Turkish and French Influences on Lebanese Cuisine
There is something truly special about Lebanese food. From the family-oriented sharing “mezze” style of eating to the emphasis on using fresh ingredients in every meal, we Lebanese separate ourselves from the archetypal Arabic food by fusing Eastern and Western traditions together. The aspect that transcends all others and differentiates the distinct Lebanese taste from other Levant cuisine is the culinary influences from other nations. Historically, Lebanon has always been the bridge between the East and the West; this is heavily reflected in our food. Amongst these, two stand out: the influences from the Ottoman Empire and the French in the early- to mid-20th Century.
Although the Ottoman reign in Lebanon ended post World-War I, their influence and impact will last forever. The Turkish influence began in 1516 and revolutionised the way in which Lebanon looked at food by incorporating Turkish cooking methods with traditional Mediterranean produce. It popularised the use of lamb and introduced dishes like shish kebabs and tabbouleh which is a staple at many Lebanese Sunday gatherings.
The Lebanese and loyal Maison du Mezze clients have the Turkish to thank for a lot of what’s found on our menu. Our hot mezze platter is centred around rich aromatic lamb adorned with Arabic spices – and even our hummus A’awarmah is topped with freshly prepared diced lamb. Finally, our delicious desserts like baklawa, a sweet dessert pastry characteristic of the Levant, finds it genesis in the Ottoman period.
But the cultural innovation did not stop there. In 1918, the Middle East was split into segments (with a ruler believe it or not) before Lebanon reclaimed its independence in 1946. The French introduced the Lebanese to some of their most widely eaten foods such as flan, caramel custard, and buttery croissants. Alongside the language, the French also brought the patisserie with them – transforming Lebanese desserts. Thereafter, it became commonplace to head to the local Beirut cake shop and stock up on all sorts of sweets – often hybrids of Arabic and French traditions.
The Mediterranean diet, including the Lebanese variant, is frequently considered to be the healthiest form of eating, incorporating olive oil, fresh fish, lamb, yoghurt, nuts and more into their diets on a regular basis. That’s probably why our chefs frequently boast about the quality, flavour, and health benefits of Maison du Mezze’s food – it’s the best of all worlds.