Arabian cuisine includes the various cuisines in the Arab world. It also includes Levantine and Egyptian cuisines. Arabian cuisine has in it the influence of the culinary traditions of Turkey, the Balkans, Iran, India, Afghanistan, Greece, Iraq, the Berbers, and other cultures of the region. The people of Arabia originally relied on a diet of barley, wheat, dates, rice, yogurt and meat. But with the passage of time there has come over many changes and additions.
ITEMS IN THE ARABIAN CUISINE
Among meat items, lamb and chicken are mostly used. Camel and beef are also used in lesser degree. In coastal regions, other varieties of poultry are used. Diary products such as butter, cream, yogurt, etc. are used. Herbs and spices such as sesame, saffron, turmeric, garlic, cumin, cinnamon, and sumac are used. Among beverages, coffee is on the top of the list. However, in Jordan and Egypt, tea is more preferred. Among grains, rice is the staple and wheat is used for bread. Arabian cuisine includes vegetables and fruits such as aubergine (eggplant), citrus, cucumbers, dates, courgette (zucchini), okra, onions, figs, pomegranate, etc. They use nuts such as pistachios, almonds, pine nuts, walnuts, etc. In the Arabian cuisine, parsley and mint are popular as seasonings. Dressings and sauces include various combinations of lemon juice, parsley, olive oil, tahini, garlic, etc. Many of the spices used in the Arabian cuisine are found in the Indian cuisine also. This is because of the trade relationship between the two regions.
ARABIAN CUISINE AND CULTURE
Arabian cuisine is the best expression of Arabian concept of hospitality and generosity. There is much warmth and sharing over the dinner table. Large quantities of Arabic coffee and lamb are the specialties of formal dinners. The dinner consists of a very large platter with vast amount of rice shared commonly. The dishes include lamb and/or chicken with various stewed vegetables. The dishes are heavily spiced and there may be a tomato based sauce. Along with the meal there will be tea or coffee.
Bread and jam with dairy products and tea generally constitute an Arabian breakfast. It is often a quick meal. Breakfast often includes labneh and cream. It is made of milk of cow or buffalo. Olive oil and mint are used with labneh. Also there may be pastries such as sfiha, fatayer, manaqeesh and kahi. Sometimes flat bread with olive oil and za'tar is used. Hummus and falafel with pita bread are also used in breakfast. The working class breakfast may consist of dishes such as lentil soup, heavy sweets and sfava beans cooked with garbanzo beans.
The main meal of an Arabian diet is the lunch. Lunch is eaten after the noon prayer. For lunch the family comes together and if guests are invited for meal it is for the lunch they attend. An Arabian lunch does not have several courses. Salads and maza are served as side dishes to the main meal. The lunch generally consists of meat, poultry or fish, rice, lentil, bread or bagel. It may also contain cooked as well as fresh vegetables. There may also be drinks such as Karakaden, shineena (or laban), Naque’e Al Zabib, Tamr Hindi, Irq soos, etc. There may be fruit juices also. In Arabian cuisine, dinner is the lightest meal.
Futuur and Suhur are the two main Ramadan meals. Futuur or Iftar is the fast-breaking meal. It is taken at dusk when the day’s fast is over. Iftar has three courses. The first course is an odd number of dates. Then there is a soup of lentil, chicken, oats or freeka. The third course is a meal after the Maghreb prayer. This meal is similar to the lunch. Suhur is the meal eaten just before the dawn before the fast begins. Other than these two meals, different kinds of sweets such as knafeh, baklawa basbousa and qatayef are served between these two meals.