Levantine cuisine, which is usually found in Palestine, Syria, Cyprus, Lebanon, and Jordan, encompasses the flavors of various cultures and is mainly based on ingredients such as chickpeas, eggplant, zucchini, pomegranates, mint, tahini, feta, halloumi, and lemon.
This region is perhaps best known for its small traditional dishes such as hummus, baba ghanoush, and tabbouleh, as well as labeneh (a simple yogurt sauce made with olive oil and topped with za’atar) and muhammara (a spread from Aleppo, Syria, with red peppers, walnuts, chili paste, tahini, lemon juice, paprika, and pomegranate molasses.
It usually appears in Levantine and Turkish cuisines. Served with pita and made to share, these mezze dishes bring friends and family together and celebrate the diverse flavors of the Levante. Levantine sauces and spreads are not only nutritious on their own, but they’re also a great way to spice up vegetable garnishes.
Why is Levantine cuisine popular?
Well, if I knew exactly. I wonder why Levantine cuisine is only emerging now. On the one hand, I think it’s because people, in general, experience more and, due to increasing globalization, it’s also very easy to get certain ingredients that were simply not available a few years ago.
Another reason, besides the fantastic taste, of course, is undoubtedly the vegetarian and vegan movement. Although in Levante there are some meat dishes (especially on the barbecue), most of the dishes are completely meat-free. Due to the protein-rich legumes, the food in Levante is rich even without meat. The good thing is that many dishes are simply vegetarian or even vegan by default.
Whatever the reason, I think it is a fantastic novelty and I am delighted to be able to transmit this delicious, simple, and healthy cuisine and inspire you.
What are the specialties of Levantine cuisine?
If you ask me what the world of Levantine cuisine knows, I would say that:
- Baba Ghanoush
In the Levant, by the way, they also like sweets. Surely you have heard of baklava and the like. But they prefer fresh fruit much more than cakes, desserts, etc. That is, you are right at the source of the tastiest fruit there is. So you can never go wrong with a rich fruit dish.
Among the typical fruit varieties of the Levante are:
- Melons (watermelon, melon, anything called melon)
- Figs (preferably freshly picked from the tree)
- Prickly pear figs
What the Levantines also like are nuts and seeds. Nuts and freshly roasted seeds are a must when receiving visitors. People usually bring delicious snacks from the neighborhood toaster. The tradition of roasting is still very much alive in the Levant. If you want to buy coffee, nuts or seeds, you buy them fresh out of the toaster. Only the smell in such a toaster is seductive. So if you’re ever in the Levante, don’t hesitate to visit a toaster.
To Finish Off
Although the Levantine Mediterranean shares a wealth of culinary customs and practices, each of the cuisines –, Ottoman and Egyptian – has its own version of traditional Mediterranean cuisine. From delicious mezze dishes to share to hearty meat dishes such as kebabs, there’s a world of opportunities to sample each region’s version of Mediterranean classics.