If you haven’t already, you should really try Middle Eastern cuisine every now and then. It’s generally healthy, wholesome, and fresh, and the dishes can be wonderful for your taste buds. It’s not uncommon for newbies to get a first taste and become instant fans.
But which dishes should you try first? That’s up to you, but you might want to start off with the more popular items:
This is the first item on the menu that you might encounter when you enter a restaurant like Mystic Grill, which offers 9 different appetizers. Some of these starters are Middle Eastern, so you might as well know what you’re in for when you order them. And then you won’t have to limit yourself to just the fries as your appetizer.
The hummus is perhaps the most famous of all the Middle Eastern items, though it surprises a lot of people when they first learn that it’s actually a mashed chickpea dip. It’s made with tahini and garlic along with lemon juice and olive oil. It works great to whet up your appetite, and it’s often served with pita bread and vegetables. You can also just spread the hummus as a sandwich spread.
This is a sort of paste that’s also quite famous among cooks and foodies. It’s a type of sesame paste that’s a basic part of a lot of Middle Eastern recipes, and it’s very versatile. You can use it as an ingredient for both savory and sweet dishes, as a spread for your sandwich, or as a dip.
This has lots of different spelling variations, with some menus listing it as tabouleh, for example. But it’s basically a salad made with bulgur wheat (cracked wheat). It also contains parsley, mint, and a variety of veggies.
This works nicely as a starter before your main dish, but it also works on its own as your meal if you want something light.
This is another well-known dish that might rival the hummus in popularity and fame. It’s a fried ball stuffed with chickpeas (yes, that again), onions, and spices. It works as an appetizer on a mezze platter, and it can also be your meat alternative when included in a vegetarian meal.
Set this inside a pita bread and include some Israeli salad, and you’ve got yourself a great sandwich.
It’s already been mentioned, but what is pita bread? It’s actually a kind of flatbread that’s soft and somewhat chewy. It’s made from flour, yeast, and water, and some recipes also require a little salt and sugar added. It’s traditionally baked on a stone surface, and sometimes spices and herbs are added to give it a little bit more oomph in the flavor department.
It’s often said that no Middle Eastern meal is complete without pita bread, which is why it’s generally seen at every meal. It can be served warm or toasted, and it can be stuffed or dipped. It’s actually easy to make, and its versatility is outstanding.
They say “baklawa” in the Middle East, just so you know. This is a dessert that takes a lot of effort to make, which is often why it’s just more convenient to just enjoy it at a Middle Eastern restaurant.
Ask for baklava and you get a pastry famous for its rich, sweet flavor and flaky texture. There are many versions of baklava, and it often depends on who’s making it. They add rose water or orange blossom in the Middle East, though the Greeks use honey.
But regardless of the recipe, if it’s good then you’ll have one irresistible dessert.
Again, there are spelling variations for this item. You might encounter this spelled as babaganuge instead. But no matter the spelling, it’s usually a smooth and creamy dip that’s made with tahini and roasted eggplant. It works nicely as a dip for your pita bread and veggies, and it’s one of the things you should order if you’re a vegetarian. But even carnivores love this.
This is a round bread that’s sprinkled with cheese, herbs, or ground meat. Does that sound like pizza? Well, it’s actually widely regarded as the pizza of the Arabic community. There are plenty of different versions (just like pizza), with street vendors offering simple variants while more complicated versions are made by the fancier restaurants.
It’s the Middle Eastern version of grilled cheese. Halloumi cheese is a kind of somewhat hard, unripened brined cheese from Cyprus, and it’s made from a mix of sheep and goat milk. The taste seems like a mix of feta and fresh mozzarella. The halloumi cheese has a high melting point, which is why it’s great for frying or grilling.
Yes, you might cry “foul!” when you first see this dish. It doesn’t really look all that appetizing, since it looks like some brown mush—with blobs.
But it tastes great, and you’ll appreciate the texture. It’s made from fava beans, garlic, onion, parsley, lemon, and olive oil, and these ingredients sure combine into a great flavor.
This might be last on this list, but this might also be the first on your “must try” list. It’s made from marinated meat, which can be chicken, beef, or lamb, which they cut from a large rotating skewer. The meat is set in a stuffed pita or wrap, and then various other veggies are added like turnip, pickles, tomatoes, and lettuce.
You really ought to try this!