In the past decade, Middle Eastern foods have left the boundaries of ethnic communities and entered our homes, supermarkets, and restaurants. Hummus led the way and soon other delicious foods followed – falafel, pita, kebab, tabbouleh, baklava…
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Do you have a favorite Middle Eastern food? Below we offer 12 of our favorite fresh, healthy, simple, rich, and aromatic Mideast dishes that will make your mouth water!
Vegan and Vegetarian Middle Eastern Foods
Hummus is a creamy spread/dip made of mashed chickpeas, tahini, garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice. Besides these basic ingredients, you can add whatever your heart desires – avocados, sweet potatoes, beets, spinach, zucchini, peppers, and more! Then, you can add hummus to a plethora of dishes like sandwiches, burgers, pizza, pasta, baked potatoes, or simply smear it on a traditional hot pita bread!
Falafel is probably the second most popular Middle Eastern food after hummus. Chickpeas are the main ingredient here as well, forming the base for the fried balls, together with onions and spices. The best version of falafel is the sandwich with pita bread and salad, but the chickpea balls can be also served as an appetizer on a mezze platter. It is also worth mentioning that falafel is a great vegan substitute for meat!
Tabbouleh is a magical salad that combines cracked wheat (bulgur), onion, tomatoes, parsley, and mint. Other vegetables can be optionally added. Serve tabbouleh as a light lunch, side dish, or appetizer.
Halloumi is un-ripened, semi-hard, brined cheese made from a mixture of sheep’s and goat’s milk. Unlike other cheese types, no bacteria or acid is used in the making of halloumi. Thanks to its high melting point, these salty cheese slabs are perfect for frying and grilling. Put halloumi on the menu for your next summer barbecue.
#5 Baba Ganoush
Baba Ganoush is another popular Middle Eastern dip. It is made of eggplant and tahini and, similar to hummus, it is great for dipping veggies or pita bread. You can spice it up with roasted garlic or chili for an extra kick.
This Middle Eastern food is a proof of how a simple addition of an exotic ingredient can make a dish stand out. Fattoush is a bread salad made from fried or toasted pieces of pita bread combined with vegetables like lettuce, radishes, cucumbers, onions, tomatoes and seasoned with olive oil and mint. So refreshing!
Meat-Based Middle Eastern Foods
Kofta is a broad term which encompasses meatball or meatloaf dishes found in Middle Eastern, South Asian, Central Asian, and Balkan cuisines. In the Middle East, kofta balls/patties are most common in Pakistan and Iran. They’re made of minced beef or lamb, onions, and spices. Then, they’re grilled, fried, or baked and served along with a spicy sauce. In the Arabic countries, kofta is often shaped as small cylinders and cooked on a stick.
The term kebab refers to various cooked (usually grilled) meat dishes originating in Middle Eastern cuisine. Although people in the Western countries often associate the word ‘kebab’ with skewered meat, not all kebab varieties are prepared that way.
Kebab dishes are based on ground or chopped meat. Lamb and mutton are the two most commonly used variants. Less frequently, beef, chicken, goat, fish, and seafood are used. Authentic kebab recipes rarely call for pork due to religious prohibitions.
For us, the two most popular kebab varieties are probably shish kebab (a grilled skewer with meat and vegetables) and döner kebab (Turkish kebab, made of meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie).
Shawarma is what gyros are to Greeks and döner kebab to the Turkish. The meat (lamb, beef, turkey, beef, chicken, veal, or mixed meats) is grilled in a block on a vertical rotisserie. Then, a big knife is used to cut shavings of the meat which can be served together with a garlic puree as a sandwich wrap or on a plate.
Shawarma is usually combined with salads like tabbouleh or fattoush, veggies like tomato and cucumber, as well as toppings like hummus and tahini. Those who have tried this Middle Eastern food swear it is the best drunk food when combined with ayran (a cold yogurt beverage mixed with salt) and the best cure for a hangover!
Our Favorite Sweet Middle Eastern Foods
In the Middle East, baklava recipes can vary depending on the region but the basic recipe is similar – it is prepared from filo dough sheets and covered in syrup.
In the Middle East, rose or orange water is often added to flavor the syrup. As for the fillings, they range from chopped almonds and pistachios spiced with cardamom to walnuts & ghee, or even more modern chocolate versions. Baklava can appear in the shape of small rolls or, more commonly, cut into lozenge pieces.
The term ‘halva’ covers any sweet & dense confections in the Middle East but generally refers to two broader dessert categories: Nut and butter halva, which usually contains tahini or another nut butter combined with sugar and is somewhat dry and crumbly. Flour-based halva, made with semolina or another type of grain flour, ghee, and sugar and more gelatinous in texture. Other ingredients can also be added to halva recipes, such as pumpkin, carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, squash, lentils, and beans.
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#12 Rice Pudding
In the Middle East, rice pudding can appear in many different flavors depending on the country and region. Some recipes call for rose or orange blossom water, while others favor spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, or cardamom. Garnishes vary as well. However, the base of all recipes remains the same: rice, milk, and sugar.
Tip: Combine your sweet Middle Eastern foods with a cup of warm Turkish coffee. Enjoy!
I believe that food should not only taste good, but make you feel good as well and that is why I am so interested in exploring ingredients, preparing meals, and finding ways to make the whole cooking experience fun and exciting! Being a blogger for MyGreatRecipes unites my two passions – food and writing, and I am enjoying every second of it!