Food for the soul in the Middle East: Go for the Turkish coffee, stay for the Mezze
The Middle East is one of the most interesting regions to travel to and its food makes it even more worthwhile.
The best thing about Middle Eastern fare is its diversity. The cuisine may vary in each country, but fresh ingredients, astringent and piquant spices, olive oil, and meat is a common point in most dishes. As is the case in a lot of Middle Eastern markets, spices and dates are the main attraction. A stroll through the Souk El-Kabeer in Dubai will get you woozy with the countless colours, enthralling bouquets of spices like Zatar, which typically comprises dried thyme, sesame seeds and salt, and Sumac, which is appetisingly citrus and tangy. You would love the fragrance of mint which is used in flavouring the tea. The Carmel market in Tel Aviv is another sort of gem — shops that sell all kinds of fresh produce and local food stuff…do not miss the Lapa…its decadent!
Middle Eastern meals are not served in courses like the Western style. Mezze, which are inexhaustible and highly flavoured range of irresistible nibbles served as either appetizers or as a meal itself can be relished throughout the Middle East! Hummus, rice and meat wrapped in vine leaves, mashed beans, hot and cold salads, grilled seafood and meats and pickled vegetables being the most popular.
ZouZou at La Mer the new Beach front district in Dubai comes highly recommended. As you might predict, hot and cold mezze are a highlight. Hot favourites are the kibbeh and the pizza like arayes with minced lamb, parsley, sesame paste and pine nuts. Other add-ons like the Kebabs and Bread are customarily brought together with the Mezze on the table. Baklava or a fresh bowl of fruits will make for a sweet dessert.
Coffee is a vital part of the Middle Eastern heritage. Turkish coffee is an essential part of Turkish culture and accepting a cup of coffee is a source of pride to the person who offers it. Dubai Coffee Museum, the notable ever in the UAE is a fairly new player on Dubai's traditional scene, taking to presence the eras old brew and for any coffee lover, this is the heaven you may have dreamt of ! Recommendations go all out for trying a cup of Ethiopian coffee on the ground floor. The museum also comprises an Emiratistyle majlis, where native Bedouin coffee ethnicities are observed. But if you like it modern, head up to the first floor altered brew-bar where a barista will most craftily lay out your favoured cuppa even as you get absorbed with the story of coffee embellishing the walls.
- Rupali Dean is a food writer based out of Delhi.