From Manakeesh To Umm Ali: 7 Middle-Eastern Foods You Must Try
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All cuisines have their own specialty, the use of various ingredients and different styles of cooking add to the uniqueness of each. But each cuisine has some dishes that are famous in other regions too. Like Italian food is known for its pasta dishes, India’s butter chicken is popular worldwide. But, of course, there is a lot more to each of these world cuisines than we know. Any conversation about Middle-Eastern food usually begins with hummus. The appetizer cum dip is made with mashed chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice and is a popular side dish, paired with sandwiches and pita bread. However, there is more to the Middle-East than just hummus.  

Some of the classic flavors of the Middle-East include sesame, olives, olive oil, lemon, garlic, eggplant, tomatoes, honey, dates, mint, and parsley. Rice and pita bread are staple foods of the cuisine and spices like sumac and za'atar are also common, but they are difficult to find.

Here is the list of seven enticing Mideast dishes apart from hummus that can win your taste palate.  

1. Manakeesh: 

Popularly known as the pizza of the Arabic world, manakeesh is a round bread sprinkled with cheese, ground meat and zaatar spices. This easy-to-cook dish is ideal for breakfast as well as lunch and is a good source of iron and Vitamin A. 

2. Pita Bread: 

Pita bread is the most versatile food in Middle-Eastern cuisine and is served with almost every meal. Made with fewer ingredients, it is an ideal base to be filled with meats, vegetables and sauces. It is brushed with olive oil, spices and herbs and works well as a healthy pizza base too.  

3. Falafel: 

This deep-fried, patty-shaped fritter is a popular street food in the Middle-East. Its crunchy texture and savoury taste make it a perfect starter. Made with chickpeas, herbs and spices, falafel goes well with hummus and pita bread. It is popular among vegetarians and is a good source of plant-based protein. 

4. Tabouleh: 

A Levantine salad made with finely chopped fresh parsley, tomato, bulgur, onion, olive oil and lemon juice, tabouleh is very popular in the Middle-East, served as a side dish with hummus, falafel and baba ghanoush. Packed with healthy ingredients, the salad is rich in fibre, Vitamin A, and C and has zero cholesterol. This healthy salad tastes even better the day after it is made. 

5. Umm Ali: 

Umm Ali or Omali is a traditional dessert of Egypt. The bread pudding is made with layers of puff pastry, milk, cream and lots of nuts, raisins and coconut. Umm Ali is named after Sultan Ezz El Din Aybak’s wife, who made it to celebrate victory and distributed among people. It is also considered the national dessert of Egypt. 

6. Baba Ghanoush: 

It is a vegetarian dip made with finely chopped roasted eggplant, olive oil, lemon juice, multiple seasonings and tahini. The appetizer goes well with pita bread and is as popular as hummus in the Middle-Eastern region. The main ingredient, i.e., eggplant, is traditionally baked over an open flame so that the pulp remains soft and gets a smoky taste. 

7. Shankleesh Salad: 

Shankleesh is a type of cheese made with cow or sheep milk and is rolled into golf ball size along with zaatar herbs or chilli flakes. It is popular in the coastal and mountain areas of Tartous and Homs and northern Lebanese regions. The salad is made by combining cheese with onions, tomatoes and parsley is considered to be a super-healthy breakfast treat.  

The specialty of Middle-Eastern cuisine is the use of local herbs and spices. Try these dishes to taste the unique flavour of those local herbs.