Palestinian traditional foods are a vital part of the national heritage; every dish has a long story which is intricately linked with the culture. The traditional dishes can be cooked in several ways, thereby making the same recipe taste different from one family to another.
Every recipe has a different flavor, a deep taste that can hold the memories and history. However, each city has its traditional food and a unique flavor that is known just for its chefs and restaurants.
Some of the most remarkable Palestinian foods are “Al Maklouba”, “Samakia”, “Al Musakhan”, “Al Mansaf”, “Mujadara” and ” Homous”.
- Al Maklouba
I have fond memories of having Al Maklouba ever since I was a child. It is considered the most delicious traditional food in Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan. The main condiment consists of meat, rice, and fried vegetables, covered either by chicken or lamb. The prime theme of serving Maklouba is its look which attracts a lot of people. Usually it is served with salad or fresh yogurt and prepared only for large gatherings.
In the past, it was customary to have one pot of copper in every Palestinian house, which is designated for the whole family. This though would be a cry for help during the COVID-19 times, however strengthens the familial bond as all the members can eat from one dish.
This dish is considered as a delicious recipe which requires limited amount of time to prepare. All the ingredients are put in one pot of copper, the meat at the bottom, followed by vegetables, then the rice or wheat. When served, they invert the copper pot upside down, hence the name — Maklouba — which can be literally translated as “upside-down.”
Another traditional Palestinian dish you don’t want to miss is “Samakia” which is reserved for wedding parties or special occasions. “Samakia” consists of sumac plants, meat, green pepper, chilly, chickpeas, and flour.
I still remember how my mom would prepare one for the whole family. She would put all the ingredients in one pot; cutting the ingredients into small pieces and then adding chickpeas which is then left to heat.
This is a food where a large group of people can be served as this dish is usually made to serve to groups of people of more than fifty individuals. The name “Samakia” comes from the fact that up to 60% of its content comes from a Sumac plant.
- Al Musakhan
It is a popular meal in the entire Palestinian region with many layers of onions, sumac, roasted chicken and pine nuts sprinkled over it. It is sometimes even said to be the national dish of Palestine. If you ever come across an Arab restaurant, I recommend you to taste it.
This dish is easy to make because its items are easily available, which is the main reason for its popularity. It is very famous in all of the Middle Eastern countries which includes the United Arab Emirates and Jordan.
- Al Mansaf
“Mansaf” is a traditional Arab food where some rice is served with roasted lamb fermented in yogurt. It is called “Mansaf” because of its idea which is based on undermining the customs, traditions, and teachings of the Jewish religion, that forbid eating milk with meat. The name itself means a “large tray or dish”. Now you can imagine how big and delicious it looks.
It is considered Jordan’s national dish but has gained more popularity in Palestine. This dish has a manner of eating when it is placed on the table. People gather around and eat while standing using the right hand and keeping the left hand at the back.
It is one of the healthiest and the oldest traditional foods in the Middle East and Palestine. It has historical importance in Eastern Arab countries as well. It goes by different names, depending on where you are. It has many spelling variations: mujadarra, mujadarah, majadra, mejadra, moujadara, mudardara, and megadarra
“Mujaddara” is a beautiful dish with rice at the bottom, cooked lentils and onions, mixed with a small cup of creamy or spicy sauce. There in an old saying that, “A hungry man would be willing to sell his soul for a dish of ‘Mujaddara’.” Since I have tasted it, I would totally agree with that.
It is one of the best starter dishes, and popular in every home of Palestine. If you ever visit Palestine, you would be first honoured with “Hummus”. Just like in Assam Paan-Tamul is famous, the same is the case of Palestine with Hummus. It contains chickpeas, grounded sesame, chilly, garlic, and olive oil.
Within Palestine, you will find a great diversity of food just like India. West Bank contributes to heavier dishes like meats and traditional bread however, in my place Gaza, you will have a great taste of seafood and spices with Palestinian pastries, cheese, and dates. Additionally how can one forget the contribution of olive oil in every dish?
In spite of many disputes between regions, these traditional foods combine our people and community together. You will find Palestine to be more different than what you just see or hear on social media. Here culture revolves around food uniting different communities with the taste buds.
Life is all about spending time with family and friends with good food on the table and making an event out of ordinary, and Palestine echoes nothing but love and generosity.
(The author is an international intern for EastMojo, from Gaza, Palestine. She is currently pursuing master’s in Mass Communication and Journalism from Tezpur University. She is on the mission to sensitize the people of NorthEast of the situation and the grim reality of the happenings in Palestine.)
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