Lebanese cuisine (Arabic: المطبخ اللبناني, "Levantine kitchen") includes an abundance of starches, whole grain, fruits, vegetables, fresh fish and seafood; animal fats are consumed sparingly. Poultry is eaten more often than red meat. When red meat is eaten it is usually lamb on the coast, and goat meat in the mountain regions. It also includes copious amounts of garlic and olive oil, often seasoned by lemon juice.; olive oil, herbs, garlic and lemon are typical flavors found in the Lebanese diet.
Most often foods are either grilled, baked or sautéed in olive oil; butter or cream is rarely used other than in a few desserts. Vegetables are often eaten raw or pickled as well as cooked. Herbs and spices are used and the freshness of ingredients is important. Like most Mediterranean countries, much of what the Lebanese eat is dictated by the seasons.
In Lebanon, very rarely are drinks served without being accompanied by food. Similar to the tapas of Spain, mezeluri of Romania, and antipasto of Italy, mezze is an array of small dishes placed before the guests creating an array of colors, flavors, textures and aromas. This style of serving food is less a part of family life than it is of entertaining and cafes. Mezze may be as simple as pickled vegetables or raw vegetables, hummus, baba ghanouj and bread, or it may become an entire meal consisting of grilled marinated seafood, skewered meats, a variety of cooked and raw salads and an arrangement of desserts.
Although simple fresh fruits are often served towards the end of a Lebanese meal, there is also dessert, such as baklava and coffee. Although baklava is the most internationally known dessert, there is a great variety of Lebanese desserts.
A typical mezze will consist of an elaborate variety of thirty hot and cold dishes and may include:
The Lebanese cuisine is an ancient one and part of the Levantine cuisine, which include the Egyptian cuisine, Palestinian cuisine, Syrian cuisine,etc. Lebanese food in general came from Syrian dishes. Originally Syrian food is the base of the region's traditional food which always referred to as Shami food and Sham means Damascus in Arabic.
Many dishes in the Lebanese cuisine can be traced back to thousands of years to Roman, and even Phoenician times. For most of its recent past, Lebanon has been ruled by foreign powers that have influenced the types of food the Lebanese ate. From 1516 to 1918, the Ottoman Turks controlled Lebanon and introduced a variety of foods that have become staples in the Lebanese diet, such as cooking with lamb.
After the Ottomans were defeated in World War I (1914–1918), France took control of Lebanon until 1943, when the country achieved its independence. This time, the French introduced foods such as flan, a caramel custard dessert dating back to the 16th century, and buttery croissants.
Baklava – a dessert of layered filo pastry filled with nuts and steeped in Attar syrup (orange or rose water and sugar) or honey, usually cut in a triangular or diamond shape that originates in Lebanon.
Kunafi – either shoelace pastry dessert stuffed with sweet white cheese, nuts and syrup, or more commonly the version with semolina pastry served on a sesame seed bun with sweet sugar syrup (very popular for breakfast) made with " angel hair" butter and pistachios or nuts. Generally these can be found in sweet shops, as well as bigger bakeries.
Kibbeh – mainly stuffed, can be made in different forms including fried, uncooked, and cooked with yogurt.
Ma'amoul – cake made from semolina with date, pistachio or walnut filled cookies shaped in a wooden mould called a tabi made specially for Christian (traditionally Easter) and Muslim holidays (such as Ramadan).
Manaeesh – Mini pizzas (usually folded) that are made in any number of local bakeries or Furns, traditionally garnished with cheese, Za'atar, spicy diced tomatoes, kashk in its Lebanese version, or minced meat and onions. Some bakeries allow you to bring your own toppings and build your own or buy the ones they sell there. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. (Lebanese style pies)
Mujaddara (imjaddarra) – cooked lentils together with wheat or rice, garnished with onions that have been sauteed in vegetable oil.
Mulukhiyah – A stew with mallow leaves, chicken, beef, and in the Lebanese fashion, topped with raw chopped onions, and vinegar over rice. It sometimes has toasted pita chips under the rice.
Shawarma – marinated meat (either chicken or lamb) that is skewered on big rods and cooked slowly, then shaved and placed in a 10 inch pita roll with pickles, tomatoes, and other tangy condiments.
Shish taouk – grilled chicken skewers that utilize only white meat, marinated in olive oil, lemon, parsley, and sumac.
Siyyadiyeh – delicately spiced fish served on a bed of rice. Fish cooked in saffron and served on rice with onions, sumac, and a tahini sauce (the most important part of the dish) originated in the southern areas of Lebanon.