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MIDDLE EAST

kipper, and skewering it on robust sticks, which are then erected around an open wood fire on the ground. This is called masgouf, and Iraqis came to consider it as a na- tional dish.

Istanbul and the Aegean region of Turkey have a rich and varied fish culture, as does the Black Sea region. There are numerous fish restaurants and bars (known as meyhane) along the shores of the Bosphorous, serving va- rieties from the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. A no- table fish from the latter is kalkan, a kind of turbot that is much appreciated. They also feature sea bass, differ- ent types of bream, a kind of bonito, and mackerel. These are fried or grilled, or sealed in paper, foil, or a salt crust and baked. A typical Turkish dish is buglama, a kind of fish broth. Any of these fish or hamsi, the small anchovy- like fish from the Black Sea, are boiled in a broth of veg- etables and aromatics, with oil or butter, and served in the pot. Fish stews are common elsewhere, such as the salona of Iraq, in which fillets are stewed in onions, tomato, tamarind, and other spices.

In many regions, fish is cooked or served with rice. In Iran, fried fillet of fish is served over sabzi polow, “green” rice, cooked with a herb mixture. Sayyadiya, “fish- erman’s dish,” is typical of the Syrian coast, in which pieces of fish are fried with onions and spices, then cooked with rice. In the Black Sea region of Turkey they have hamsi pilavi, combining rice with the fried small fish. Similar dishes are found all over the region.

Seafood, in the sense of crustaceans and mollusks, such as shrimp, crab, squid, and mussels, are available in the coastal region, but not always consumed. There is a widespread religious taboo against this genre, similar to the Jewish prohibitions. It is not, however, common to all Muslims, but confined to particular interpretations of religious law. These foods are widely appreciated in Is- tanbul, the Aegean, Alexandria, and parts of Syria and Iraq. A typical street and bar food in Istanbul is mussels stuffed with rice, pine nuts, and raisins.

Vegetables and Pulses

Vegetables and pulses are the predominant everyday food of the great majority of the people of the Middle East. They are boiled, stewed, grilled, stuffed, and cooked with meat and with rice. Among the green leaf vegetables, many varieties of cabbage, spinach, and chard are widely used. Root and bulb vegetables, such as onion and gar- lic, as well as carrot, turnip, and beet are equally com- mon. Fruit vegetables include marrow or squash, tomato, and eggplant. Bamia (okra or gumbo) is a distinctive el- ement in the cookery of the region, appreciated for the peculiar consistency of the stews made in combination with meat, tomato, and spices, often with a sour flavor- ing. A similar consistency is achieved with molokhiya (mal- low), a green leaf, used fresh or dried, chopped up fine and cooked in a broth with chicken or meat. This is most common in Egypt, where, traditionally, it was cooked with rabbit. Aubergine or eggplant is perhaps the most

ENCYCLOPEDIA OF FOOD AND CULTURE

distinctive vegetable of the region, cooked and served in diverse fashions. It is fried in slices and dressed in yogurt and garlic; or roasted over an open fire, then pulped and dressed with tahini (sesame paste), lemon juice, garlic, and cumin, a dish known as mutabbal or baba ghannoush; stuffed with various ingredients and roasted in the oven, as in the famous Turkish dish of imam bayeldi (“the imam fainted!”); pulped into a sauce for meat in the Turkish hunkar begendi (“the king liked it”); or combined with meat in various stews. Tomato, a relatively recent import from the New World (it arrived in most places in the nineteenth century), is now the most ubiquitous ingredi- ent in Middle Eastern cookery. It is used fresh in a vari- ety of salads, cooked, either from fresh tomatoes or as a preserved paste, in almost every stew and broth, and grilled with kebab.

Beans and pulses are crucial to the diet of the region, second only to cereals. The fava bean (broad bean in Eng- land) is original, indeed ancient, to the region. Known as foul in Egypt and Syria, and baqilla’/baqelli/bakla, in Iraq, Iran, and Turkey, they are eaten green and dried. Dried, they are boiled in one of the most popular Egyptian foods of foul medames, a domestic and street food, eaten for breakfast or any other meal, mashed and dressed in oil, lemon, and chili. Similar dishes are found in all other parts of the region. The famous ta’miyya or falafel, now popular in Europe and America, was originally made from dried fava, crushed and formed into a rissole with herbs and spices, then fried. It is also made from chick- peas, or a mixture of the two. Green fava are cooked like other green beans, boiled and dressed in oil, or stewed with meat. A famous Iranian dish is baghelli polow, green fava with rice and dill, often with meat; versions of this combination are found elsewhere. The haricot bean (fa- soulya) is used fresh or dried, boiled and dressed, some- times as an accompaniment to grilled meats, or stewed with meat. Black-eyed beans (various names, mostly loubia) are typically used dried, boiled, often with green leaves, and dressed in oil and lemon.

Lentils, split peas, and chickpeas are widely used in soups, with rice, in salads, or with meat. Homous bi-tahina, made from chickpeas and sesame paste, is now common throughout the world, but originated in Syria/Lebanon. Lentils are cooked with rice in various dishes, notably mujadarra, found in many parts of the Arab world, as well as in adaptations of the Indian kichri. This latter, in the form of kushari, is the most popular street food in Egypt. Macaroni is added to the rice and lentils to extend its bulk with a cheaper ingredient, and the taste is enhanced with fried onions and a chili sauce.

Stuffed vegetables are a dish most associated with the Middle East in the popular mind. They are commonly called dolma, the Turkish word meaning “stuffed,” but also the Arabic mahshi. Yaprak, “leaves” in Turkish, of- ten vine leaves, but also chard and cabbage, are stuffed with rice, ground meat, pine nuts, and spices, then stewed in oil and tomato, and, less commonly, with a small

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