I love sampling different cuisines, all the better if homemade. You taste the regional, even town differences in certain dishes and you receive the comfort and love of the dish from the person who prepared it.
As a Lebanese-American, I’m lucky to have such a rich culinary heritage literally at my fingertips. Alas, my family is back in Boston and NY, so I have been #blessed to find wonderful friends here in Cincinnati who share their beautiful cooking backgrounds with me.
Most recently, I shared Orthodox Easter with my Jordanian Cincinnati family, and as always it was a celebratory feast.
(My plate: Mansef, Kibbe, Salad, Chicken & Hushwee, Garlic Sauce and Cous Cous Salad)
The national dish of Jordan, Mansef was served. Mansef is a braised lamb dish served with a warm yogurt sauce and steamed rice. This is not part of my Lebanese culinary background, but one of my favorite Middle Eastern dishes. #yogurtsauceforlife. Around my plate I also had baked kibbe, a lamb and burgher wheat dish that we make in our Lebanese tradition – think of it as a Middle Eastern meatloaf, only without ketchup, and not, you know, gross. This often has pine nuts stuffed inside as well. Green salad with Arabic pickles – Middle Easterners love their pickled vegetables. Pickled turnips colored with beets are my favorite with their tart acidity, bright crunch and vibrant pink hue. Chicken and hushwee or (chicken biryani), is a seasoned rice with either lamb and pine nuts or chick peas and vegetables stirred in served with either boiled or grilled chicken over the top. A favorite at my house, chicken and hushwee is the best kind of Lebanese comfort food. I also had a vegetable cous cous salad, not entirely traditional but still delicious and a thick dollop of garlic sauce, which I LOVE but you can’t speak to anyone for two days after it is so strong.
(A picture of how the feast is presented)
The Mansef is always served on a very large, thin piece of wheat bread, topped with the rice, then lamb. You serve yourself, then add as much or as little yogurt sauce (in the large bowl with ladle) as you like. The kibbe, salads, hushwee and yogurt and garlic sauces are all there for you to add as much or little as you like individually to your plate. Dinner is always served with the vegetable accompaniments: scallions, radishes and various pickles. Interestingly enough, other than (goat) yogurt, Middle Eastern dishes don’t typically focus on dairy, but rather proteins, vegetables and grains.
From meat, grains and vegetables of the Middle East to legumes, rice and vegetables of the Western shores of India! A dear friend hosted a beautiful birthday party for her son, and all manner of the Gujarat regional delicacies were served.
We’d need hours of blog posts to discuss the regional cuisine differences in India, but suffice it to say, in this area of India (as I learned) the cuisine is not what I think of as most common “Indian food” i.e. curries, tandoor cooking and naans. The dishes I’ve tried have been less greasy in preparation and more mezza style (ie lots of small different plates). At this birthday occasion, we enjoyed Idli with sambar, bhelpuri and panipuri , plus assorted chutneys and toppings. It’s all “Indian street food” as one guest told me.
(from left: Bhelpuri, tomatoes, onion, mung beans, cilantro, diced potatoes, red & green chutneys, mung beans, mashed potatoes & legumes, the puris)
I’m sorry I didn’t take a picture of my plate, but wikipedia to the rescue!
(Photo from wikipedia:)
Idli is rice and fermented bean, pressed into a disk and served swimming in a delicate sambar or masala brothy sauce. This is a dish I’ve had before with friends and I find the smoothness and the denseness of the Idli extremely comforting to eat. #iloverice
New to me at this event was the Bhelpuri:
(photo from wikipedia:)
Bhelpuri is a puffed rice, mixed with a short, crispy noodle – from here it can be served savory or sweet – but that day’s toppings were savory. I loaded mine with tomatoes, cilantro, onion, mung bean, diced crispy potatoes and a spoonful of the green chutney. I mixed it all well and dug in. I loved it. So satisfying, crunchy and fresh. Hits all those taste points for me.
The Panipuri was brand new to me; and admittedly, I ate it like a rookie. I took a puffed puri, crumbed it into my bhelpuri and went to town.Yup, nope. Here’s what you’re supposed to do:
(The fixings for Panipuri)
You tap each little puffy puri to make a hole in the center, you sprinkle in mung beans, potatoes and cilantro, then you steep the puri about halfway in a flavored water.
This video pretty much covers it (and me attempting to eat it) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHmAVIZ–44
As my one friend said as he watched me smash my panipuris into my bhelpuri, (gesturing to his own perfect panipuri, neatly filled and dipped) “This is a burrito, you’re having a burrito bowl.” #gotit
Mmmm, burritos. Homemade Mexican food….anyone want to invite me over?