Tabouli's better than bangers n' mash

Food Fisticuffs: Britain vs Lebanon

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Canadian cuisine is generally dominated by European flavour â€" our English heritage keeps British food on the burner, and Italian has to have the strongest influence outside the United Kingdom. Even when it comes to multicultural foods, the scene seems saturated with Oriental and Hispanic.

One overlooked taste, though, is the greatest of all â€" Lebanese.

You’ve likely had Middle Eastern food before â€" few among us haven’t drunkenly stumbled into Barakat or Falafellini for a post-bar shawarma fix.

Few have really experienced London’s Arabic options in all their glory, though. Contrary to frequent trips to Bertoldi’s and Wonder Sushi, it’s rare to ask your roommate if they’re up for some Lebanese for dinner.

Forget Big Daddy’s Shawarma for a moment, and think about some even better options the Middle East has to offer. Chicken in a pita is never a bad bet, but there’s a lot more to check out.

Tabouli has more flavour than any greens originating this side of the Prime Meridian, and it’s likely still not even the best Arab salad out there â€" croutons can’t compare to the dried pita garnishing fattoush.

Bangers n’ mash are all well and good, but it’s tough to beat a top-notch kebab, and rice just isn’t the same without orzo and ground beef mixed in.

Even traditional Canadian meals are better with a bit of Lebanese flavour. One of the best ways to spice a chicken breast before you throw it on the grill is to use salt, garlic powder and Arab pepper.

All this before you even get to dessert. Trifle doesn’t stand a chance against baklawa.

If that doesn’t sound appetizing, feel free to stick with baked beans, black pudding, haggis or a ploughman’s lunch. Run to the nearest pub for dinner if you like, but don’t come crying to me if fish and chips is the most appetizing thing on the menu.

British food has some gems â€" I’m never one to turn down Yorkshire pudding â€" but versus Lebanese it’s no contest.

At the end of the day, I’ll take cusa â€" green marrow squash hollowed out, filled with rice and lamb, and cooked in tomato sauce with Arabic spices â€" before Welsh rarebit any day.

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