What Is A Meze?

What Is A Meze?

Kathryn Hill
Sep 10, 2009
Last week I made a list of small bite meals around the world. One item on this list was meze, which is a collection of finger foods. A meze is a big part of the dining experience in Eastern Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Arab countries. The word "meze" means "taste" and/or "snack." The concept is very similar to the tapas of Spain, but with different ingredients. When served with alcohol like anise-flavored liqueurs such as arak or, ouzo, raki (alcohol made from grape pomace,) or wine, a meze is a main meal. Without alcohol, this is called muqabbilat in Arabic and means "starters," or appetizers. Right now in Muslim countries it is the holy month of Ramadan, and mezes are a big part of the iftar meals served after sunset. Dishes that are served in a meze are called mezedhes, and these vary by region. Some examples include: Turkey Beyaz peynir - a white sheep's milk cheese Fresh fruit Acili eme - hot pepper paste with walnuts Haydari - a thick strained yogurt Patlican saltais - eggplant salad Grilled calamari salad Grilled seasonal vegetables such as artichokes and tomatoes Cacik - yogurt with cucumber and garlic Dolmas - grape leaves stuffed with rice and vegetables Lamb meatballs Greece and Cyprus Octopus Grilled fish Sliced hard-boiled eggs Vegetable salads Grilled bread Kalamata olives Fava beans Eggplant salad Taramosalata - a salad madre of cod roe mixed with bread crumbs, lemon juice, vinegar, and olive oil Fried/grilled cheeses like halloumi and saganaki Feta cheese and other salty sheep's milk cheeses Meatballs Fried sausages The Balkans Cheeses Kajmak - clotted cream Salami Smoked ham Kulen - a type of sausage Suho mexo - dried beef that has been salted and smoked Pickles Sudzuk - a dry, spicy sausage Roasted peppers Green olives Mediterranean Arab Countries, North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Arabian Peninsula, and The Middle East Ful medames - a dish made of mashed fava beans cooked with garlic, parsley, and lemon Harira - a Moroccan chickpea and lamb stew Falafel Baba ghanoush - a smoky eggplant dip with tahini. Called moutabal in some places. Hummus Kibbeh - a dish madre with spices, bulgur wheat, and meat. Kibbeh nayye has lamb. Lamb and beef sausages Fried cauliflower Roasted game birds Labneh - thick strained yogurt Cheeses made from cow's or sheep's milk Muhammara - a dip made with roasted red peppers, walnuts, and pomegranate molasses Fresh vegetable salads with seasonal ingredients such as rocket Tabbouleh - a salad made with bulgur, parsley, mint, tomatoes, lemon juice, and olive oil Fattoush - a salad made with toasted pita bread, fresh vegetables, lemon juice, olive oil, and sumac Mezes create wonderful social occasions as they encourage diners to share, talk, and make contact. These dishes are traditionally eaten with the fingers and scooped up with pieces of bread. Arabs eat with the right hand only, using three or four fingers. Related: Fattoush, A Delicious Middle Eastern Salad Ingredient Spotlight: Bulgur Wheat Easy Homemade Pita Bread Pearl Israeli Couscous Ingredient Spotlight: Preserved Lemons Ancient Egyptian Recipe: Ful medammes Spicy Oven-Roasted Chickpeas DIY Baba Ghanoush Reader Recipe: Turkish Cacik DIY Hummus Muhammara: Pomegranate, Walnut, & Red Pepper Dip Word of Mouth: Labneh (Image: Flickr user UnaiGuerra - thanks!)
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