The Mankousheh Culture: Lebanon’s Zaatar W Zeit Launches World Mankousheh Day

 

If there’s anything I miss about Lebanon, apart from my friends and family, it’s the food. Say what you want about the country – and after living in the U.S. for around half a year, I can definitely tell you I still have a lot to berate where I come from about – but the food is just something else. Not only is our diet healthy, but it’s also extremely tasty. I’ve come to appreciate that after my many months in America.

As far as I can remember, a hallmark of a Lebanese breakfast has been the mankousheh. My school had a small store in our common area that sold them whenever we had recess. My dad’s aunt was a baker and for as long as she lived, I remember her tiny black dresses with Zaatar stains on them from the mankoushes she used to bake and sell. Then, when we grew up and moved to cities, we moved to more “sophisticated” iterations, with whole wheat, and the like.

The fact remains, however, that Lebanon is a country of the mankoushe culture. And frankly, would you have it any other way?

On November 2nd, Zaatar w Zeit, whose rise to prominence among Lebanon’s diners was because of its take on the mankousheh (I mean, just look at their name), is announcing World Mankousheh Day to celebrate our heritage when it comes to this item that’s quite literally synonymous with every Lebanese growing up, to further potentiate the Lebanese identity of such a traditional meal.

In recent years, the mankousheh has gone through many changes, be it with ZWZ or other chains that produce it: different types of doughs, different toppings, etc… On World Mankoushe Day, however, the celebration is about going back to the basics of it all, the mankousheh that we all know, and that I believe was the first for all of us: zaatar, zeit and fresh out of the oven.

Cheers to our heritage, whether it’s men l forn or 3al saj or any other variety.

I commend ZWZ on such a great move. Here’s to further celebrations in Lebanese cuisine to further cement their identities in an ever changing world.

PS: If you’re in Lebanon, ZWZ is offering free mana’eesh all day today! 

New Apple Based Knefeh & Maamoul: How Tripoli’s Hallab Is Helping Lebanon’s Apple Farmers

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, which I have for the past few weeks, you’d know that Lebanon has added yet another crisis to its list, with the latest being that our Apple farmers have no one to buy their product.

In short, the situation in neighboring Syria caused the export market of our apple produce to stagnate, leading to our farmers being unable to liquidate everything they grew during the season. Couple this with the fact that European countries are wary of importing Lebanese apples because of the use of insecticides, as well as very lax Lebanese governmental regulation towards the import of apple from other countries into Lebanon, and you have a crisis on our hands.

Over the past few weeks, Lebanon’s apple farmers have been protesting in an attempt to get the government to buy their products, even if at a loss to them, in order to offset their losses. The problem will remain, however, as long as our government doesn’t regulate the import of foreign goods that have an equivalent counterpart that is locally produced: why the hell do we need to import apples from France if we’ve got thousands of tons of Lebanese apple residing in warehouses across the country stagnating?

But I digress.

To help the struggling farmers make ends meet, Lebanon’s top sweets producer, Tripoli’s Abdul Rahman Hallab figured the best way to do so was to use our country’s apples into new sweets. It’s a win-win situation for both the farmers and Hallab: on one hand, having their products sold is what the farmers want and need, and on the other hand Hallab would be able to add new items to their menu that aren’t present in other Lebanese sweets manufacturers.

Earlier today, after taking my cat to the vet in Tripoli, I met up with my friend Zaher at Le Palais in order to try out their new “lahm b aajin,” except now it’s no longer just lahm with the advent of the soujouk and chicken varieties. I loved them, and recommend you try them.

Over the past few weeks, and in secret in their Tripoli HQ, Hallab bought over a ton of Apples as a trial phase and worked hard on coming up with new sweets that would at first be available exclusively in Tripoli before being distributed their other branches across the country over the coming weeks.

The sweets are as follows:

  1. Knefeh b teffeh: this includes three kinds –> one with apple and ashta, the second with apple and cinnamon, and the third with apple jam.
  2. Apple pie: not your usual apple pie as the crust is the one you’d typically find in Arabian, not Western, sweets.
  3. Apple maamoul: also not your typical maamoul-like entry, but the texture is very similar.
  4. Apple baklava: this comes in addition to their new chocolate based baklava.

I tried the first 3. The Apple baklava was not available when I was visiting. To say the new desserts are phenomenal would be an understatement. Granted, I like apple-based sweets. Apple pies are always awesome. But there’s something about merging apple with traditional Lebanese/Arab sweets that makes the combination extremely good, and I highly recommend it.

My preference is as follows:

  1. The knefeh with apple and cinnamon,
  2. The knefeh with apple and ashta,
  3. The apple pie,
  4. The apple maamoul,
  5. The knefeh with apple jam.

You can’t go wrong with any of them though, as they are all just wonderful.

To note, this is not a paid post. I’m writing it because I thought the gesture towards the farmers is beautiful and it has culminated in new takes on traditional Lebanese food entries that are worth noting. It’s not every day that we can talk about apple based knefeh or maamoul, and based on what Hallab told me those items will run for a limited time as well.

Here’s hoping Lebanon’s farmers find their footing soon. Other companies that are trying to help them include McDonald’s, Spinneys and Classic Burger Joint. I hope others follow suit soon. Until then, make sure you visit Tripoli for the awesome new knefeh (or be lazy and wait until they arrive to a Hallab near you).

 

My Favorite Non-Religious Things about Lebanese Easter

Here’s #1: Kebbet el 7azine.

 

No meat goes into making this. Instead, they use pumpkins and chickpeas, as well as various herbs. Try it with lots of garlic paste and you’re set to go.

Kebbe el 7azine -

And #2:

Maamoul b Tamer:

Can’t go into the recipe. Too complex and tiring. But let me tell you this, homemade Maamoul is the best and my mom is especially good at making them. I haven’t tried this year’s batch (they contain butter) but I’m sure they’re equally good. At least they look delicious.

Maamoul b Joz:

Maamoul b Joz

Sa7tein! Omnomom :p