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Ramadan specialty: Meshtah Bread

Contributing writer: Camille CESBRON, Food Anthropologist

Baking “meshtah” at a “forn” in Bekaa

Bread is on every table at every meal in Lebanon, and during the month of Ramadan fasting one type of bread is particularly appreciated by Muslim families at Suhoor: “Meshtah”.

Meshtah is a long oval flat bread typical to the South of Lebanon and its name is derived from the Arabic word Ishtah – “to flatten”. Meshtah is taste is very singular and is due to the light, anise taste.

Meshtah “antiquity” can be asserted by the nature of its ingredients: a mix of “bulgur” or “jreesh” with anise powder and black sesame seeds. Now, have you noticed the absence of white flour?  That’s because in Lebanon, it wasn’t common to find white flour until the 80’s and it was considered by the Lebanese unsuitable for bread production.

The main ingredient Jreesh or cracked wheat is widely use in bread making in Lebanon, because it doesn’t take many steps or technology to process the wheat. It’s basically raw cracked wheat (Durum wheat). Bulgur, on the other hand, is obtained from wheat that is parboiled first to get rid of the envelop, dried and then cracked. Meshtah is convenient because its preparation is faster than other types of bread, which means that you don’t need to let it rest long. Furthermore, you are using locally produced grains!

Jreesh and bulgur contain more protein, they are more filling, and they give a nice yellow colour to the bread. They also absorb more water than white flour, which consequently allows you to make more dough with the same quantity.   

Other regions of the world also celebrate Ramadan with special breads like “Pide” in Turkey or the “Mkate Wa Ufuta” in Zanzibar.

Listed as one of Slow Food’s « Ark of Taste » products, Meshtah is produced all year long, and is relatively easy to be found in bakeries around Lebanon. It is commonly savoured with labneh, makdous, olives, and vegetables.

References :

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Eid Al-Fitr celebration

At a local sweets shop in Beirut

Eid al-Fitr which marks the end of the month of Ramadan is celebrated by Muslims around the world. After thirty days of fasting, Muslims break their fast and celebrate during three days in familial and friends gathering where kids are pampered with new clothes and gifts, or a certain amount of money the “Eidiyah”, and where food has a special share.

On this occasion, people are encouraged to help the poor through “Zakat al-Fitr” or “Al Futra” which is given prior to the Eid to help the less fortunate celebrate.

Knefeh (Source: Pinterest)

Following the morning Eid prayer in mosques, family members gather for breakfast and greet each other by saying “Eid Mubarak” wishing each other a peaceful and prosperous Eid. Knefeh, a traditional dessert made with sweetened melty cheese and covered with sugar syrup Qater, is commonly served on the Eid morning.

Maamoul el Eid by Hanaa’s Cookies (Hanaa Zahreddine)

Traditional Eid food and desserts vary from one country to another and between regions within the same country. Maamoul, mouthwatering cookie filled with a variation of stuffing like pistachios, walnuts and dates, and covered with powdered sugar, and Kaak el Eid are prepared to celebrate Eid in Lebanon, Egypt, Syria and Palestine. In Yemen people enjoy “Bint al Sahn” a sweet prepared with butter thin layers of dough drizzled with honey and nigella seeds, in Sudan they prepare a traditional Kaak el Eid, while in Somalia a special Eid bread called “Cambaabur” is prepared for breakfast and served with sugar and yogurt.

Yemeni “Bint el Sahn” is savored with a cup of tea (Picture ©

In Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, Sheer Khurma which literally translates into “milk with dates” in Persian, is a vermicelli-based pudding prepared especially for Eid al-Fitr and Al-Adha. Its recipe varies depending on the country but it is usually prepared with vermicelli, milk, sugar, dates and sometimes pistachios, almonds, and raisins or dried dates are also added.

“Cambaabur” Somali Eid bread (Picture ©

Other than the delicious desserts prepared during Eid, festive meals are served for either lunch or breakfast. In Lebanon, traditional recipes such as Mouloukhiye, Moughrabiye, Rezz aa Djeij are commonly served. In Morocco, laasida, made from couscous, butter, and honey is usually enjoyed in the Eid morning and Tajine, a slow-cooked stew with meat or chicken, vegetables and dried fruits is served for lunch in Algeria.

Lebanese “Rez aa Djeij” or Chicken with rice



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Traditional food of Ramadan

Family and friends gather to enjoy Iftar

Food is part of Ramadan’s traditions; family and friends gather to share and enjoy the two meals that are served: Iftar celebrated at sunset when Muslims break their fast, and Suhoor consumed early in the morning before the day starts. Fasting has an important role in teaching patience, compassion and gratitude. It also reminds people about those suffering from poverty and hunger.

A traditional Iftar menu includes a variety of dishes. But whether an Iftar is simple or big, sharing food with the needy during this holy month is an important aspect of the feast and Muslims are encouraged to help the poor.

Muslims break their fast three dates

At the end of the day, family members gather around Iftar table and wait for the Maghreb Adhan that marks the end of the fast.

  • Muslims break their fast by eating 1 or 3 dates as was the practice of Prophet Mohammed who broke his fast with three dates and water. From a nutritional point of view, dates are an excellent source of fibers, natural sugar, iron and magnesium. They help restoring blood sugar after long hours of fasting.

Soups are a delicious and healthy option to start the Iftar

  • Soups are very healthy options to start the Iftar as they replenish the body fluids and warm the stomach, hence preparing it to receive other foods. Lentil, vegetable, chicken, and vermicelli soups are usually served during Ramadan, with lentil soup being the most common one in Lebanon.

Refreshing jallab topped with nut seeds (Source:

  • Refreshing juices like Jallab, Amar al-Din and Tamarind are very commonly consumed either before or after the meal to replace fluids lost during the day.

[quote]It is advised to eat slowly after fasting the whole day. Eating quickly after being deprived of it for an entire day, may result in indigestion and other gastric problems. Liquids like juices and soups allow the stomach some time to process and ensure proper functioning.[/quote]

Fattoush remains the king of salads!

  • Fresh vegetables are a must-have for Iftar as they are a very important source of fibers, vitamins and minerals needed after a long day without food. They also help in reducing bloating and constipation which are common problems among fasting people. Fattoush is Ramadan’s star! It is loaded with a rich combination of fresh vegetables and topped with fried or baked bread. Olive oil and pomegranate molasses are usually used for the dressing.

[quote]It is very important to drink 8 glasses of water to hydrate the body, and better distribute them in small quantities between Iftar and Suhoor to avoid bloating. Better avoid salty and spicy food which increase thirst, and consume more fresh vegetables and fruits.[/quote]

  • A traditional Lebanese Iftar gathers delicious main courses – such as stews, stuffed vegetables (Mehchi Koussa and stuffed vine leaves), Moulouhkiyeh, Rez aa djeij, kebbeh bel siniyeh and many others – which provide a balance of starchy foods, vegetables and proteins (meat/ chicken/ fish/dairy products/ beans). A number of side dishes or mezze such as cheese rolls, fatayer, sambousek, hummus b tahineh, etc. are also usually served.

Traditional food is served: baked kebbeh, stuffed vegetables etc.

  • Ramadan is renowned for the variety of Sweets prepared and consumed during this holy Month to satisfy the post Iftar sweet cravings. However, Kellaj remain the star of Ramadan sweets as it is exclusively prepared during this time of the year. Dried fruits such as apricots, figs, raisins and prunes are also commonly eaten after Iftar; they are healthy options rich in fibers and nutrients.

Arabic sweets are not to be missed during Ramadan

 [quote]Sweets are hard to resist in Ramadan. Be moderate in your consumption and opt for small portions![/quote]

Suhoor, the pre-dawn meal, is consumed early in the morning before Fajr prayer. The Musaharati or Tabbal walking around the streets while beating a drum and calling “Ya Nayem Wahed Al Dayem” (which means “Awake faster and praise Allah…”) calls people to wake up for the Suhoor. This old tradition goes back to the Ottoman era and is still practiced nowadays in Lebanon.

A healthy Suhoor is important to provide enough energy for those who are fasting and help them endure up to 15 hours.

A healthy Suhoor is important to provide enough energy for those who are fasting and help them endure up to 15 hours. Water should also be consumed during Suhoor to keep the body hydrated during the day.

A variety of delicious and healthy foods are offered for Suhoor such as Manakeesh, eggs and omelets, dairy products like labneh and cheese, “foul mdammas” fava beans, fruits and vegetables etc. Meshtah bread is commonly baked and consumed during Ramadan; its recipe varies among Lebanese villages. Meshtah is flat bread that was originally prepared in the South of Lebanon and became very common to other Lebanese regions. It is made with jreesh (cracked wheat that has not been parboiled) or bulgur and is sprinkled with sesame and Nigella seeds. It is also slightly aromatized with anise flavor. During Ramadan, Meshtah is usually enjoyed freshly baked on Suhoor with Labneh or cheese and a cup of tea.

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Refreshing Ramadan drinks

Street vendor selling juices during Ramadan
Street vendor selling juices during Ramadan

When the month of Ramadan falls during summer, hydrating the body after a long day of fasting becomes imperative. Refreshing drinks, during and after the iftar, help the body to re-hydrate after losing a lot of liquids.

The following are four of the most popular drinks consumed during this time of year:


It is not a typical iftar if Jallab is not on the table! Jallab is the most popular drink in Ramadan. It is a refreshing juice prepared by mixing grape molasses, dates, rose water and sugar and then smoked with Arabic incense. Jallab is usually served with ice and lots of nuts and raisins.

Refreshing jallab topped with nut seeds (Source:
Refreshing jallab topped with nut seeds (Source:

Amar Al din

Another popular drink in Ramadan is Amar Al Din: an orange, thick and sweet drink. This nutritious drink is made from dry apricot sheets. To prepare this drink, the apricot sheets are soaked in warm water for several hours then mixed with sugar and rose water. It is usually decorated with pine nuts and served cold.

Amar al-din (Source:
Amar al-din (Source:

Liquorice or Erk el-sous

Erk el-sous, a black slightly sweet and mildly bitter drink, is commonly served during the Holy month of Ramadan. This thirst quencher drink is made from licorice root; it can be found in shops and restaurants but is sold by street vendors.

Liquorice (Source:
Liquorice (Source:


Another traditional drink that is enjoyed during the month of Ramadan is the Tamarind or Tamer Hindi. It is a sour-sweet drink made of tamarin fruits paste mixed with sugar and water. For those who do not like sweet drinks, Tamarind could be the ideal Ramadan drink for them.

Cold tamarind drink (Source:
Cold tamarind drink (Source:

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TOP 5 Traditional Ramadan sweets


Ramadan is known for its wide variety of irresistible sweets as an Iftar meal cannot be completed without having dessert. Iftar preparation is an opportunity for the whole family to meet and revive some of the holy month traditions through food.

We bring you here our TOP 5 traditional Ramadan desserts prepared and consumed in Lebanon:

1. Kellaj Ramadan

Kellaj is the most popular dessert in Ramadan and, as its name suggests, it is only available during this month. Many sweet shops in Lebanon fry Kallaj in front of their shops, probably to attract customers by the distinctive smell of the sweets.  Kallaj consists of a pastry dough filled with Ashta, fried and drizzled with sugar syrup. It is then sprinkled with grounded pistachio and topped with candied orange blossom. It is usually served hot.

Kallaj Ramadan ©Rana Tanissa
Kallaj Ramadan ©Rana Tanissa

2. Mafroukeh

Mafroukeh is made from a dough combining semolina flour, butter and sugar syrup. The dough is covered with a layer of Ashta and roasted nuts.  Mafroukeh can be served in a plate or molded in several shapes.


3. Chaaybiyet

A tasteful dessert that commonly prepared during Ramadan, Chaaybiyet is made of crunchy layers of pastry filled with Ashta. Chaaybiyet is generally shaped in the form of a triangle and decorated with crushed pistachio and candied orange blossom and are definitely covered with sweet syrup! They can be either served cold or hot.

Chaaybiyet (Source
Chaaybiyet (Source

4. Qatayef

Qatayef are very commonly served during Ramadan. This Arabic pancake –like dough can be prepared with different fillings such as walnuts and sugar mixture or sweetened Akkawi cheese or even Ashta (a clotted cream with Rose Water). The stuffed Qatayef are then fried and dipped in sugar syrup before being served.

Qatayef ©herbivoracious
Qatayef (Source:

5. Daoukiyeh

Daoukiyeh is one of Beirut’s most famous desserts. It was first created in the 80’s by Al-Daouk sweets, a small pastry shop in Beirut, and was named after the family’s last name.  Daoukiyeh consists of a layer of Ashta and a layer of cashew nuts between two layers of pistachio paste. The color of the pistachios gives the Daoukiyeh its special green color. Today, Daoukiyeh is prepared in many pastry shops around the country, and is served in different shapes.

Daoukiyeh (©Rana Tanissa)
Daoukiyeh ©Rana Tanissa