The Lebanese Breakfast
Contributor: Nadiya Ibrahim
Lebanese are renowned for their rich cuisine including their breakfast or “Terwika” in Arabic which is characterized by the variety of its dishes and the components that distinguish it from other cuisines in the Arab region and the world. The term “Terwika”” comes from the word “Al-Rawak” which means “calmness”. That’s why Terwika occupies an important part of the daily life of Lebanese people for whom it is essential to have a clear mind and a day full of energy. The Lebanese breakfast consists of a long list of varied and rich dishes, ranging from light to fatty prepared according to the availability of ingredients and preparation time.
- Mana’esh (plural of Man’ousheh)
Mana’esh are Lebanese pizzas, much simpler than the Italian version as they usually have only one topping. The most common type of Mana’esh is the one topped with zaatar mix (thyme, sumac, sesame seeds, salt and olive oil). Mana’esh topped with white cheese such as akkawi, hallloumi or a mixture of both, are also common. Other toppings include: kishk (a Lebanese traditional product made from fermented bulgur and yogurt) with tomatoes and onion, labneh (a Lebanese dairy product) and even ground beef. Manaesh can also be baked on a special stove called “Saj” or even “tannour” which gives the dough a unique taste. Mana’esh topping changes across the Lebanese regions and can be very particular to some areas such as “arish” or “shanklish” man’ousheh in Akkar, or tomato paste man’ousheh in the Chouf. Mana’esh are usually served with hot black tea or fresh juices.
- Lebanese Knefeh
Knefeh is a sweet Lebanese dish eaten for breakfast. Despite its sweetness, it is not a dessert but a meal all on its own. Knefeh is made up of two layers: De-salted akkawi cheese forming the bottom layer, and ground kataifi pastry with ghee forming the top layer. Knefeh is baked until the cheese goes super-stretchy and the pastry gets a deep, golden brown color. The huge tray on which the knefeh is baked is called a “sidr”. Knefeh is served in a special sesame seed bun called “kaakeh” and then doused with sugar syrup. It is preferably to eat knefeh on the spot while hot and stretchy.
- Foul, Fatteh and Msabaha
This is a high protein kind of breakfast that can keep you full for the whole day. “Foul” consists of cooked fava beans seasoned with garlic, lemon, cumin and olive oil and served with vegetables such as radish, mint leaves, white onions or pickles.
Fatteh is usually prepared during the holy month of Ramadan as a main dish. On other occasions, it is more of a side dish. Fatteh is a mix of garlic-flavored yogurt, cooked chickpeas and crunches of baked or fried Lebanese bread. A mix of fried nuts is served on the top. It is best served and enjoyed immediately, to avoid the bread from soaking in the yogurt. For a healthier option, you can grill or bake the bread instead of frying it.
Msabaha is a Middle Eastern chickpea platter that very close to “hummus”. The ingredients are the same for both dishes; however msabaha is served hot or warm.
Kishk is one of the oldest known Lebanese dishes which consist of a soup prepared with dry mixture of goat or cow milk and bulgur cooked with garlic or with preserved meat and garlic together, and served hot. This dish is mainly prepared during winter time to warm up.
- Raw meat
This is an extreme type of breakfast adored by many Lebanese. It is comprised of raw beef liver cut into cubes and served with onion and mint, raw ground meat mixed with kamouneh spices as well as raw kafta (ground meat mixed with parsley, salt and spices). Plenty of vegetables are served with these dishes. It is essential to make sure that the meat source is safe to be consumed raw.
In addition to all the above-mentioned dishes, the Lebanese breakfast table usually includes a variety of cheeses and dairy products such as Labneh, Akkawi, Baladi, Bulgari, Double Cream and Kashkwan, as well as home-made jams. Fried eggs are also served sometimes with “Qawarma” (meat cooked with fat). Black and green pickled olives are always at the center of the table.
Starting your day “Lebanese style” is an embracing sensory experience that keeps you full until lunch time!