A Food pop-up showcasing food as a window to a culture + Tasting Middle eastern food that is not Falafels & Hummus
Food connects, food is a bridge, food is a book , food is a window to another culture , another place. Food transforms and food transports us. Food is independent and food is democratic.
Read on to find out how Middle eastern food is not just your neighbourhood Falafels & Hummus but a whole culture wrapped in to beautiful food bursting with flavours. Here we re-created unique traditional dishes from different countries with locally available ingredients.
I am not biased to any particular kind of food, I do not lean towards one type of cuisine. Food for me is also a way to know more about another culture. Each ingredient, each spice, each technique tells a story, it’s talks about the culture’s history. People often start consuming an ingredient that is freely available and is grown locally. That is how cuisines are shaped. Sometimes, ingredients are brought in from neighbouring countries by immigrants or brought back to their own countries like in the case of the English importing spices from India. I also love traditions , festivals and traditions. And I love the food that surrounds it. This was the genesis of the this unique food event , Lébu Suppers: Middle eastern table pop up lunch.
I have never been to the Middle east and most middle eastern food available in the city is falafels & hummus, but you may not have to go to a place to know it just a little. At one of my last jobs I used to work with the local team in Dubai. Being a marketer I used to look at consumers studies (so basically people) from Dubai, Egypt etc., to understand who are they , what is there daily life like, how do local traditions drive what they choose etc.
Then I met my husband Vivek who had spent 11 years of his growing up years in Dubai & he always speaks about the perfect Shawarma, which according to him was made by this tiny Lebanese joint in Dubai and no matter how many shawarmas he ate in India after that, it never measured up to it. His stories about riding around in the car as a kid with their family driver who somehow managed to find them a burger or kebabs before Iftar during Ramadan (restaurants don’t make a big deal about being open before its sundown & Iftar period starts when everyone eats after fasting for the entire day) stayed with me.
Also, my south Indian mother in law makes falafels and muttabal that she learned from her neighbours back in Dubai. She also introduced me to the wonders of the super spices that is sumac and za’taar. It was last year when I discovered this catering and QSR food service in London called ‘Sakbeh’ which started as a way to preserve & build awareness for Syrian food, I obsessively looked at their Instagram page and salivate and wish I would somehow transport that food to Bangalore.
So, when I was thinking of the next food experience, I looked no further; even though I had never had authentic Middle Eastern food. And I use the word ‘Middle Eastern’ loosely here. I know that it’s naive to bunch an entire region and diaspora together. I know because Indian food is bunched together even though food, flavours , ingredients changes every few kilometers.
Hence, when I had to create a menu for this pop-up I researched and found out dishes which were not popular already; like hummus or falafel. I felt that somehow the whole culture and ingredients and flavour profile is not represented properly (Note to readers: at least not in India, I would love your comments on whether they are represented well in wherever you live)
Therefore, I created a menu which attempted to take guests through a journey through middle east with the amazing food local to the region. We discovered traditional recipes with some new twists, taste the local dishes traditionally eaten at large celebrations and warm gatherings with family & friends. Guests were able to have dishes made with locally popular spices like sumac & za’atar. As usual we had lots of conversations on food , travel, passions while enjoying the view from our open flat sipping on unlimited whiskey cocktails made with Ras-el-hanout spices.
The guests surprised us with their own knowledge of the unexplored cuisine as some like my husband, Vivek had grown up in the Middle east and had come to find a taste of the forgotten palettes. What an honour it was to recreate it. It was hard work, as I rushed in from work every day to test the dishes. Vivek worked hard on creating the perfect winter whiskey cocktail with a secret spice mix. The menu took 2 days to cook, but the smile of bliss on our guests’ faces as they wiped their plates clean was worth it, it always is.
The menu is as follows. I will be sharing all the recipes one by one in upcoming blog posts. This experience was created in association with Openout.
Menu for Lébu Suppers: Middle Eastern table
Ras-el-Hanout Whiskey Cocktail
A whiskey cocktail made with best of spices from the Middle East
A southern Iranian red lentil & tamarind sauce soup , a perfectly heart warming dish for the winter & a great initiation in to middle eastern cuisine
Bahārāt (a home- made spice blend) Lamb
Lebanese lamb cutlets served with Pita bread pieces and choice of Dips
1. Edmame Hummus 2. Yoghurt, Garlic, Mint Dip
Ground Lamb & broken wheat meatballs in a spicy red pepper and lemon sauce (a traditional Syrian dish made during celebrations)
A widely popular dish all across the Middle east .Delicate cabbage leaves individually wrapped around a seasoned mix of cumin and multi spice-infused minced meat (this variation was with minced chicken) and rice cooked in a zesty lemon and tamarind base with garlic bulbs and topped off with garlic and mint
A Lebanese dish which is an amazing vegan eggplant and chickpea stew concoction
A Levantine vegetarian dish made of tomatoes, finely chopped parsley, mint, broken wheat and onion, and seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt , makes for a great side for any dish
A middle eastern dessert which is a milk pudding made with a heady combination of roses & lemon syrup topped with pistachios
Middle eastern food is not just your neighbourhood Falafels & Hummus but a whole culture wrapped in to beautiful food bursting with flavours. Here we re-created unique traditional dishes from different countries with locally available ingredients.
Lébu suppers are a series of pop-up suppers often inspired by travels, inspired by local & international cuisines and always made with local & often indigenously grown ingredients, all in intimate settings. To be invited to the next one, subscribe to the mailing list here or write to us at email@example.com with the subject line ‘Invite to suppers’.