I had never tasted Arabic cuisine before i came to Dubai. It took me a while to get used to the subtle flavors of this cuisine that’s eaten across the Arabic speaking world and beyond, from the middle east to Levant (Lebanon, Syria and Jordan) to Egypt and parts of Africa (Tunisia, Sudan, Morocco and Algeria), it has so much in common with the Turkish and even Greek and Cypriot cuisines, it has drawn from and contributed to the Indian food as well. With such diversity, whats striking to me, is the simplicity of each single dish. My favorite of all is the Arabic mezze– an astonishing assortment of hot and cold dips and appetizers, pretty much like the Spanish Tapas, they perfectly exemplify my accessory recipes (that you would read about in my book Accessory Recipes for Magical Mealtimes) colourful with use of lot of raw ingredients, simple and quick to make. While you wait for your main course keep these delightful accessories coming and joy of eating and chattering is doubled.
The best thing i like about eating in the Arabic restaurants is that right after you place your food orders, you promptly get an unlimited supply of freshly baked hot pita bread, fresh green salad and Arabic pickles. The green salad is so fresh that you actually have to cut it yourself right there on the table- the whole cucumbers, the whole red tomatoes, the whole pink radishes, bunch of mint and even whole green peppers! The pickles are simply soured cucumbers, carrots, radishes, green chillies and olives- fold them into the fresh hot pita breads, eat it as it is or just add the hummus or lebneh or garlic cream (toum) and vegetarians can go home without opening their wallets!
Each dish within the mezze is ordered separately but all of them could also be on offer as a hot or a cold mezze platter . Depending how much are you planning to spend this is how i would split it
Your must haves – Hummus, Toum and Fattoush
Indulging yourself then go on ask for- Spinach Fatayers, Baba Ghanoush, Muttabal, lebneh and Kibbeh (for the meat lovers)
but just in case someone else is footing the bill or you’re out to impress-then try it all- Tabbouleh,vine leaves, arayes, tahini, grilled Halloumi, felafels or any other that would be there on your menu.
While it is great to have the arabic mezze in an authentic Arabic restaurant, some of these little knick-knacks have become a part of our routine menus because they are so simple to make and you can carry them on a picnic or a bar-be-cue for a much needed fresh break. Click on that link and go on sample some mezze today if you have not!