The Kid-Friendly Guide to Lebanese Food

kid-friendly guide to Lebanese Food
Lebanese food is a staple in our household; with the kid-foodies being half-Lebanese, their dad a chef, and their mom aka me a Middle Eastern food lover, you can only imagine what dinner at our house looks like.
 
While Lebanese food is very popular in, well, the Middle East, it’s not a popular dining option in the USA, especially in Hawaii. My husband and his partner co-own Hawaii’s only authentic Moroccan and Lebanese restaurants, Kan Zaman (if you’re on Oahu, they just opened their second location in Kaimuki in May!).
 
People can be apprehensive to try new cuisines, especially when it’s so different to what’s usually on your plate. We get it, BUT if you’ve never tried Lebanese food before and get the chance, go for it – it’s flavorful, delicious, and Lebanese salads like fattoush and tabbouleh are some of the freshest and healthiest I’ve tasted!
 
Here’s a list of what Lou Lou and Jaf love to eat on a daily basis when they’re in Beirut for the summer.
 

THE KID-FRIENDLY GUIDE TO LEBANESE FOOD

Kid-Friendly Guide to Lebanese Food

Shawarma

Wondering what passes for fast-food in the Middle East? Shawarma!
kid-friendly guide to Lebanese FoodShawarma is one of the most popular Middle Eastern foods served around the world. Shawarmas can be served on a plate or as a sandwich (pita is the bread used) wrap, filled with shaved meat varying from lamb, beef or chicken. The meats are assembled vertically on a spit and grilled for hours until they are tender. The meat that is shaved off is full of juices and is then filled into a pita wrap with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and pickles.
 
Kid Foodie Favorite: Chicken Shawarma with no pickles is our favorite!
 

Grape Leaves

Homemade #grapeleaves or #warakenab are the best served warm 😍 #LebaneseEats #kidfoodie #kidfoodies #hawaiikids #arabic

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Known as “warak enab,” grape leaves are an appetizer that can be served both hot or cold. Usually stuffed with rice, minced beef or lamb and various spices, they can also be made with only vegetables too. In our family’s home, we grace the bottom of the pot with thick slices of potatoes to soak up all the juices from the grape leaves as they are steamed.
 
Kid Foodie Favorite:  Mix some smashed garlic into a cup of plain yogurt and use a dipping sauce for the grape leaves.  My kids love this.
 

Hummus

Hummus with shawarma 😍 @kanzamanhawaii #lebanese #hummus #hawaiieats #kidfoodies

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Hummus (which has various spellings) is a Levantine dip made from chickpeas (or garbanzo beans) that have been cooked and mashed, then blended with tahini (a paste made from sesame seeds), olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and salt. Chickpeas are a vegetable that have been cultivated throughout the Middle East for thousands of years. Hummus is a staple in our household – the kid-foodies even have a recipe they love to help prepare.
 
Kid Foodie Favorite:  Eat hummus with toasted pita bread fresh cut cucumbers and carrots.
 

Mixed Grill

kid-friendly guide to lebanese food “Mixed Grill” is a famous main course dish ordered by many Lebanese after eating mezze (such as hummus). This dish contains an assortment of meats varying from marinated chicken, lamb, and beef grilled to perfection. This cuisine is served best with a side dish of fattoush (a deliciously refreshing Lebanese vegetarian salad), fresh pita bread, and garlic sauce (toum) for dipping. No visit to a Lebanese restaurant is complete unless you order a mixed grill.
 
Kid Foodie Favorite:  Shish Taook (grilled chicken) and Shish kebab (grilled meat) with garlic aioli are a hit with the kids.  Just make sure theres lots of pita bread around so they can eat with their hands.
 

Manakish

Similar to an American pizza (without the pizza sauce), manakish or manakeesh is a popular snack you’ll find everywhere in Beirut.  Served for breakfast or lunch, there are many different types of toppings including cheese, zatar (thyme), eggs or meat.
 
Kid Foodie Favorite:  We love cheese manakish with a side of tomato, cucumber and mint!
 

Kibbeh

kid-friendly guide to Lebanese Food

Kibbeh nayyeh or raw kibbeh (Arabic: كبة نيئة ) is a Lebanese and common Levantine mezze. It consists of minced raw lamb or beef mixed with fine bulgur.

Kibbeh is made of bulghur cracked wheat, minced onions, and lean ground beef that’s topped off with spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and clove. It can be fried into football-shaped croquettes that are stuffed with cooked minced beef or lamb or rolled into balls or patties, and either baked or cooked in yogurt.

 
Kid Foodie Favorite: Grandma’s freshly made kibbeh 🙂
 

Mujadara

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The main ingredients of mujadara are rice and lentils together with groats (hulled kernels of various grains) and onions. In Arabic mujaddara means ‘pockmarked’ and is mainly served during special occasions. Back in the day this used to be considered a poor person’s meal (without the meat since it was too expensive), but contained all the right nutrients for nourishment, and was hearty enough for you to survive on.
 
Kid Foodie Favorite:  A side of Mujadara is the perfect accompaniment to your Mixed Grill meat platter. 
 

Falafel

kid-friendly guide to Lebanese FoodVeggie lovers rejoice because falafel is the veg-friendly Lebanese alternative to a meat shawarma. Usually falafel’s considered an appetizer and comes out with all the mezzes, but it is possible to have it in a sandwich for your entree. The main ingredients are ground garbanzo beans (though we sometimes use fava beans or a mixture of both) and are deep fried. Falafel sandwiches are topped with picked vegetables, or if served in a salad with greens, drizzled with different tahini-based sauces.
 

Ka’ak

lebanese street food guide the kaak bread recipeKa’ak (pronounced Kah-ek) is a ring-shaped bread, just like its popular American counterpart, the bagel, that’s baked and covered with sesame seeds. Unlike the American bagel, however, the Ka’ak is larger and according to the kids, looks more like the top part of a key. Read all about this popular Beirut street food here, including a recipe!
 
Kid Foodie Favorite:  The kids like eating it with some Laughing Cow cream cheese spread on top, or filled with za’atar.
 

Kunafa

Kinafa or kunafa is a light and crunchy dessert of flaky pastry dough stuffed with sweet white cheese, sweet sugar syrup drizzled on top with crushed nuts. Often found in sweet shops and bakeries, this is a dessert enjoyed just as much by the adults as by the kids. If you want to have kunafa for breakfast, it’ll be on a sesame seed bun drizzled with sweet sugar syrup, thin rice vermicelli, butter, and sprinkled with nuts.
 

Tabbouleh

If tabbouleh is not part of the dinner table spread, then are you really dining in a Lebanese household?
kid-friendly guide to Lebanese FoodTabbouleh is another deliciously refreshing and simple Lebanese salad of Levantine origin that’s made from finely chopped fresh herbs – mint and parsley, tomatoes & onions, and bulgur. The salad is seasoned well with olive oil, juice from a freshly squeezed lemon and, salt.
  
Kid Foodie Favorite:  Growing up the kids like their tabbouleh with pomegranate seeds instead of tomatoes. 
 
There you have it – our kid-friendly guide to Lebanese Food. This is also a great starting point if you’re new to Lebanese cuisine and find yourself at a Lebanese restaurant for dinner.
 
If you’ve tried Lebanese food before, what’s your favorite dish? Let us know in the comments below!

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