Living in Qatar, there is a huge mix of foods, everything from authentic Italian restaurants with literal Italian chefs to side of the road “Karak Tea” stands dishing out small paper cups of piping hot tea. The majority of what you will find is a brilliant mix of favorites from countries all throughout the Middle East.
Zach and I have had the most fun trying out these local dishes given, many have names we still can’t pronounce and ingredients that we didn’t know existed. Along our food journey a few of the VERY BEST have stood out and become staples in our diet. Here are our (my) TOP 5 Middle Eastern Eats! If you are travelling to the Middle East, you cannot afford to miss these!
The hamburger of the Middle East! This tasty wrap can be found at nearly EVERY restaurant and is a favorite for its low cost, quick bite and AMAZING flavor! Basically, it is slow cooked, seasoned chicken shavings (or you can choose falafel), lettuce and another veggie or two (usually french fries or my favorite, picked turnips– I know it sounds weird but is it SO GOOD) with the most amazing tangy yogurt garlic sauce. The ultimate best places to find these are at authentic Lebanese restaurants. OH MY YUM.
2. Mint Lemonade
I know what you are thinking; TOOTH PASTE + ORANGE JUICE = GROSSEST FLAVOR EVER. That is exactly what I thought at first but after seeing it time and time again I figured I might as well see what all of the hoopla is about. WOW. HOW HAVE I LIVED MY WHOLE LIFE WITHOUT EVER HAVING THIS?! It is NOT AT ALL what you would expect because somehow when the citrus of the lemonade meets the cool mint something magic happens and th flavors completely meld together (unlike orange juice and tooth paste) and they become this incredible refreshing drink. SERIOUSLY. Although you can buy it in any grocery store, my favorite way to drink it is in a nice restaurant where they use FRESH MINT. OOOH YEAAAH.
3. Grilled Halloumi
Okay so I never said this would be the healthiest list and for that reason, grilled halloumi. Oh my heavens grilled halloumi. This is a cream colored cheese that is normally served in extra thick slices. It is grilled up giving it perfect golden grill marks which also warms the cheese but unlike other melty cheeses it pretty much keeps its shape. It is deliciously salty and more mild in flavor. It actually squeaks a bit when you chew it (which sounds weird….literally…pun intended) but it is SO ADDICTING. It is served on all sorts of sandwiches, on salads and most of all as its own side dish. I bought it from the grocery store once to have as a nice treat for the week aaaand wound up finishing the entire block that same night. It is THAT good. Needless to say, just like chewy Chips-Ahoy cookies, I now pretend when I am grocery shopping that it doesn’t exist and skip that isle completely. A girls gotta do what a girls gotta do.
Now this one is actually a spice– or a mix of spices rather. It is a mix of of dried za’atar leaves and some combination of ground thyme, oregano, marjoram, savory, cumin, coriander fennel seed sesame seeds, dried sumac, and often salt. Yeeaah I wikipidia’d that one– basically it is this unique flavor and texture that you just cant get enough of. Usually it is loaded on top of (and inside of) over-sized croissants, flat breads and these quesadilla type things (flatbread LOADED with za’atar, folded in hald and baked). Add some grilled halloumi and you will have thought you’d died and gone to heaven. Really, you can find it everywhere though, it would be like the peanut butter of Middle East. Slap that on EVERYTHANG.
I know that you are tired by now of hearing me talk about dates but SERIOUSLY PEOPLE THESE THINGS HAVE TAKEN OVER MY LIFE. Yeah, yeah you can find them in America, I know but really no one bothers. APPARENTLY they aren’t the same anyways likely because they arent as popular. You see, there are TONS of types of dates (and I don’t just mean chocolate covered, coconut covered, almond stuffed– okay ill stop) there are varieties that look and taste completely different. Certain types are also much more expensive than others and don’t even look the same. They can be found present at any Middle Eastern table setting from Breakfast all the way through to evening coffee (and everything in between). I will admit that they are a bit of an aquired taste but once you get it, that sweetness and caramelly-chewiness is unbeatable!
Shish Taouk – Think grilled chicken shish kabob slathered with garlic sauce. Yep, its as good as you think.
Tabbouleh- You have never eaten herbs like this before, it is mostly chopped parsley kicked into gear with lemon juice, tomatoes, onions, mint and bulgur (a small grain).
When travelling to or through the Middle East, do yourself a favor and taste these Arabian dishes!
…Prepare yourself Dad, I will personally assure that you taste each and every one :p