Rice is the staple food and the Iranians cook it superbly. Dishes include chelo khoresh (rice topped with vegetables and meat in a nut sauce), polo chele (pilau rice), polo sabzi (pilau rice cooked with fresh herbs), polo chirin (sweet-sour saffron-coloured rice with raisins, almonds and orange), adas polo (rice, lentils and meat), morgh polo (chicken and pilau rice), chelo kababs (rice with skewered meats cooked over charcoal), kofte (minced meat formed into meatballs), kofte gusht (meatloaf), abgusht (thick stew), khoreshe badinjan (mutton and aubergine stew), mast-o-khier (cold yogurt-based soup flavoured with mint, chopped cucumber and raisins) and dolmeh (stuffed aubergine, courgettes or peppers). Most Iranian meals are eaten with a spoon and fork, but visitors may choose a Western dish and eat with a knife and fork.
Fruit and vegetable juices are popular, as are sparkling mineral waters. Tea is also popular and drunk in the many tea houses (ghahve khane). The consumption of alcohol is strictly forbidden.
The cuisine of Lebanon is the epitome of the Mediterranean diet. It includes an abundance of starches, fruits, vegetables, fresh fish and seafood; animal fats are consumed sparingly. Poultry is eaten more often than red meat, and when red meat is eaten it is usually lamb. It also includes copious amounts of garlic and olive oil. Nary a meal goes by in Lebanon that does not include these two ingredients. Most often foods are either grilled, baked or sautéed in olive oil; butter or cream is rarely used other than in a few desserts.
Vegetables are often eaten raw or pickled as well as cooked. While the cuisine of Lebanon doesn't boast an entire repertoire of sauces, it focuses on herbs, spices and the freshness of ingredients; the assortment of dishes and combinations are almost limitless. The meals are full of robust, earthy flavours and, like most Mediterranean countries, much of what the Lebanese eat is dictated by the seasons.
The Jewish people began to come home to Israel from the four corners of the world more than a century ago, and they brought their recipes with them. Because of this phenomenon, Israel boasts restaurants with every imaginable kind of cuisine.
Everything from Thai to Romanian; Greek to Italian; fast food American like McDonalds, Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken to elegant French establishments. You will find restaurants, which specialize in Chinese, pancakes, Mexican, or South African steaks.
However, when people come to visit us in Israel, they often want to sample the local Israeli food. Many dishes are considered traditionally Jewish, such as blintzes, gefelte fish, and potato pancakes, to name a few. But, what is Israeli food?
Although the Jewish people have brought a wonderful potpourri of food to Israel, the only food that could be considered Israeli is called 'Mizrachi', which in Hebrew means 'from the east.' However, no one has the chutzpa (nerve) to claim Mizrachi dishes are Israeli, since they are found in many countries in the Mediterranean basin and Arab countries of the Middle East, but all Israelis love to eat mizrachi food.
If you have visited Israel, no doubt you have enjoyed some of these wonderful, often spicy dishes. They include salads like humus, tahina, eggplant, and Turkish salad (a middle eastern version of salsa). For the main dish you might have sampled Shishlik (chunks of meat cooked on a skewer over a flame), mixed grill (you don't want to know what is in here), or kabab (a spicy minced meat mixture formed in fat cigar-shaped patties). A popular fast-food mizrachi treat is falafel. The typical falafel consists of fried chickpea balls, humus, salads and french fries (Israelis call them 'chips') which are all stuffed into a pita bread and frequently overflows. Don't eat a falalel in your good clothes, or a trip to the cleaners will be in order.
Probably the most common dish is humus. No mizrachi meal is complete without it. This thick spread-like dip is a great appetizer or good with any kind of grilled meat. Although it is traditionally eaten with pita (pocket) bread, it is also very good with crackers.
Chickpea And Sesame Spread
1 15 - 16 oz can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained.
¼ cup of good-quality olive oil
¼ cup Tahina (pure sesame paste - stir well before using)
2 - 4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice, preferably fresh
2 - 3 tablespoons cold water (or more, if needed when using a blender)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Sprigs of fresh parsley leaves
Sliced pitted olives (black or green) - optional
1 Tablespoon pine nuts (pignoli), lightly toasted - optional
Top with additional olive oil - optional
Scatter chickpeas on top - optional
Put the chickpeas, oil, tahina, garlic, lemon juice and water into a food processor (fitted with the steel blade) or a blender. Process until smooth, scraping down the sides of the container a few times. (With a blender, it may be necessary to add 1 - 2 tablespoons more water to avoid clogging the blades.) Add the seasonings to taste.
Spoon the humus into a small serving dish and attractively garnish it with the parsley and the olives, pine nuts, or chickpeas (if used). Refrigerate for several hours to give the flavours a chance to blend. Serve it cold or for the best taste, let it come to room temperature. If desired, sprinkle the top of the humus with a few teaspoons of olive oil just before serving, as is the Middle East custom. Serve with pita bread triangles. Makes about 2 cups.
Note: Tahina can be found at Middle East speciality stores or health food stores.
Egyptian cuisine has been influenced by Greek, Turkish, Lebanese, Palestinian, and Syrian traditions; a typical Egyptian meal might include meat, chicken, or fish, a vegetable stew, rice or pasta, salad and bread.
More information on cuisines available in Pattaya, Thailand
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