Middle Eastern food is full of bold and vibrant flavours that come from a variety of herbs, spices and products. The magical combination of different ingredients produces many of the Middle East’s signature dishes such as hommos, sambousik, samki harra and shish tawook. While diving into these dishes is delicious and joyful, many of the ingredients used can be utilised in your very own dishes at home. In this article, we’ll discuss our personal must-have ingredients for anyone who may be interested in cooking Middle Eastern dishes or adding Middle Eastern flair to their daily lives.
5 Middle Eastern ingredients to keep in your Sydney food pantry
Pomegranate molasses is a tart and slightly sweet syrup made of pomegranates. At Zahli, we use this delicious ingredient in our mouhamara and the vinaigrette of our fattoush. The molasses brings a bright punch of flavour to dishes and is a popular ingredient throughout the Middle East. Pomegranate molasses can be used in dishes other than those from the Middle East. You can use pomegranate molasses in cocktails as a substitute for grenadine syrup, to braise meat and to accompany halloumi. It’s a versatile ingredient that we love!
Za’atar is a spice mixture that includes toasted sesame seeds, oregano, dried sumac and thyme. It’s extremely fragrant and nutty and can be used in a wide variety of methods. At Zahli, we use za’atar liberally, especially on our salads and crispy bread. However, at home, you can use this blend on your scrambled eggs, labneh or, simply mixed with olive oil as a dip with bread. The versatility of this blend is one of our favourite features – we highly recommend it for anyone who craves a healthy punch of flavour!
Tahini is a paste that tastes similar to peanut butter, but that is made out of sesame seeds. It is a staple ingredient in many Middle Eastern households and is one of the stars of Zahli’s hommos, baba ghannouj and samki harra. We love the nuttiness of tahini and the delicate but creamy texture it adds to hommos. However, tahini doesn’t only have to be used in savoury dishes! Due to its similarity with peanut butter, both in flavour and texture, it works well in sweet applications. It also makes for a deliciously creamy and vegan vinaigrette when combined with garlic, lemon juice and olive oil.
Though parsley is a more utilised herb in Middle Eastern and more specifically, Lebanese food, fresh mint is a dark horse that can transform your pantry. Fresh mint is used in Zahli’s tabbouli and fattoush. It adds a fresh zing to the salads while also serving as a palate cleanser among ingredients. While many people are not unfamiliar with fresh mint, its value is still worth noting. In addition to Middle Eastern salads and dips, mint can also be used in tea and cocktails. Dried mint, which imparts a sweet and cool flavour, can be added to za’atar and used to top labneh.
Sumac is used in many Middle Eastern dishes to provide a bright and slightly sour flavour to dishes. At Zahli, we use sumac in our fattoush, to add a punch of zesty flavour. Sumac’s citrus-like flavour means that it lends well to more than just Middle Eastern dishes, its flavour profile is similar to lemon zest and thus, can be used in many of the same dishes. Sprinkle sumac over your popcorn, in cocktails or to season your chicken and finish. We promise you won’t be able to get enough of this sour flower.
We hope that this article inspires you to expand your pantry. We promise that you’ll love every one of these ingredients! If you are interested in indulging in authentic Middle-Eastern food then Zahli, Modern Middle Eastern restaurant can gladly provide a memorable meal. Zahli is here to provide you with a culinary experience like no other. Call us on (02) 9318 2228 to reserve a table or for pick-up orders.