Middle Eastern Food-An Overview
Culturally rich Middle East has a wide range of food items as part of its traditional cuisine. Middle East is a cross road between Asia, Africa, and Europe spreading from across vast desert and Mediterranean Coast. You can notice influence of various cultures and religion in this cuisine.
Pork is not used as part of their diet. Lamb is the main source of meat in this region and poultry birds are also consumed regularly as part of starters or snacks.
Wine is consumed to a lesser extent as their religion prohibits consumption of alcohol in any form. Lebanon is the only country in this region that produces wine and people in this country are not prohibited from consuming alcohol.
Varieties of Middle Eastern Food
Cereals such as rice and broken and milled wheat form the staple diet of this region. Burghul or couscous is made from partially cooked wheat that is grinded coarsely. Burghul is typically prepared like flavored rice using spices and herbs; this dish is taken with vegetables and pulses that are integral part of this cuisine.
Beans and pulses are very important part of Mediterranean diet and boiled fava beans are eaten as street food anytime during the day. Hummus is a famous recipe of this region made from chick peas and Tahini sauce and herbs. Tahini, which is made from Sesame paste, is part of various preparations such as eggplant dip called Baba Ghannouj, halvah, and salad dressing.
All the food that we have mentioned above are nutritionally rich laced with all essential nutrient to keep our body strong and healthy. Middle Eastern cuisine is both simple and complex; the fact that it incorporates cereals and pulses along with fresh vegetables, herbs and spice makes this cuisine a real healthy one.
Facts about Middle Eastern Food
What is the most amazing fact about Middle Eastern cuisine is that it is not prepared in fat rich butter or lard. Rather they use olive oil in small quantities and many of their foods are grilled or simply baked making it heart friendly.
Mediterranean cuisine gained popularity in the 90s and people across the world discovered the innate goodness of this cuisine. If you track the history of this region which is often described as volatile and violent due to regular invasion by Arab fighters and Mongol invaders, these warriors also brought with them some of the most amazing flavors from Far East countries like India and Afghanistan.
Health benefits of Middle Eastern Food
Some of the commonly used ingredients that are regularly used in Middle Eastern cuisine are full with health benefits.
Chick, peas also called garbanzo beans, is an integral part of Middle Eastern cuisine. These beans have a shuttle nutty flavor and they are a rich source of protein, used in preparation of hummus, a delicacy of this region.
This ingredient is an excellent source of healthy nutrients such as folate, tryptophan, manganese, phosphorous, and copper. It is also rich in fiber and is known to help lower cholesterol and fight cardiovascular diseases.
Eggplant is one of the most common vegetables that feature in any Middle Eastern cuisine and eggplants are rich in antioxidants such as Nasunin and antimicrobial component called chlorogenic acid. Nausin helps in fighting free radicals that are largely responsible for oxidative degeneration of cells, the building blocks of human body.
Liberal use of turmeric, cumin, fenugreek, and sesame seeds is because of the invaders who brought with them spices and flavors of the cuisines from the east. Turmeric is known to have antiseptic properties and when consumed in little quantities regularly can help you in improving your digestion. This ingredient is often called nutritional powerhouse by various nutritionists because of the presence of curcumin that makes this spice appear bright yellow in color.
Curcumin is not only beneficial in improving the immune system, but it is also known to have cancer fighting properties.
Cumin is used in grounded as well as granular form and is rich in iron, and helps in nutrient assimilation apart from improving secretion of pancreatic enzymes needed for proper digestion.
Use of dairy products such as curds also makes this Middle Eastern Food quite a healthy one. Curd is a rich source of calcium and Vitamin C, it is also known to have healthy microorganism that helps in improving immunity and digestion.
Milk is either consumed fresh or soured as a beverage of curd mixed with water and spices.
Several clinical research have found that Middle Eastern cuisine is very good for the heart and circulatory system; the benefits consist of reduced risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and degenerative diseases like Alzheimer.
Middle Eastern cuisine is rich because of the wide range of green leafy vegetables made with aromatic spices that are part of their daily diet. Lamb and mutton is ideally served with bread called Pita breads made from whole wheat or long grain rice rich in carbohydrate and starch.
They have a distinction of making kebabs, a form of grilled meat balls stacked to a skewer, cooked on earthen oven on slow fire, and hence it retains much of its nutritional value and flavor.
Kebabs are a real delicacy and they are full of aromatic spices, curd, and minimal amount of oil. As we have already said that minimal use of butter in Middle Eastern recipes have made this food popular in comparison to foods that are cooked primarily in large quantities of oil using methods like deep and shallow frying.
However, use of clarified butter, also called ghee, is often witnessed during festive seasons, when tradition recipes are prepared in a grand manner.
Desserts are prepared using lots of nuts, dry fruits and jaggery (unrefined sugar made from sugarcane and date palm) making them rich in fiber and micronutrients. With the world opening up for the exotic flavors and taste from this region, it is just a matter of time when people start appreciating the real health benefits of Middle Eastern recipes.
Sophia has keen interest on different types of cuisines. She is also aware of the health benefits of different types of food. She has found Shahiya.com worthy to follow as it contains different healthy recipes.
Image by pallavi_damera
=> If you are interested in writing for this social food blog, check out the guest post guidelines.