The Newbie’s Guide to Middle Eastern Cuisine

There are countless reasons why Middle Eastern cuisine should be your top choice for your next meal. Rich, aromatic, and delectable, you’ll fall hopelessly in love with the smorgasbord of flavours it boasts. Health-conscious individuals can also indulge without fear: most Middle Eastern fare is grilled, baked or stewed, and olive oil is usually used in place of fats like lard or butter.

As part of your induction to the sumptuous cuisine of the Middle East, below are some staple dishes you have to try, as well as five restaurants where you can satisfy the cravings that will be kicking in quite soon. By the time you finish this article we promise you’ll be dying for crispy falafel and some sweetly addictive baklava!

Hummus

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A creamy dip made of chickpeas and assorted spices and herbs, this dish is ubiquitous across the Middle East. Enjoy it with some freshly baked pita, another popular staple, and you’re good to go. Be sure to check out its popular sibling, the moutabal, too, an equally scrumptious dip made from charbroiled aubergine and tahini.

Falafel

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A popular fast food in the Middle East, falafels are deep-fried balls or fritters of mashed chickpeas and herbs. Although they can be eaten on their own or as a mezze (a small dish), they are also often stuffed in pita bread with assorted veggies and drizzled with creamy yoghurt or sesame dressing to make a satisfying sandwich. We would recommend sharing a mezze platter with some friends, heaped with generous helpings of falafel, hummus and other Middle Eastern delights such as fattoush (a bread salad mixed with vegetables like radishes and tomatoes) and tabouleh (a salad comprised mainly of bulgar, onions, tomatoes, and a generous serving of chopped fresh mint and parsley).

Kebab and Shawarma
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Kebab

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Shawarma

What’s the difference between the kebab and the shawarma, you might ask? Other than differences in their provenance, a kebab is diced or minced meat grilled on a skewer and served directly onto a plate or in a pita, while shawarma is shaved meat that’s grilled using a rotating vertical spit and served in a wrap. For the more authentic version, go with lamb over the beef or chicken. There’s nothing quite like piping hot meat served right off the spit, and when it’s served alongside some cooling yogurt and cucumber dip you’ll have to hold yourself back from devouring the entire thing in three bites like we usually do!

Baklava

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This sweet and buttery delight features layers of crusty filo pastry and chopped nuts snugly held together by syrup or honey. Dating back to the former Ottoman Empire, this beloved dessert has been around for centuries and for good reason. Try it with mint or apple tea for a sweet finale.

Now, where should I go for some awesome Middle Eastern fare?

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Sofra Turkish Cafe & Restaurant

For over 16 years this highly-regarded establishment has served up authentic Turkish fare at prices that won’t burn a hole in your wallet. Tuck into their indispensable Sofra Kebap, with its generous serving of meat, or freshly baked pide (Turkish pita bread) that’s so tasty an accompanying side dish of hummus is (almost) rendered unnecessary. Wash it all down with a delightful cup of Turkish apple tea for a quintessential Turkish meal.

If you work in the area check out their amazing set lunches – you can grab a full meal for less than $10!

Find it in Shaw Tower at 100 Beach Road
Book a table at Sofra Turkish Cafe & Restaurant
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Fat Prince

Fresh off of opening in October, Fat Prince bridges a decadent Istanbul café aesthetic with modern Middle Eastern Cuisine that’s simply delicious. Kebabs are the highlight here, with variations like a Smoked Kasar Cheese with avocado mousse, pomegranate vinaigrette, candied almond & cashew, and the Duck and Pistachio Kofte with fig compote, duck jus, rocket, & lemon vinaigrette. Sound amazing? Well they taste even better, and are a filling size at $8 a piece. They also serve up a selection of flavourful salads, starters like the epic ‘Fat Prince Hummus’ made with chickpeas, duck fat, garlic and lemon, in addition to an innovative selection of cocktails infused with Turkish flavours and herbal syrups that compliment the meal perfectly.

Find it at 48 Peck Seah Street
Book a table at Fat Prince.

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Kazbar

Widely known for having some of the best kebabs in town, it’s definitely time to reserve this no-frills establishment for your next lunch break or dinner date. This Far East Square hideout also has some of the best mezze platters in Singapore – their Mixed Cold Mezzeh should not be missed!

Find it in Capital Square at 25 Church Street
Book a table at Kazbar.

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Al Hamra Lebanese & Middle Eastern Cuisine

Dining is more than just a simple a culinary experience at Al Hamra. From the seductively exotic interior – complete with hanging bowl lights and oriental-style furnishings – to the top-notch food and service, this is a place is ideal for intimate dates. Indulge in their hummus, moutabal, and falafel dishes, all simply prepared yet authentic. Vegetarians will love this hideout too, with a menu that promises meat-free versions of their signature dishes.

Find it at Holland Village at 23 Lorong Membong
Click here to learn more about Al Hamra

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Shabestan

This popular joint is feast for the eyes as well as the tastebuds. Enjoy a sumptuous spread while taking in a nightly belly dancing show, but don’t let gyrating hips distract you from the real star of the show: their stellar kebabs. Trust us, Middle Eastern royalty have dined here. Situated along Robertson Quay, dine al-fresco or head indoors to enjoy the friendly ambience and memorable dancing.

Find it in Robertson Quay at 80 Mohamed Sultan Road
Book a table at Shabestan.

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