 15th with a Lebanese friend, that was very good, but they unfortunately closed. But if anyone has any to share, they can certainly do so on the comments.

      • Try Liza. Metro Bourse.
        Les delices d’orient also have a good take away sandwicherie next to their shop.

  • So, so many of my favorite things- labneh and tabbouleh and hummus and haloumi and fattoush! The list goes on and on. I just ate breakfast and already I’m starving. Thank you for such beautiful photos and descriptions, I hope I get a chance to see all these delicious things for myself someday.

  • You know what? I’ve just eaten a hu-u-u-ge lunch, but this post made me salivate! All my favourite sorts of food!

    I’m in Paris this weekend, can’t wait!!!!

  • Super interesting post, thanks !
    All of these look really good…

  • I can tell that I must go to Lebanon because you’re talking about all the foods I love! Really enjoying this series of posts.

  • David, thank you for inspiration for cooking and trying out all these authentic foods – it was very interesting to read… I’m running out to buy sumac now, all the rest of ingredients I already have :)

  • This was so decadent, thank you! I am drooling and it’s only 10 AM here. :)

    In Paris, my husband had a Lebanese colleague who took the work group out to a Lebanese resto run by friends of his in Paris. It was incredible. Of course, since we were brought in by a friend, we were given the best treatment and the most delectable dishes, but I still remember trying to decide if it would be horribly rude to lick the hummus plate.

    Here’s the info:

    Le Cèdre d’Or
    Spécialités Libanaises
    13, Rue Commines
    Paris 3ième
    Métro: Filles du Calvaire
    01 42 77 79 25

  • OMG! I could eat that food for the rest of my life! I think I’m addicted to Lebanese/Mediterranean food!
    I would also love to “snack” all day because its so healthy!

  • !!!!! just what i needed out here in l.a. where i’m discovering so many people are from lebanon (even if they first self-identify as armenian). now i know what to do with labneh and the raw green almonds and those little green plums all of which they sell here in the markets and supermarkets. already my concept of hommos has so broadened out. we have a different kind every week.

    sounds like you had a fab and sunny time. thx for sharing!

  • Doesn’t Paris have a middle-eastern neighbourhood? I found a not-so-tiny shop in my very average-sized (and very swedish) city. Once I entered the shop I was just floored. Took me the better part of an hour just to get an overview for the most essential groceries. I go back as often as I can.

    • There are a number of Lebanese and Iranian places in the 15th and some épiceries scattered around Paris. So you can find some of the products – however I’ve yet to find a really great Lebanese place, although am sure they are out there.

      • This shop that I go to has all of the middle-east under one roof. There’s a fairly large immigrant community but arguably, where I live is not Paris. I don’t have to travel far distances to get to it. There’s persian, lebanese, turkish foods and groceries under one roof. The proprietor is more than happy to bring in new items. More and more “regular” people have found the shop, among the spices, nuts, seeds, excellent meat (everything you can eat on a duck for instance). The influx of swede’s seem to have come as a surprise. One is always treated courteously but with a wiff of hesitance.

        I found kaymak on my latest excursion. I knew then that I was doomed. I will also give plenty for a great kibbeh.

  • wow what a culinary trip. Now I really want to go. Between your posts and salma hage cookbook my palates are going crazy. I know I can always make some Lebanese dishes at home but it’s not the same. Thanks for bringing Lebanon to Los Angeles.

  • I like your ‘oof’ that’s very français!

  • You are killing me with all these Lebanese food posts. No wonder my father talks endlessly about how wonderful Beirut was and is. He was lucky enough to live there for a while. I want to move.

  • David, thank you for capturing our food, culture, and style of eating so very well. And above all, thank you for your appreciation of Lebanese hospitality, which we think is unrivaled ’round the world!

  • All of these foods look delicious. As a vegetarian I would love this way of eating to become more common in the UK, so much more interesting than a single dollop of risotto or pasta. When staying in Paris many years back, my husband and I visited a Lebanese restaurant several times to enjoy a spread of numerous small dishes of beautifully prepared vegetable dishes. The only one we didn’t like was a grated carrot dish that had an unwelcome fish essence added!

  • Fattoush! By all the gods – the very best! One eats very well in the Middle East. Thanks for a trip down memory food lane.

  • Glorious – wish I has this waiting for me for lunch today – thanks!!

  • I love your fresh photos and am currently working through your latest book, Ready For Dessert. Thank you so much. I curl up on the couch at night with the book and just salivate. :)

  • Wow that all looks delicious! And thanks for the commentary re: vegetarians. I’ve been one for 22 years now and don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. There’s plenty of culinary adventure to be had without eating animals :)

  • Thanks Dave reminds me of the 20 wonderful years I had in Lebanon
    At first (1975) they served approx 40 different dishes when you ordered a mezze followed by a main course fruit and dessert By the time I had to leave, dishes were ordered as per those you actually wanted Saved money and a lot of wastage.What hospitable people the Lebanese are. Let’s hope the Syrian situation does not flow over there too much.

    • I wonder what they do with all the food. Every table seems to be overloaded with it. What an experience you must have had living there. Really (really) sad and unfortunate about the situation in Syria. Everyone I met said it was an amazing country, with great food as well, and people spoke quite fondly of Syria.

      • In some areas that I’ve travelled, the table is filled again and again and again until you wonder if you can get up at all. I love the hospitality, and the offering of the best the house can offer. It taught me a great deal about sharing and of always making room at the table for any guest I had some great meals in the middle east (sorry for lumping the region all together, it’s really not fair!), even families with very little give you the very best they have to offer.

  • If you ever decide to switch careers, you certainly have a calling in the area of food photography. The pictures are so appealing I can barely resist licking my computer screen. One question, if I may, what is the greenery in the center of the labneh in the very first picture? Is it mint?

    • Thanks! Although the food was so beautiful, it didn’t take much to snap pics of it. That’s a sprig of mint in the labneh ~

  • My husband’s step dad is Armenian, so he grew up with many of the foods you mention. He was over the moon when we ate at Le Zyriab at the top of Institut du Monde Arabe, My chicken was a little dry, but everything else was very tasty. It’s the only Lebanese food I’ve ever had in a restaurant, so I don’t have anything to compare it to (other than my mother-in-law’s Armenian versions)–but maybe you’ve eaten there, David, and will favor us with your comments?

    • I haven’t been there, except to see the spectacular view. It is a Noura restaurant, a local Middle East chain (I think it’s local) so I don’t know if they just run it or if it’s changed completely since you went

  • David, my favorite Lebanese restaurant is Le Bois Le Vent in the 16th, near the Mozart metro. We were first taken there by a Lebanese friend and it is seriously good. Their fried rolls of cheese have my mouth watering just at the memory, absolutely delicious. When people ask me if I miss living in Paris, my answer is always no – but that restaurant is one of the few things I really do miss having in my life! Thanks for the recipes, maybe this will motivate me to try reproducing them myself instead of feeling sorry for myself for not having a good Lebanese restaurant nearby. Here is the trip advisor review:

    http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g187147-d805110-Reviews-Le_Bois_Le_Vent-Paris_Ile_de_France.html

  • I want to go there! Salivating just thinking it. On another note…. David, If you weren’t in NYC on Monday, I saw your twin.

  • Thanks for the Food Porn.
    Don’t stop!!!

  • Fabulous post David! And thank you commenters for various locations in Paris to go for Lebanese! So happy I live in the 15th.

  • I can’t wait for tomato season to start so I can make lots of tabbouleh and have meze parties with beer. Although how are all lebanese people not obese? It seems as if all they do is eat. Which seems like a pretty pleasant life if you ask me.

  • Thanks for another wonderful post! always something new to learn and discover. Without your posts on Lebanese food I would never have gone to the trouble to find that there is a cluster of middle eastern and Lebanese restaurants just 30 miles from where I live. Close enough to warrant a trip.

  • Adding my praise for this entire series on Lebanese food–so well done with great photos and wonderful stories. Enjoyed learning about serving hummus with the additions placed in “the shiny pool of oil.” Also intrigued by the Labneh al Balad–what vegetables were included in what you had? I’m imagining tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions, kalamatas and perhaps fresh mint and some za’atar. And then serve it with romaine leaves. I may just have to start straining some yogurt. . .

  • When I started reading this post, I was brought back to my grandparents’ (Armenian) living room and the big bowl of nuts/seeds/dried fruit. Then I had to laugh when you ended that section with an OOF! Did you pick that up there as well? My sister and I are always getting razzed for that. Can’t imagine being stuck on a delayed flight for that long. As for the plums, that’s one thing I miss dearly – not the little un-ripe sour ones, but another variety. I’m not sure of the name, but my grandfather had a few trees in his yard, and they were my favorite. They were the same size as the other plums but with a slightly firmer green flesh and a sweet flavor that started off like a plum but finished with an almost coconut taste. I’ve only seen them in the grocery stores once where I live in NY now. :(

  • I love a Lebanese Meze, just made one for lunch today in fact. I’d love to try some of those green almonds. How’s the wine?

    • The wines were quite good. I didn’t realize Lebanon was considered a good terroir for wine. I liked the whites and the rosés; I found the reds rather “hot” and a little strong for my taste. But the wines in general were quite good – at least the ones I had.

  • Speaking of meze, I treasure Joanne Weir’s Tapas to Meze cookbook I believe you recommended awhile back….at least I think you were the one who mentioned it :)

  • I have recently discovered Lebanese foods and have been trying a few recipes out. I now find I use zatar and sumac in western recipes too. I loved reading this blog and looking at the mouth watering photos. Feeling hungry now…

  • My favorite is ezme and labneh dipped together with pide. Yesssss.

  • Re: Le Zyriab–Yes, the official name of the restaurant is Le Zyriab by Noura. I knew there was at least one other Noura location across town, but hadn’t realized it was a chain. We love their hummus and flat bread, the tabbouleh (served there as you describe, with just a little bulgur) and fatoush–we’ve been there 4 or 5 times and get these same first courses every visit. They bring out little bowls of raw, husked almonds and olives while you’re reading the menu (pages and pages!). And yes, the view is fabulous! I’d still like to know how it compares to “real” Lebanese food, so if anyone else has been there, check in!

  • A culture of snacking where all the snacks are healthy and delicious….I need to move there. Also glad you discovered fried haloumi cheese, I love how squeaky it is! In Brazil theres a similar cheese called queijo minas that I loved to have pan-friend on bread and after much experimenting with cheeses I finally found haloumi was the closest approximation to it (queijo minas is a little fresher and less salty).

  • Wow, that looks like one delicious holiday! And such an enjoyable post.

    I have a major sweet tooth so I’m curious as to what they eat for dessert in Lebanon?

  • Wonderful. Wish you would turn these mezze into recipes

    • I included links to recipes on my site for many of these dishes, and linked to other sites as well so folks could reproduce them at home – give ‘em a try! : )

  • Mouth-watering, I think I could adapt to the meze style of eating very easily!

  • I am vacationing in Lebanon as well and staying at my sister-in-laws house. Even if it is one o’clock in the morning and we’ve just come home from dinner and argyle, I was just offered fresh almonds, full akdar, some labneh, pita, zaytoune and nuts. The Lebanese are very hospitable and love to eat! It has been a great experience and I will definitely be coming back!

  • I notice you mentioned pomegranate molasses as an ingredient in Fattoush. I recently made an Indian dish that recommended using pomegranate molasses as a topping along with yogurt. I’d never had the stuff before. Now I recommend pomegranate molasses as one of the world’s great condiments. Fabulous flavor.

  • More painfully tantalising deliciousness! Labneh Al Balad sounds like heaven in a bowl, but although I found a picture of it I couldn’t find a recipe anywhere. Can I ask what kind of vegetables they include in it? They’re chopped so fine in the picture I found it’s impossible to tell. I want it NOW! Or at least tomorrow when my yoghurt drains.

  • I love how creative the idea to make such deeply swirled bowls of the dip is. Then the pool of gold way at the bottom with little treasures in it – so simple but so pretty.

    And I’ve been getting purslane by the bunch from my local health food market for its omega 3 content – and am so happy to have a new salad idea! Think I will make that tonight with a bowl of hummus and some romaine spears, mahalo! Off to get some sumac!

  • PS: that first photo is truly killer – not only compositionally, but it clearly shows just how silky hummus can be, which is my favorite way to have it. If only I could get the variety of garbanzo’s they use – the small ones! Mexican garbanzo’s just aren’t the same even when peeled…but still delicious!

  • You did another amazing report David. I love your use of “oof” BTW…very Lebanese :)

    Although, Arak is not a distillation of anise seeds. It’s distilled from fermented grapes and flavored with anise seeds.

  • Ohhh…I usually get my restaurant recommendations from your blog so I’m very excited to share with you one instead! Despite it’s name, I think it’s pretty authentic Lebanese fare.

    Restaurant Solemar
    56 Rue Poussin
    75016 Paris France

    Closest metro is Porte d’Auteuil

  • The older i get & the more i hear about the abuse animals going through in order to grace our tables, the more i avoid flesh and enjoy vegetarian. I’m sure i’m not alone when i hope that there might there be a vegetarian middle eastern cook book in your future :-)

  • JT + Meg: Thanks for the restaurant suggestions – all the way over in the 16th! : ) Will give them a try next time I am over there.

    Gavrielle: There is no recipe for it; just use whatever vegetables and seasonings you like (such as scallions, herbs, red onions, carrots, etc) and stir them in. Anything not too juicy would work well.

    Sissy: Yes, that’s one of my all-time favorite books. It was republished a few years ago, but I still have my original copy.

    Eliza: All the foods that I had were healthy – lot of vegetables, some meat, fresh cheeses, olive oil, nuts, etc. Like most places, there are fast-food restaurants and so forth. But it was very easy to eat all these foods ~

  • These pictures are breathtakingly beautiful: they make my mouth water but also give me an ache inside. There’s an arabic word for it: haneen which translates to longing/nostalgia etc.. Glad the world is seeing the softer side of Lebanon :)

  • David, I just remembered that there is a famous chocolate shop at the Beirut airport. You MUST try it. I’ve never been there, but sometimes my dad sends a package from a business trip and it’s some of the best chocolate I’ve ever eaten! I don’t know what it’s called, sadly, but there can’t be too many.
    This all sounds like a fantastic trip!!

  • David, it has been a joy watching your Lebanese adventures ~ loved catching them real time on Instagram! All of these bites look wonderful…..some I have tried, some not. Lots look really different stateside. Glad to hear it was such a wonderful trip!

  • Maureen, I’ve never had a pink box, but the chocolates are individually wrapped in silver and gold foil. Most of them are milk chocolate with different nuts/nougatine inside. Now that I’ve googled it, that seems to describe a lot of Lebanese chocolate. Still can’t find it. :(

  • love, love the Lebanon posts! david did you head to the north(mountains?) that’s where my family is originally from, fantastic fresh produce and so many home made delights. nothing beats waking up to fresh milk and yogurt and man’oushi made on the spot by the elderly woman across the road. evenings spent staying up with cousins until the wee hours while the uncles press grapes and tend to the arak machine which releases the slow steady stream of arak while the rest of us chat by a small bonfire flipping saj bread as snacks. ahhh the fond memories of my visits :)

  • Labneh! As soon as I saw that picture, it took me straight back to my college days. My roommate got electrolysis (I was so sheltered back then) from a Lebanese woman who always sent her home with homemade labneh. I used to eat that up like there was no tomorrow!

  • This post makes me want to go to Beirut so badly! Like you, I’m an American Jew living in Paris and I have a question – how were you able to go to Lebanon as a Jew who has been to Israel before? I would love to go to Lebanon, but the US gov’t travel website says that people can be imprisoned for attempting to enter Lebanon if they have been to Israel before or even have a Jewish sounding name. Did you receive special permission from the Lebenese government?

    • I just entered the country with everyone else. As an American you need a visa which, when I went, was free and I just got my passport stamped and entered. (Actually, I think it may have been the fastest and easiest I’ve ever gotten into a foreign country!) I didn’t get any special permission, however I did read on one of the websites that if your passport had an Israeli stamp in it, you would likely be denied entry – but I don’t know or haven’t heard about those other terms. I have a new passport, which they looked at, and allowed me in.

      (As always, these things can change so I urge people to read official government websites to obtain the correct information before entering any country to make sure they can travel wherever they visit.)

  • More info about the chocolate shop, above (gotta love modern communication…just texted dad in Ireland, from NYC, about the Beirut store): It’s right behind the security check on the left side. Apparently you can’t miss it. Still no name.

  • @David: Many thanks, esp for the tip about avoiding vegetables that are too juicy. I didn’t think labneh could be improved upon, but this version is going to be my new obsession. (Bet sumac would be nice…)

  • These posts are making me very homesick. I especially miss the little green plums and almonds in spring…funny that they were the only thing you didn’t like that much. I think Lebanese really love sour flavors. Did you get a chance to explore the countryside? Everything is in bloom this time of year.

  • To get your awarma fix a little closer to home, you could try Chez le Libanais (rue Saint André des Arts). They season theirs with a touch of cinnamon and some bay leaf, then serve it in a sort of chausson, with either hummus or labneh (your choice). It’s really tasty, cheap, street food.

  • I am from Lebanon and was born their this article hits the nail on the head its been my dream to bring a restaurant that serves these foods for a long time. Im happy you enjoyed your trip

  • For the person who asked about travelling to Israel and later Lebanon – it’s probably not going to help much at this point, but I think upon entry to Israel you can ask to have the stamp placed on a separate page and not actually in the passport, so as to avoid future travel issues.

    I’ve really been enjoying the Lebanese posts; the food here in the region is fantastic and it’s great to see it presented so well and enthusiastically by David.

  • I love tabbouleh with minimal bulgur. We have a nearby shop that prepares it this way, and one day I watched as the shop owner kept adding tomatoes and squeezing lemons for a special order (not normally kept in the shop alas for purchase). She said this is the way it should be made and gave me a small bowl. It was markedly different and much to my preference. A former friend insisted that it be made with mainly bulgur and it’s tasteless – too much chewing.

  • I love the green plums! They are my favorite since my childhood in istanbul. Unfortunately, I cannot find them in Paris…

  • Lovely write-up, David. I’ll never eat my tabbouleh without lettuce or cabbage again!

  • David, that is the most beautiful photo of lebnah I have ever seen! These posts and your series from Israel are among my favorites – everything looks so fresh, healthy, and tasty. I think we’ll be eating a la Mediterranean/middle eastern for a while now…

  • fabulous! haloumi is one of the best things in life…but unfortunately can’t get it here in Burgundy. Friends coming to visit always know that is the only thing I ask anyone to bring me.

  • Yes, I am with Meg, Le Bois Le Vent in Passy is really excellent! Although I prefer their “traiteur” opposite to the restaurant. The lady there is so nice too! The best restaurant is Al Mankal on avenue de New York. It’s not expensive, despite the address, and they have a small garden. Make sure you go hungry!

  • I am enjoying Lebanon vicariously! Could you tell me what vegetables are in the Labneh al Balad. I think I see olives, tomato and cucumbers. Perhaps garlic and mint?I make Labneh all the time, but it never occurred to me to mix veggies in. I will be adding this to the roster!

  • Beautiful yummy pictures

    Eating raw beans (yummy) even better raw peas (yummy yummy), 7omos (100%yummy), labneh with herbs &olive oil is my favorite or with sweet tomatoes&parsley.
    I adore the cuisine of lebanon

    I’ve a recipe of chickpea fetteh with a moroccan touch (in dutch but it is the third post on my blog), if you’re interessed

  • Seriously should never read your posts before breakfast. Now I am starving for Lebanese cuisine for breakfast. Here is a za’atar recipe
    Green Za’atar recipe:2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
    2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
    2 teaspoons ground sumac
    1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
    Sprinkle at the last minute on hummus(otherwise an Israeli told me the sesame seeds will get soggy), or you can sprinkle on pita bread brushed with olive oil and baked until crispy.

  • I absolutely love your blog. I read your book on France and it was one of my all time favorites. I wish you would keep writting books or compile your blogs into books. I just love your insight, humor and writing over all.
    #1 fan,
    Ursula Albrecht

  • I can just picture everyone sitting around the table after eating that bowl of tabouli with their green toothy smiles!

  • I love to read your articles.. I know about meze for a long long time … my parents used to serve this type of meals in France… I am french and cook french, but once in a while I make a dolmas.it;s a lot of work, therefore I buy them in a can… pas la meme chose, mais tant pis! ouf….. ça suffit

  • Why can’t we get so many great foods like these in the U.S.? Is there laws or something that keeps foods out? Thanks for sharing!