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Posts Tagged ‘Lebanese cuisine’

The very first short movie I shot, edited and produced in the summer of 2009 in New York City.

http://www.nyu.edu/pages/gsasweb/journal/iBeatReporting/2009/carlahaibi/index.html

The details of the event that I covered are in the following article published in NowLebanon.

http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArchiveDetails.aspx?ID=96645

Here are some shots behind the actual images in the short movie. My friend Miguel Olivo from the Dominican Republic, who is particularly fond of Lebanese culture, assisted me in the  filming process. Carrying the equipment from Manhattan to Brooklyn and back, was not a walk in the park, especially when we had to switch trains and endure service changes during weekends on metro lines servicing Brooklyn. The whole experience was very rewarding, especially after the final project was done. I have met amazing people who were so passionate about their background and engaged in their community. The young generation of Lebanese immigrants were very excited about showing off their dancing skills. As for Lebanese music, it played till very late after sundown.

The notorious dabke (Photo by Miguel Olivo)

Some behind the scenes shots (Photo by Miguel Olivo)

Miguel Olivo, Assistant Producer (Photo by Carla Haibi)

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As a follow-up to my previous post about ilili entitled “Tell me …more”, I  found this video about ilili where Chef and owner Philippe Massoud demonstrates how to make tabboule and baba ghannouj on camera.

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Ilili, or tell me, in Arabic, is the name of a Lebanese restaurant in New York City. Many friends have asked me which was my favorite Lebanese restaurant in the city. A question that would embarrass me because… you know what? I don’t like any Lebanese restaurant in the city. Truth is , I don’t like to eat Lebanese food at restaurants in New York. It is not worth it for me. And anyone who likes good food and appreciates homemade cuisine would agree with me…until i went to ilili in the Flatiron area. That place actually changed my views about Lebanese food in New York restaurants. 

First, the tabboule definitely competes with the homemade version. 

Although the service was not always great! Waiters take on the task of educating customers about the menu and the characteristics of the cuisine. And if they have doubts that the customer may be Lebanese , they ask  him or her , if they would like to break the Arak themselves. A gesture that made up for the mishaps that followed. But I will not dwell on that, because this place is a must-go destination, if you want to have a sense of what the cuisine in Lebanon tastes like.

 At the bar, you can choose from a special selection of cocktails with original combination of ingredients such as rose water and vodka to  warm up the palate for the upcoming culinary voyage. A complementary helping of creamy labne (strained yogurt) served with crispy pita chips drizzled with extra virgin olive oil imported from Koura in Northern Lebanon along with Lebanese olives; greet you at the table.

And about the rest? you can read it here.

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The Lebanese Jews have combined their cultural heritage with their religious obligations and thus eat Lebanese Kosher food. According to the rabbi of the congregation, there is nothing called Lebanese Kosher. Kosher is Kosher, and the laws of the Kashrut (the Jewish dietary guidelines) can apply to any cuisine.

Although Kosher associated to any cuisine may seem normal for any Jew, it was a surprise to me. Lebanese Kosher was to me as foreign as the concept of Lebanese Jews itself . But it is fascinating enough that i want to investigate it in further detail. There will be a special section about the food in particular, to follow.

Some general guidelines though:

Meat has to follow a specific slaughtering procedure supervised by a rabbi.

Pork products are not allowed.

Mixing dairy and meat products in food is also not allowed.

This means that certain traditional Lebanese dishes that have meat in them and that are typically served with yogurt on the side , are altered in order to fit Kosher standards.

For example: kibbe a torpedo-shaped burghul shell stuffed with chopped meat is typically served with yogurt. Lebanese Jews eat it without yogurt.

Here ‘s what a typical Lebanese table set for a family meal looks like. I have to admit this one is from my personal collection taken back home. We had family over, uncles with their families. The meal lasts at least 3 or 4 hours, with several small dishes, appetizer-like or Mezze. For what it’s worth, as long as there was no yogurt and dairy containing dishes and if the meat was kosher, this definitely could be what a Lebanese Kosher table would look like as well. In fact, my informants told me about their long meals where the entire family gathers for hours around food.

 

Typical Lebanese table!

Typical Lebanese table!

 

One of my informants mentioned that in Lebanon, the rabbi of the community used to supervise the slaughtering of the meat for Jews and had a special stamp to identify it. But the rest of the ingredients were mostly sourced locally, the same places that other Lebanese would buy their food. In fact, he explained that at that time, there was little food processing in Lebanon. As long as as the meat is Kosher, the meals are pork free and no mixing of meat and dairy , then this was enough. But in the US, many of the products found at the supermarkets are processed with ingredients of unknown sources. So, the Jews who are keeping Kosher are worried that it might be a product that contains pork. This is why the Kosher industry is a large industry now, any product can be made Kosher: Kosher salt, Kosher water etc…

For their events and celebrations –and they do have many many of them–Lebanese Jews have their foods ordered from certified Kosher caterers who prepare their traditional dishes, Kosher Lebanese dishes.

 

Lebanese Kosher cuisine in Gravesend

Lebanese Kosher cuisine in Gravesend

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