Tawlet Souk el Tayeb, Lebanese food in Paris

Tawlet Souk el tayeb Lebanese food paris

One of the great regrets I had in life was when I went to Beirut and didn’t go to the Tawlet Souk el Tayeb, a culinary project supporting local farmers, cooks, and producers. There’s also a weekly farmers’ market, classes and meals.

Lebanese salads

Because my schedule was so packed on my trip, as much as I tried, I didn’t make it. A few years later – as in, this week, Kamal Mouzawak, the founder of the Souk el Tayeb, brought the cooks from Beirut to Paris. So I was anxious to go and cleared a patch in my schedule. (Although I wouldn’t mind going back to Beirut!)

Pickled turnips

I arrived early to check out what was happening in the kitchen, where the women were bustling around, preparing food for dinner. I noticed a big platter of pickled turnips, ready to go between pita breads for the homemade falafels they were frying up, which was a good sign. They weren’t the store-bought ones, but homemade.

Man'ouche

But even better was the domed saj, a grill for making Lebanese flatbreads, which is also the name of some of the breads that are baked on it. The women were smearing the flatbreads with the best za’atar I’ve ever had, from Abu Kassem in Lebanon. Visiting his za’atar farm spoiled me for life, and it’s hard to eat the dusty bags of herbs sitting on the shelf of stores because I’ve had the sharp, vibrant mix of herbs, sumac, and sesame, that he grows the herbs for, and mixes himself. I had hoped they would have brought me an extra bag, but I didn’t see any bags with my name on it lying around, so I’m going to put that on my list if they come back.

falafel

Because my Arabic is rusty, I was told through a woman who kindly translated for me, that the falafel recipe was the one the cook’s family uses that is only chickpeas, and contains no favas.

falafel

I got to taste one right out of the fryer which it made me wish they opened a full-time stand in Paris. They say if you go to a falafel place and they are not frying the falafels to order, you should go somewhere else. At dinner, due to the logistics of the restaurant, it wasn’t possible for them to fry them to order, but they were still excellent and I was glad we had reserved a table to stay and dine at.

Tawlet Souk el tayeb Lebanese food parisFalafel

The cook’s of Tawlet, women from across Lebanon, have arrived in Paris for the week and will be making and serving food through July 2. The menus are going to be changing daily and exploring a different region of Lebanon each day. We had a vegetarian platter (€27) and La grande assiette (€35), which contained 8 and 10 items, respectively. (Lunch service is à la carte and you can get individual salads.)

The vegetarian platter had an excellent Lebanese Tabbouleh (which contains little bulgur, unlike versions elsewhere that are bowls of grains flecked with herbs here and there), Chanklish (a mashed salad made with Lebanese blue cheese, that’s one of my favorite things), Hummus, Batenjein raheb (eggplant, tomato and onion salad), okra cooked in olive oil with tomatoes, and za’atar and spinach man’oushe flatbreads.

Tawlet Souk el tayeb Lebanese food paris

The Grand Assiette (above) had chicken brochettes, tiny sausages called Makanek b debes remen, made with molasses, Machawe (beef brochettes) and a ground meat-filled triangle of dough, cooked on the saj griddle. (Full menu here.)

Lebanese molasses cake

Maybe I’m just getting old and cranky, but I recommend sitting indoors, where the women are preparing the food and there’s less extraneous activity. The terraces of cafés in Paris, especially in hip neighborhoods, are invariably clogged with smokers and have gotten quite boisterous. (I remember when it used to be the French shushing Americans!) I met a friend for a glass of wine the other night in my neighborhood and the next morning, my voice was raw and hoarse from trying to shout about the din, and the copious amount of smoke,

My choice would be to go during the day and sit in the café downstairs at Merci because you’re closer to the kitchen and it’s easier to focus on the food, which is always my priority in situations like this. To me, it’s a thrill to be served authentic food from another culture. I love what these women are doing.

Tawlet Souk el tayeb Lebanese food paris

We especially loved the desserts and (in addition to that falafel stand) I imagined them opening a Lebanese pastry shop, serving beautiful cakes and sweets like we had. Meghlett was gelled rice cream served in a glass topped with pistachios, Karabig were ovals of semolina pastry stuffed with ground pistachios, and Sfouf B Debes, bites of molasses cake topped with toasted sesame seeds, that ended the meal on just the right note.

Tawlet Souk el tayeb Lebanese food paris

[Note: The event took place from June 27 to July 2, 2016, and is now ended. If you are in Beirut, you can visit the Tawlet Souk el Tayeb.]


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21 comments

  • Taste of France
    June 28, 2016 10:34am

    What a wonderful tour you’ve taken us on. Such informative descriptions. If only we could taste it through the screen.
    Will they share any recipes with you?

    • June 28, 2016 12:50pm
      David Lebovitz

      I didn’t ask because we were having dinner and I was concentrating on that, as well as meeting the women and taking snapshots to share the event with readers, and people that might be interested in going.

      Plus I don’t speak Arabic.

  • Daniel
    June 28, 2016 1:37pm

    Fantastic! Any recommendations of other middle eastern places in Paris?

    • June 28, 2016 4:24pm
      David Lebovitz

      Maoz has falafels that most remind me of the ones I’ve had in the Middle East. (With 4 kinds of hot sauce!) And Miznon, while chaotic, is good.

      • Daniel
        June 28, 2016 5:01pm

        Thank you! Will probably try Miznon, as I also have a falafels place close to where I live in the United Kingdom that does them superbly, and very cheaply. If any of your readers has other suggestions, do let me know!

  • Cara
    June 28, 2016 5:15pm

    I just returned from a trip to Lebanon and you’re absolutely right about the za’atar! I always ask my aunt, who is Lebanese, to bring me home bags of it because the stuff sold here in NYC is like eating dust!

    • rosemarie
      June 29, 2016 3:40am

      Really easy to make your own. Assures you of the quality of ingredients, and you don’t have to make a huge quantity that will become stale before you finish it.

  • ElizabethK
    June 28, 2016 5:50pm

    There is just no finer food! Thank you ever so much for expanding my horizons! ;-)

  • Suzan
    June 28, 2016 6:36pm

    YUM. Not to get political, but thank heaven for immigrants and their culinary contributions! (I know, this post is about a visiting kitchen not a permanent restaurant, but I hope for more of the cuisine.)

    • Ann
      June 29, 2016 2:26am

      I agree!!!

  • June 28, 2016 6:53pm

    Absolutely wonderful. My favorite kind of food. Thanks for sharing. I will go.

  • Susan
    June 28, 2016 8:07pm

    I just got Lebanese Home Cooking, Simple, Delicious, Mostly Vegetarian Recipes from Kamal Mouzawak, the Founder of Beirut’s Souk el Tayeb Market. I haven’t tried any recipes yet, but they look delicious.

  • June 28, 2016 10:27pm

    How very good of them to serve lunch in the middle of Ramadan! Their food looks delicious, and I always enjoy Lebanese food when I have it.

  • June 29, 2016 12:29am

    Love seeing authentic people and their food culture…you always do such a good job bringing it to us.

  • melissa
    June 29, 2016 9:19am

    it’s interesting that you noted the social prohibitions/etiquettes in France. I was in Lisbon last summer and we were sat next to a boisterous group of young French people and TWO older, non related, French citizens got up to tell them to basically shush it. i personally thought their approach was severe but now with your explanation i see this in a different light.

    • June 29, 2016 5:17pm
      David Lebovitz

      I don’t like to sound like a grump, but I’ve noticed a huge shift in how loud (and boisterous) things have gotten. One of the great things about France was always how nice and calm dining rooms (and cafés) were, and it’s sad to see it has changed. I guess it’s just a generational thing, as you mentioned the other people told them to quiet down, but I think that’s here to stay.

  • Linda A
    June 30, 2016 4:39am

    Thank you for educating me, David. Some of this food I’m familiar with (and enjoy) but you introduced me to some new dishes.

    And, as far as being a grump – I don’t think you are. We can all do without shouting and smoking, especially when the whole point is to relax, enjoy good company and good food.
    There’s quite enough aggression in the world; some consideration and manners seems a good thing.

  • Laura
    June 30, 2016 9:48pm

    Hi David,
    I am guessing you independently toured Lebanon? solo female wanting to visit but a bit hesitant alone. thanks for the recommendation went to Merci today and LOVED it

    • July 2, 2016 4:35pm

      I traveled to Morocco by myself. I stayed with friends, but they were busy during the day, so I was on my own. I never felt concerned there,, although I did realize that my knee-length skirt felt too short.

      I have also gone to Dubai twice for work and never felt concerned about wandering around by myself.

      If Lebanon is like either of those countries, then I would not worry.

  • reservations for two
    July 1, 2016 2:23pm

    Just a quick caveat: Contrary to what’s noted above, reservations are in fact required for lunch — as we learned at lunchtime today, when we went to Merci to enjoy this special food. We managed to get a spot to eat, after more or less pleading to stay without a reservation… But the place did fill up quickly and the wait staff made all too clear they were not happy making an exception for us. So, with just today and tomorrow left, I strongly advise anyone wishing to go there for lunch to make a reservation first. You won’t regret it!

    • July 1, 2016 2:27pm
      David Lebovitz

      Thanks for letting me know. When I asked, they said that they were only taking reservation for the restaurant upstairs, for dinner. I’ll change the post.