Lunch, especially during weekends and holidays, is essential to the Lebanese. As their guest, you’re more likely to be invited for that meal than breakfast or dinner. The main two categories for these special day-feasts are mashawi (kebab barbecue) or warak inab. These are very distinctive and are part of every Lebanese household’s routine.
If you are invited out, or to a lunch in a Lebanese home on Sunday, it’s very likely that the menu includes a lot of meat. From kefta (meat Kebab made of meat mixed with parsley and onion) to chicken, not much is spared in this signature meal. The typical scene would be a group of people over the barbecue fanning coal in preparation as others work on giant bowls of tabbouleh and the different members of a giant family all around talking. Some of the other essential dishes would be kebbe nayyeh (a dish made of raw meat) and appetizers like hummus. For many families, this is a weekly tradition at a parent or grandparent’s home, and involves a lot of group effort to finally sit down and eat.
If it’s a holiday meal you’re invited to, you’re more likely to encounter warak inab than anything else. The dish is made of rice and ground meat wrapped in vine leaves. The dish is prepared overnight and boiled in lemon juice over a meat and bone base. Typically, the rolls are eaten with pita bread, mint leaves, and onion. It’s a difficult dish to make and takes a lot of preparation, which makes it the preserve of special occasions. Some of the appetizers for this meal include the typical tabbouleh or fattoush salad and hummus.
Both meals are followed by traditional Arab sweets and Turkish coffee. Some of the local delicacies you’ll see include kunafa, a pastry-based sweet filled with cheese, or ashta, a milk-based cream, and halawet el jibn, a sweetened cheese-based dish.
Generally, lunch is an important meal in the Lebanese culture—it’s the meal when the family sits together and is an essential part of the day. Not all lunches are feasts, of course—the Lebanese have their own local meals that many foreigners don’t hear about, like kousa mahshi (zucchini stuffed with rice and ground meat), yogurt-based dishes like sish barak (a lentil-based rice dish), and sometimes they’ll just order in or grab a Big Mac!