Middle Eastern Cuisine

Written by Beth Hrusch
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Middle Eastern cuisine is one of the best reasons to visit the countries of the Middle East. The sights, smells and flavors of this unique food will open you up to a whole new experience. Though some of the foods and ways of preparing them are foreign to the average Westerner, the richness and exotic flavors of these local specialties often find their way into menus around the world, where they become familiar favorites.

Middle Eastern Cuisine Reflects Local Culture

All Middle Eastern food had its start in the cultures and customs of the local peoples. Nomadic tribes shaped the cuisine of the Arab world, which still uses portable types of foods as main ingredients in its recipes. Dates, rice, and animals that could travel such as goats and sheep were and are staples of Arab cuisine. Pita bread, a flat bread made from flour, water and salt, was easily prepared over camp fires. Now, it is a favorite item for dipping into seasoned oils and sauces.

Beans and grains such as fava, chick peas, garbanzo and lentils are an important source of protein for Arab peoples. They are often ground into pastes or mashed into a pulp for use as spreads and dips. Lamb, perhaps the most commonly used meat in Middle Eastern cuisine, is featured in dishes such as bukhari rice, in which it is stir-fried with onion, lemon, carrots and tomato paste. Kebobs and kouzi feature lamb, rice and vegetables that are either grilled or baked.

As the tribes of the vast deserts and regions of the Arab world spread their culture, they also shared with the area their foods, and Middle Eastern cuisine now exists in various forms all over the world. Authentic Arab cuisine is a staple of diets in Turkey, Greece, Persia and surrounding countries. The use of traditional foods and methods of cooking has continued relatively unchanged since the days when people were nomadic, and their cooking was done on the move.

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