Food of Beirut
While in Beirut you could actually survive only on street food! That is the beauty of Lebanese cuisine - use of only fresh and healthy ingredients like fresh breads, olive oil, laban (homemade yoghurt) herb and spices, very mild in flavour yet quite delectable. Typically the 'ferns'(colloquial for local places with ovens serving cheap food) offer Manousheh, a flatbread of sorts, fragrant with thyme and cheese or meat or Shawarma, garlic flavoured meat grilled on a vertical spit and Falafel, deep fried balls made of chick peas or fawa beans or sweet pastries topped with pistachios.
The Mezze is often regarded as a meal in itself, with as many as forty hot and cold dishes being served together as a platter. The most basic Mezze will have Hummus (chick pea puree with sesame oil and garlic), Baba Ghanoush (eggplant puree laced with pomegranate), Tabouleh (salad of chopped parsley, tomatoes and onions), Labneh(strained yoghurt similar to Cream Cheese), Waraq Anab (grape leaves stuffed with rice and meat), kebabs (cubes of lam with peppers), pickled vegetables. Grilled seafood, cubes of goat cheese, black olives are part of more elaborate platters.
Bread, a staple food in Lebanon is served with almost every meal in the form of flat bread or pita.
Kibbe, consists of ground lamb meat with cracked wheat paste and is considered the national dish. Lamb is the popular meat preference here and is used widely in kafta, kebabs or even lamb legs are stuffed with rice.
Desserts in Lebanon are usually are for those with that extra sweet tooth. Osmaliyeh, a vermicelli cake with cream cheese filling and syrup, and Mouhallabie, flan like pudding are the most sought after desserts here. If you don't fancy sugary endings to your meal, do try the Booza, an Arabic ice cream made with mastic gum, giving it an elastic and sticky texture and is melt resistant! Metri's booza shop is what you should look out for.
Finish your meal the local way, with some Ahweh, thick Arabic coffee or Arak, a white alcoholic beverage made with anise.
Restaurants in Beirut serve all of Italian, Continental, Mediterranean, Japanese and French as well. Fast food joints are also scattered all over. Venture to Bourj Hammoud to experiment with some Armenian cuisine.
Lebanese cuisine traditionally has a lot of vegetarian niceties to offer, with its abundance of starches, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. The oh so delicious hummus and pita or the labneh favours all you vegans out there, not to forget the Fattoush, made with toasted or fried pita bread and mixed green veggies.
If, however, the hummus is not delicious enough to your palate, Indian cuisine is not a rarity at all. Al Hindi, Moti Mahal Deluxe, Jaipur (though it serves North Indian!), Maharaja serves Indian fare.
Pure vegetarian establishments are strewn all over different neighbourhoods, from salad bars, to Auntie Salwa, daily dish restaurant or Sahyoun Falafel or even organic vegan restaurants like Olive Tree.