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Top of the Town: 3 Traditional Middle Eastern Mezze Platters You Must Try

Top of the Town: 3 Traditional Middle Eastern Mezze Platters You Must Try

Whether you were celebrating Pancha Ganapati, Hanukkah, Christmas, or just being unshackled from your desk for a few days, I hope you had a joyful holiday period. But, just because the holidays are over, at least until Chinese New Year, it does not mean that you cannot still carry on with the three main things that make the festive period fun: celebration, togetherness and great food. We are all about sharing and caring at foodpanda all year long!

Mezze, a word originated in Turkish, means taste or snack, is a platter consists of a few different small hot or cold dishes or appetizers which are purposely and traditionally designed for sharing. Mezze dishes have been influenced by various cultures all through North Africa, Middle East and Mediterranean and still retain their popularity because of their rich and varied tastes.

Without further ado, here are 3 types of traditional lebanese food you should try:

A Mezze Menu To Die For: The Nile Restaurant

Situated by the traffic-flowing Escalator on Hollywood Road is The Nile. Instead of drifting by on the people current, I decide to stop and enjoy the scenery. Stepping inside, you are greeted by a painting and art that take you to exotic Egypt. I sit by the door, sipping on a cup of mint tea, and conduct some people watching as I wait to try their popular Lebanese Mezze Platter. Once the platter arrives, co-owner and head chef Tamer, a Cairo native, joins me for a chat about Egyptian culture and why he finds a place for Eygptian comfort food here in Hong Kong.

What’s in it?
The Nile’s mixed Mezze platter consists of several must-try items including the ever-popular hummus, tut cigar, kefta, zaaluk, vegetarian mergez sausages, babaganoush. Chef also prepares a roasted fig and vegetable tagine to go with this tasty platter.

The Nile | foodpanda Magazine

The Nile’s vegetarian friendly mezze platter

What’s the highlight?
The staples of any good Mezze, the hummus and babaganoush, are a perfect balance of texture, silkiness and flavor. What surprises me most, and brings a smile to my face, are their zaaluk, mergez sausages and tut cigars. Their tut cigars are crispy and you get a burst of smooth, creamy cheesy texture from the feta and hints of mint. Mergez sausages, which are usually made of lamb, highlight mashed chickpeas here to make the Mezze a truly vegetarian feast.

I love the sesame seeds on the outside, which give these faux-sausages an additional texture; the mashed chickpea blend inside is smooth and nutty and naturally sweet, offering the best of both sweet and savory. Their zaaluk is blended roasted eggplants with tomatoes, garlic and fresh lemon. It is refreshing, satisfying and has a complex nuttiness. I would happily eat a bowl of their zaaluk alone on any day of the week. I know Mezze is all about sharing, but hands off my zaaluk!

Vegetable Tagine | foodpanda Magazine

Try their exotic, tasty vegetable tagine this winter

What sets them apart?
The thoughtfulness of taking care of those who are herbivores. Not only their vegetarian-friendly Mezze platter, but also the roasted fig and vegetable tagine warm up your stomach nicely on any cold winter days. Furthermore, they prove that you don’t need meat to have depth and sophistication in a dish. The vegetable tagine is made with fresh, locally produced ingredients combining their in-house spice mixes that gives the broth many fathoms of flavors. This dish is a harmony: sourness of pickled olives, zesty tomato based broth are all balanced with the sweetness of roasted figs, sweet peas, bell peppers and other seasonal vegetables.

Why we love it?
Before Tamer settled in Hong Kong, he picked up his culinary experience working in fine dining in London hotel restaurants. When asked why he wanted to bring Egyptian food to Hong Kong, he explained, ‘I want people to experience the soul food that comes from my heart, my homeland.’ His culinary background, passion and ability to merge fine dining and comforting soul-food is clear as day. Whether you are vegetarian or meat lover, The Nile is a place for you to sail into the sunset, wind down and catch up on your latest with some soul-filling dishes. I can’t wait to return for some black truffle hummus next time.

Address: 26 Hollywood Rd, Central, Hong Kong

Le Souk

Next, I hop off the Escalator and wander onto Staunton St, SoHo and stop at this cozy, homey Moroccan bistro run by the Wakim brothers. Bouncy uplifting Arabic music playing in the background projects the Moroccan spirit. Colorful moroccan lamps casually dangle from the ceiling. Deep red and orange hues of the decor create a feeling of warmth of coziness and of escapism. Flamboyant co-owner Hero Wakim and I share our food for thought over a cup of Moroccan mint tea.

What’s in it?
Their signature Mezze Platter includes hummus, lamb kefta, babaganoush, Moroccan cigars, zaaluk, falafel, feta cheese, and pickled olives. Hero also prepares their signature meat dish Cous Cous A Le Souk to go with the platter.

Mezze at Le SoukMouthwatering Mezze at Le Souk

What’s the highlight?
I can’t stop raving about their kefta and falafel! I often find these dishes dense or dry, but at Le Souk they are so moist and still crispy on the outside. I have to find out why and Hero explains that they opt for a patty shape instead of a round shape. It helps control the temperature of cooking and ensure the inside is cooked to perfection while retaining the natural juices and flavors.

Their pickled olives elevate and complement the entire platter as the homemade marinades add zest and tang. Hero explains the marinade, harissa, is a north African chili sauce which they make in house using harissa chili pepper, fresh ginger, pepper, olive oil and cumin. You should (must!) also try their famous Cous Cous A Le Souk, a roasted lamb shank, with lamb mergez sausages, cous cous and veggie broth.

The lamb is uber-tender and the outside is crisped to perfection from roasting. The meat just peels off the bone as I fork through it; cous cous is steamed so it retains its crunch and soaks up the veggie broth they serve and pour on the side. I take a bit of the lamb and carefully wrap it with some zaluuk on my pita and gobble it down; I wonder if Moroccan Sesame Street has a lamb shank monster.

olives with harissaHomemade pickled olives with harissa

roasted lamb shankMust-try roasted lamb shank

What sets them apart?
The articulation of old and new cohesively blends with the Wakim brothers’ creativity in the menu design! The way they interpret country style moroccan and egyptian food into this modernized menu is definitely refreshing to see and taste, especially for those who are looking for Halal food and truly astonishing Mezze Platter dips in Hong Kong.

Why we love it?
Each of their mezze platter recipes will surprise you and your taste buds. They do moroccan food with a twist. This is a leisurely and luxurious experience – you won’t be in a game of diner dash and rushed through your meal. The owners emphasize enjoyment, taking time to finish the food and having a great time, the moroccan way!

Address: G/F, 4 Staunton St, Soho, Central, Hong Kong.

Zahrabel Dining Club

If you have heard of Zahra, the renowned Lebanese family run restaurant that enriched Hong Kong for over 15 years before owners Tarek and Vivienne El-Mahmoud decided to retire, then you will be pleased to know about Zahrabel Dining Club. Zahrabel is the sequel, the legacy, run by the El-Mahmoud family’s daughters, Nadia and Nysreen.

Upon arriving, I am already impressed with its minimalistic, warm and sophisticated décor. The interior is designed by their brother, an architect, and it shows. There is a subtle ambience to the grey floor tiles and rustic Lebanese ceiling lamps. A touch of orange from the comfortable seats enhances the traditional vibrancy to their dining club. I can immediately sense how detail-oriented Zahrabel is. The sisters welcome me warmly and share with me the family traditions and passion over a glass of Lebanese Rose’. I won’t look at Lebanese cuisine the same again after trying their food.

What’s in it?
Their sharing Mezze platter includes homemade pickles, falafel, futtayer, hummus, babaganoush, jos mahrouse, tabbouleh, kibbe nayyeh and lobster kibbe.

Zahrabel’s Mezze platterZahrabel’s elegant twist on Mezze platter

What’s the highlight?
Oh where do I begin? Their Babaganouj might make me an addict. As I take a bite, the first word that comes to mind is: ‘smoky!!’ And there is a perfect reason to this: the sisters actually smoke (instead of roast) each eggplant on an open fire until the inside is tender. They peel off the skin before blending with their secret herbs. It is woody, flavorful and there are no words to truly describe the beauty of it. Their homemade pickles are like fireworks of zest. The kibbe nayyeh, a lamb tartare, definitely would make Mr. and Mrs. El-Mahmoud proud. I can taste the lean and delicate minced lamb with a subtle combination of cumin, cinnamon and nutmeg. If you have never had lamb tartare, get ready to have your mind blown. Also, who can forget the lobster kibbe? Who would have thought you could wrap lobster with lamb? It sounds odd, but you can still taste the freshness and delicate sweetness of the lobster which is complimented by the lean lamb and delicate spicing.

lobster kibbeThe creative lobster kibbe

raw lamb kibbeUnique, mind-blowing raw lamb kibbe

What sets them apart?
Every thing, from the spice blends to the pita, is homemade. Their food is all prepared by The El-Mahmoud sisters with family recipes that have been passed on for 4 generations. Nadia and Nysreen both run the restaurant and are the only ones responsible for the spice mix cabinets and making sure each dish that goes out is to the family standard. Talk about quality control!
Why we love it? Zahrabel offers home style, northern lebanese food with sophistication, elegance and integrity. They definitely have me begging more for their food. The good news is they offer their mezze dips in a hamper so I can continue the mezze-thon at home!

General Enquiries: [email protected]
Address: 25 Floor, 239 Hennessy Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong

For other Middle Eastern delicacies and certified Halal restaurants, check here and get good food delivered to your home or office address!

Enjoy!


azurelorraine
Azure Lorraine |
Contributing Editor

Azure Lorraine is an adventurous food and life lover from sunny Cali. She enjoys writing about anything from food, lifestyle to mindfulness. Follow her scrumptious and vibrant journey around the world on Instagram @azuyuzu852.

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Article Written By foodpanda

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