Palestinian cuisine is varied and rich. The diversity of our landscape reflects itself in our cuisine. The Mediterranean coast offers succulent fish, while the inland hills have an olive oil scented gastronomy and the desertic areas cook with thick yogurt-like pastes from goat milk.
Musakhan is a common main dish, famous in the olive-covered hilltops of the northern West Bank. On a hot Taboon bread, topped with pieces of cooked onions, sumac, saffron and allspice, sits a tender oven-roasted chicken.
Maqluba is another popular meal in central Palestine. Maqluba, meaning upside-down is a delicious and spectacular dish when the pot is turned upside-down and the ingredients are displayed on the serving dish. Maqluba is a rice dish with either eggplants, cauliflower or an mix of local vegetables. Each Palestinian family has their own recipe !
Mujaddara, is a simple yet energy-boosting food of Palestine as well as in the most of the Near-East. The dish combines cooked lentils with rice and finished with onions sauteed in olive oil and a pinch of sumac.
Mansaf is a traditional meal having roots from the Bedouin population and in the Hebron area. It is mostly cooked on occasions such as Eid, a birth, a large dinner gathering or in honour of a distinguished guest. Mansaf is presented on large serving-dishes starting with a think layer of bread, rice, lamb meat and served next to it is the jameed (thick dried cheesecloth yogurt from goat’s milk) which give mansaf its distinct flavor and taste.
Palestinians bake a variety of breads the primary ones are kmaj (round bread), shraq (paper-thin bread), qa’ek (sesame covered bread, most famous in Jerusalem) and taboon (bread cooked on hot stones).
Many salted pastries are also baked in the Palestinian oven such as manaeesh (Taboon bread usually topped with za’atar and olive oil), Sfiha (bread dought with lamb and cooked red peppers or tomatoes – the Middle Eastern pizza), Sambousek (puff pastry filled with cheese or meat),
Palestinian fast food
Shawarma is a very common sandwich in Palestine. It is mostly served in a long folded roll of shraq bread wrapped around thin slivers of lamb or chicken accompanied by pickled turnips, pickled cucumbers, tomatoes and tahina sauce. Shawarma could also be served as lamb slices on a plate with tahina as a side dish.
Falafel is that delicious deep-fried chickpea ball that you will find in every corner of Palestine. Some restaurants and street-vendors compete to the title of best falafel and other boast a long family history of falafel craftsmanship.
A typical quick breakfast in Palestine will include falafel, hummous (chickpea puree), foul (black bean puree) served with hot bread, pickles, olives and tea.
The most famous desserts of Palestine as a whole are baklawa, kanafeh, harisseh, ma’amoul and other semolina and wheat pastries. Baklawa is an array of pastries made of thin sheets of unleavened flour dough, filled with pistachios and walnuts sweetened by honey. Halawa is a block confection of sweetened sesame flour served by sliced pieces. Ma’amoul is a semolina shortbread pastry filled with ground dates or pistachios. It is sometimes a religious food in Palestine, eaten traditionally at daybreak during Ramadan and the feast of Eid al-Fitr and in the Easter period as a symbol of Christ’s thorn crown.
Kanafeh is probably one of the most popular desserts of Palestine. The city of Nablus is home to the most famous kanafeh in the Arab world because of its traditional white-brined
cheese that is known as Nabulsi cheese. It is made of several fine shreds of
pastry noodles with honey-sweetened cheese in the center. The top layers of the
pastry are usually coloured orange and sprinkled with crushed pistachios. Boiled sugar used as syrup for kanafeh. Harisseh is a thick pastry candied with honey and boiled sugar.
It is quite typical for an array of nuts, seeds, dates and dried fruits are offered
and served by Palestinian hosts and considered a given necessity for guests.
Roasted and salted watermelon, squash and sunflower seeds as well as pistachios
and cashews are of the most common. Watermelon seeds or bizir al-bateekh are
eaten regularly by Palestinians during several of their popular leisurely
activities whether they be playing cards, smoking, conversing with friends or
before and after a meal. A wide variety of fresh and dried fruits including
dates are also offered by hosts as a welcoming gesture to guests. Honey-glazed
sesame seed clusters and pistachio nougats are very popular candies among
Palestinians. Candies similar if not identical to Turkish delight also frequent
the cravings of Palestinian people.
Palestine’s rich fruit production offers visitors and locals alike refreshing juices that are sold by street-vendors all over Palestinian cities. In Jericho, have a lemonade, in Nablus have a pomegranate juice, in Bethlehem try the carrot juice, in Jerusalem have souss (liquorice juice), in Hebron have grape juice and in Ramallah enjoy a refreshing almond juice !
Palestine produces three main alcohols, Arak (anise flavoured alcoholic drink consumed during special occasions such as holidays, weddings, and gatherings or with the mezze), Wine (the hilltops of Ramallah and Bethlehem have some of the best vineyards) and Beer (The Palestinian town of Taybeh has the only beer brewery in the area).