[Get to know MEDUSA's territories] The Unique Taste of Lebanon: Manaqish
This article forms part of a series of publications under MEDUSA project to promote less-known natural and cultural touristic assets in our partner territories Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia, Puglia (Italy) and Catalonia (Spain). Enjoy reading and hope to welcome you soon at one of the wonderful places you will get to know here.
Long before it gained popularity for its health benefits and neuro-protective effects, Mediterranean cuisine was a favourite among those who craved aromatic and flavourful dishes. While Lebanese Mezze is one of the most gourmet presentations of this cuisine’s features, even a standalone item such as the Man'ousheh, which is the Lebanese equivalent of Pizza, carries its own unique culinary bubble that food enthusiasts are sure to appreciate.
The Man'ousheh (plural: Manaqish) is a unique form of pastries popular in the Levant. It usually comes in the form of a dough with multiple topping choices such as Zaatar (a mixture of thyme, spices, nuts, sesame and olive oil), minced beef or lamb (known as Lahm Bi Ajin), cheese (with unique local varieties such as Akkawi and Halloum), chili sauce (labelled Shatta Hamra), kishq (unique mixture of fermented yogurt and wheat) and spinach. The dough is usually very thin and soft unless requested to be prepared differently, and the topping is always very juicy considering the choice of ingredients, which always include olive oil in varying amounts. Traditionally, Manaqish were prepared as a morning dish to be enjoyed with a bit of sweetened tea for a healthful and energizing breakfast.
In Lebanon, you can get the definitive Man’ousheh experience if you pay a visit to the Baatara Gorge Waterfall in Tannourine (A touristic sight known as ‘Balouu Balaa’) where you can enjoy some of the most traditional flavours prepared by the locals on your way to a beautiful natural site visited by many lovers of adventure. Nonetheless, many other similarly unique experience await those who travel through most of the mountainous regions and villages in Lebanon, where Manaqish are prepared using Tannour bread, which is derived from the Akkadian word Tinûru mentioned as early as the Sumerian epic of Gilgamesh. Tannour bread has a slightly rough texture and it maintains some of the wheat’s earthy flavour, making it ideal for locally made Zaatar as a topping. Lebanese thyme has a very distinct flavour, especially the varieties that grows in Mt. Hermon, and this makes Man’oushet Zaatar in Lebanon its own unique experience, as the one that you will enjoy during Ehden’s festivals will have a bit of a different flavour from the one you will taste when passing by Jebran Khalil Jebran’s museum in Bcharre. Ultimately, the Lebanese Manaqish experience is much not different from anything else in the country, it is never the same between one area and the next, and you are bound to find a unique feature no matter how many different places visit. Man’ousheh is such a culinary sensation that those who taste it once will join the rank of countless tourists and Lebanese citizens (home or abroad), who often crave its wholesome flavour, at one of the many Afran (Lebanese Bakeries) that turned its preparation into a masterful art.