Melbourne has become synonymous with a number of cultures, with fashion, film, art and music events constantly occurring. The most talked about aspect of Melbourne, however, is the food. There is food everywhere; down every alley, on every street, behind, on top, and beside almost every building. Living in or visiting Melbourne city is a rich, diverse and multi-cultural event, and restaurants in the state capital offer cuisine from almost every part of the world. With Italian, Chinese, Japanese, as well as other scattered restaurants offering additional eatery options, food lovers are bound to be impressed by what Melbourne has to offer.
Middle-Eastern cuisine, in particular, is making waves on the Melbourne dining scene. Not to be confused with Lebanese restaurants, Middle-Eastern takes its influences from a wide variety of nations including (but not limited to) Greece, Lebanon, Turkey, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Israel and Egypt. Middle-Eastern, then, has a much wider scope than just Lebanese food, but it can’t be denied that there are similarities. If you look harder at the menu, and are somewhat versed in worldly cuisine, you’ll find that Middle-Eastern takes the best of all surrounding areas and combines them into elegant, light and sumptuous dishes with massive appeal.
What is it?
The cuisines of the Middle-East celebrate living. No matter the country, basic ingredients involve fresh fruits and vegetables. The spices and flavours are designed to awaken the senses, which offset the more thick, rich tastes of the main ingredients. Lemon, garlic, rosemary and mint, for example, all share clean, biting and refreshing qualities. Of course, food varies throughout the region, but Middle-Eastern restaurants will typically share some basic elements. As an example, Melbourne’s Arabesque combine fresh ingredients, sharp spices, olive oil, and a sparing use of meat throughout their entire menu.
It’s only natural that people confuse Lebanese with Middle-Eastern restaurants, as Lebanon’s contributions are unmistakable. The flavours that spice the foods of all surrounding lands in the Middle-East, for example, are produced in abundance throughout Lebanon. Specifically Lebanese dishes feature staples such as kibbeh (ground lamb with bulgur wheat) and tabouleh (parsley, mint and bulgur wheat salad). Prepared to seamlessly blend a number of flavours, Lebanese is known for its earthy, sweet scents and tastes. As such, most Middle Eastern restaurants include some form of Lebanese cuisine, alongside influences from numerous other nations.
Contributions from the Middle-East are apparent throughout the cuisines of the world. For instance, Turkey has contributed dishes including yoghurt, stuffed vegetables and filo desserts. The Arab meat kebab, in addition to pita bread, are now a popular part of the Western diet. Middle-Eastern spices, such as coriander, cardamom and sumac, add zest to the recipes found in western restaurants. With all its numerous influences, there’s little wonder why cuisines of the Middle-East are so popular with Melbourne diners.