We went back in time when we set out to visit the historic section of Tripoli — Lebanon’s second largest city. My husband’s cousin Lina took us to an old neighborhood in Tripoli to experience a traditional Lebanese breakfast.
It was a small restaurant, with an arched stone ceiling that held elaborate chandeliers. No menus, everyone just knew what they offered.
Our classic Lebanese breakfast was a celebration of beans — chickpeas and fava beans, served simply with bread, fresh mint leaves, onion, tomatoes, romaine leaves, and a big pile of cumin (along with quite a bit of olive oil).
The bowls kept coming, starting with fattee (pronounced fuh tea), a warm garlicky yogurt mixture that was studded with chickpeas, toasted bread and pine nuts. This dish in Lebanon is also a main course served with meat on top, but this was a vegetarian version for breakfast.
Next was the balila, a chickpea dish similar to hummus but without the tahini.
Next was the foul moudammas, dried fava beans in oil that was topped with a creamy tahini sauce. Click here for a recipe for foul (pronounced fool) from Tripoli. I often use canned beans at home, you can’t beat the convenience. But I don’t think I could match the character of these dishes unless I started with dried beans. There’s no comparison. So I will definitely be buying dried chickpeas and fava beans when I try these recipes at home (and I think I’ll use a little less olive oil!)
Then the most perfect basket of falafel was brought to our table. The orbs were crunchy, yet moist and the insides were shaded green due to the amble amount of coriander used.
After our breakfast, we roamed the streets of this historic area before visiting a friend of Lina’s who was restoring an old home in the area. We saw a man selling freshly squeezed carrot juice on the street. I loved the elaborate stand that held his juice-making materials and the outdoor fan that kept him cool.
We passed by a store selling olives.
And two boys selling cactus fruit (or prickly pear) in a baby stroller.
The next stop was Hallab & Sons The Palace of Sweets, one of the largest stores specializing in traditional oriental sweets. It’s supposedly the best spot for sweets in all of Lebanon and is one of Tripoli’s most renowned tourist sites. People from around the world come here to experience the baklawa and other sweets.
This might have been the best dessert I’ve ever eaten. It’s called Othmaliye, a traditional Middle Eastern dessert that’s made with two layers of deep-fried Kunafa dough filled with sweet cream flavored with orange blossom water. Think of it as a Lebanese tiramisu. The layered dessert was topped with rose petals and we drizzled it with sugar syrup at the table. I hear it’s particularly popular during Ramadan.
I’ve seen the pre-prepared dough at Middle Eastern markets in the U.S., so it’s something I’d like to try at home. Here are a few recipes for Othmaliye I found online:
Arabic Food Recipes
Stay tuned for more of my food adventures in Lebanon.