Lebanon’s intriguing gastronomical legacy of snack-food has become a culinary watch-word

Can’t decide between Indian and Continental? Try something in between. If Indian food’s too blah for you and Continental food is not to your taste, visit that new Lebanese restaurant instead.

This Mediterranean nation’s intriguing gastronomical legacy of snack-food has become a culinary watch-word.

The maza, also written mezze is a selection of appetisers: olives, cheeses and labanee, or small portions also known as muqabbilat (starters).

A grand mezze would look much like the Norwegian smorgasbord, with an elaborate spread of 40 or 50 hors d’oeuvres for the guest’s delectation. But there’s no rule that says every mezze must be a feast – you can load the mezze table with little nibbles of everything or keep it simple with a salad, some crudites with dips and a bowl of nuts. “The concept of mezze has a big group of people sitting around a table and enjoying light hors de oeuvres,” says chef Manu Chandra of Olive Beach in Bangalore.

Not the least of the charms of Lebanese mezze is the fact that unlike European cuisine, authentic recipes include loads of vegetarian favourites. Yogurt, cheese, cucumber, aubergines, chick peas, nuts, tomatoes, bulgar wheat and sesame (seeds, paste and oil), mint, lemons, onions, nuts and grape leaves all have their uses in Lebanese cuisine.

Plus, a large majority of recipes are prepared using techniques like grilling, baking or sautéing in heart-healthy olive oil. But if you’re watching your waistline, keep an eye on how much of those olive oil enriched dips you eat!

Lebanese snacks, though earthy in flavour, are far from rustic in its presentation. Even the simplest dish is decorated to look pleasing to the eye. Whether it’s a simple sprig of mint or a dish of hummus with a well of golden olive oil in the centre, Lebanese food is a crowd-pleaser all along. Pretty and flavourful, healthy and delicious, Lebanese mezze has won the hearts of restauranters and foodies alike. So are you ready for some Lebanese?