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Date Posted: 04:33:55 02/04/16 Thu
Author: robin
Subject: Arabian cuisine

Arab cuisine (Arabic: مطبخ عربي‎) is defined as the various regional cuisines spanning the Arab world, from Mesopotamia to North-Africa. Arab cuisine often incorporates the Greek, Levantine and Egyptian culinary traditions.

Diet and foods

Originally, the Arabs of the Arabian Peninsula relied heavily on a diet of dates, wheat, barley, rice, and meat, with little variety and heavy emphasis on yogurt products, such as labneh (لبنة) (yogurt without butterfat).

There is a strong emphasis on the following items in Arab cuisine:

Meat: lamb and chicken are the most used, with beef, goat, and camel used to a lesser extent. Other poultry is used in some regions, and fish is used in coastal areas. Pork is completely prohibited for Muslim Arabs, being both a cultural and religious taboo (Haram) and prohibited under Islamic law, whereas many Christian Arabs do eat and enjoy pork products, especially in Lebanon, where cold cuts of ham are frequently consumed in Christian neighbourhoods.[1]
Dairy products: dairy products are widely used, especially yogurt and white cheese. Butter and cream are also used extensively.
Herbs and spices: mint and thyme (often in a mix called za'atar) are widely and almost universally used; spices are used much less than in Indian cuisine, but the amount and types generally varies from region to region. Some of the included herbs and spices are sesame, saffron, turmeric, garlic, cumin, cinnamon, and sumac. Spice mixtures include baharat.
Beverages: hot beverages are served more than cold, coffee being on the top of the list, mostly in the Arab States of the Persian Gulf. However, tea is also served in many Arab countries. In Egypt and Jordan, for instance, tea is a more important hot beverage than coffee.
Grains: rice is the staple and is used for most dishes; wheat is the main source for bread. Bulgur and semolina are also used extensively.
Legumes: lentils are widely used, as well as fava beans and chickpeas (garbanzo beans).
Fruits and vegetables: Arab cuisine also favors vegetables such as cucumbers, eggplant (aubergine), zucchini (courgette), okra, onions, and fruits (primarily citrus), which are often used as seasonings for entrees. Olives, as well as dates, figs, and pomegranates are also widely used. Dates are a particularly important staple in the Arab diet, often eaten with coffee.
Nuts: almonds, peanuts, pine nuts, pistachios, and walnuts are often included.
Greens: parsley and mint are popular as seasonings in many dishes, while spinach and mulukhiyah (leaves from the plant of the Corchorus genus) are used in cooked dishes.
Dressings and sauces: the most popular dressings include various combinations of olive oil, lemon juice, parsley or garlic, as well as tahini (sesame paste). Labaneh (thinned yogurt) is often seasoned with mint, onion, or garlic, and served as a sauce with various dishes.

It should be noted that many of the same spices used in Arab cuisine, particularly in the cuisine of the Arab States of the Persian Gulf are also those emphasized in Indian cuisine, albeit used more subtly than would normally be the case in Indian cuisine. This is a result of heavy trading and historical ties between the two regions, and also because many South Asian expats live in the Arab States of the Persian Gulf. Whereas Levantine cuisine tends to share many similarities with Turkish cuisine due to geographical proximity and the historical unity of the two areas during the Ottoman Empire and with the cuisine of the eastern Mediterranean region more generally.
Culture

Essential to any cooking in the Arabian Peninsula is the concept of hospitality and generosity. Meals are generally large family affairs, with much sharing and a great deal of warmth over the dinner table. Formal dinners and celebrations generally involve large quantities of lamb, and every occasion entails large quantities of Arabic coffee. In an average Arab state household, a visitor might expect a dinner consisting of a very large platter, shared commonly, with a vast amount of rice, incorporating lamb or chicken, or both, as separate dishes, with various stewed vegetables, heavily spiced, sometimes with a tomato-based sauce. Most likely there would be several other less hearty items on the side. Tea would certainly accompany the meal, as it is almost constantly consumed. Coffee would be included in the same manner.

There are many regional differences in Arab cuisine. For instance, mujadara in Syria and Lebanon is different from mujadara in Jordan and Palestine. Some dishes, such as mansaf (the national dish of Jordan), are native to certain countries and rarely, if ever, make an appearance in other countries. Unlike in most Western cuisines, cinnamon is used in meat dishes, as well as in sweets such as baklava. Other desserts include variations of rice pudding and fried dough. Groundnuts are a common filling for such treats. Saffron is used in everything, including sweets, rice, and beverages. Fruit juice is quite popular due to the climate. The rice dish known as pilaf is very popular in Arab countries and among Arab communities around the world.

Arab Cuisine has been greatly influenced by the use of Indian spices and ingredients such as rice. Ancient trade between India and Medieval Arabia has enrichened the cuisines of both cultures.
Structure of meals

There are two basic structures for meals in the Arab World, one regular and one specific for the month of Ramadan.
Breakfast

Cafés often serve croissants for breakfast. Breakfast is often a quick meal, consisting of bread and dairy products, with tea and sometimes jam. The most used is labneh and cream (kishta, made of cow's milk; or qaimar, made of domestic buffalo milk). Labneh is served with olives, dried mint, and drizzled with olive oil. Pastries such as manaqeesh, sfiha, fatayer, and kahi are sometimes eaten for breakfast. Flat bread with olive oil and za'atar is also popular. Most Arab families also consume hummus and falafel with pita bread.

Traditionally, breakfast used to be a much heavier meal, especially for the working class, and included dishes such as lentil soup (shorbat 'adas), or heavy sweets such as knafa. Ful, which is fava beans cooked with chickpeas (garbanzo beans), garlic, lemon, and olive oil, is a popular working class breakfast in the Levant and Egypt. Lablabi is another heavy garbanzo-based stew popular for breakfast in Tunisia.
Lunch

Lunch is considered the main meal of the day, and is traditionally eaten between 1:30pm and 2:30pm. It is the meal for which the family comes together, and when entertaining, it is the meal of choice to invite guests to. Rarely do meals have different courses; however, salads and mezze (an appetizer) are served as side dishes to the main meal. The platter usually consists of a portion of meat, poultry or fish, a portion of rice, lentils, bread or bagel, and a portion of cooked vegetables, in addition to the fresh ones with the mezze and salad. The vegetables and meat are usually cooked together in a sauce (often tomato, although others are also popular) to make maraq, which is served on rice. Most households add bread, whether other grains were available or not. Drinks are not necessarily served with the food; however, there is a very wide variety of drinks such as shineena (or laban), karakaden, Naqe'e Al Zabib, irq soos, tamr Hindi, and fruit juice, as well as other traditional Arab drinks. During the 20th century, carbonated soda and fruit-based drinks, sold by supermarkets, have also become very popular.
Dinner

Dinner is traditionally the lightest meal, although in modern times, and due to changing lifestyles, dinner has become more important.
Desserts and Ramadan meals

In addition to the two meals mentioned hereafter, sweets are consumed much more than usual during the month of Ramadan; sweets and fresh fruits are served between these two meals. Although most sweets are made all year round such as knafeh, baklava, and basbousa, some are made especially for Ramadan, such as qatayef.
Iftar

Iftar (also called Futuur, or Afur in the Somali language), or fast-breaking, is the meal taken at dusk when the fast is over. The meal consists of three courses: first, they shall eat a date based on Islamic tradition. This is followed by a soup or anything they would like, the most popular being lentil soup, but a wide variety of soups such as chicken, oats, freeka (a soup made from whole wheat and chicken broth), potato, maash, and others are also offered. The third course is the main dish, usually eaten after an interval, when Maghreb prayer is conducted. The main dish is mostly similar to lunch, except that cold drinks are also served.
Sahur

Sahur is the meal eaten just before dawn, when fasting must begin. It is eaten to help the person make it through the day with enough energy until Maghreb time.
Regional Arab cuisines
Eastern Arabia
Main article: Arab cuisine of the Persian Gulf

The cuisine of Eastern Arabia today is the result of a combination of richly diverse cuisines, incorporating Persian, Levantine, Yemeni, and Indian cuisine, as well as many items not indigenous to the Persian Gulf region, which were imported in dhows and caravans.[2] Do not forget that harees, fattah, and many other dishes are originally from the Persian Gulf.[citation needed]
Yemen
Main article: Yemeni cuisine

The cuisine of Yemen is rather distinct from other Arab cuisines. Like most other Arab cuisines, chicken, goat, and lamb are eaten more often than beef. Fish is eaten mostly in coastal areas. However, unlike most Arab countries, cheese, butter, and other dairy products are less common, especially in the cities and other urban areas. As with other Arab cuisines, the most widespread beverages are tea and coffee; tea is usually flavored with cardamom, clove, or mint, and coffee with cardamom. Karakaden, Naqe'e Al Zabib, and diba’a are the most widespread cold beverages.

Although each region has their own variation, Saltah (سلتة) is considered the national dish of Yemen. The base is a brown meat stew believed to be of Turkish origin called maraq (مرق), a dollop of fenugreek froth, and sahawiq (سحاوق) or sahowqa (a mixture of chili peppers, tomatoes, garlic, and herbs ground into a salsa). Rice, potatoes, scrambled eggs, and vegetables are common additions to saltah. It is eaten with flat bread, which serves as a utensil to scoop up the food. Other dishes widely known in Yemen include: Aseedah, aseed, fahsa, thareed, Samak Mofa, mandi, fattah, shakshouka, shafut, Bint Al-Sahn, kabsa, and jachnun. Nasi kebuli Harees Hyderabadi haleem. Hadhrami restaurants can be found in Malaysia

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