The essential ingredient included in the Arabic cuisine is hospitality! If you have the opportunity to be invited to an Arabs home for lunch or dinner then you will be expected take the host a gift, usually flowers or chocolates are the norm. If you are hosting an Arabic dinner then you must learn to say ‘tasathalo’ meaning ‘do me the honor’ when you wish to invite them to be seated at the table. It may be a nice gesture to learn some basic phrases of the Arab language.
Formal meals special celebratory dinners usually consist of generous quantities of chicken, veal, or lamb with rice dishes, boiled vegetable in a tomato salsa seasoned with typical Arabic aromatic spices and herbs. Lots of salad dishes and a variety of smaller side dishes will also be served. Arabic cuisine can take a long time to prepare such as stuffed zucchini, green peppers, stuffed grape leaves and cabbage. Muslim Arabs do not eat pork and never touch alcohol, tea is the desired drink alongside sometimes coffee. However some Arabic countries like Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria do sell alcohol and pork as some of their populations include Christian Arabs who still enjoy these. The Arabic diet includes a variety of ingredients not normally used in the Western kitchen, like fava beans. dates, sesame seed oil, feta cheese, olives, and olive oils.
Spices are important ingredients in Arabic cuisine with the most common being, allspice, nutmeg, cardamon, cumin, turmeric, black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, saffron and sumac. The Arabic spice trade goes back centuries! Vegetables like cauliflower, okra, spinach, beans, zucchini and eggplant are the most popular either cooked or raw. Fresh peas and legumes, hummus, filo pastry, dried beans and lentils are also often included in Arabic cuisine.
The Mezzah are a variety of smaller dishes that compliment the main course, and usually include, vegetables, a variety of pulses, grains and salad.
In any Arab country many famous traditions and religious celebrations are celebrated with food. The Middle Eastern people use any excuse to use food for social interactions and also mark Muslim and Christian holidays with special food dishes.
Many of you will have seen the word ‘HALAL’ on signs above Middle Eastern style butchers, this means ‘allowed’ and ensures the animals have been slaughtered by a ritual, not dissimilar to ‘kosher meat. the Jewish tradition.