27 February, 2023
5 Traditions and Practices You Can Find in Middle Eastern & Arabic Restaurants in Sydney

Middle-Eastern and Arabic restaurants in Sydney offer a unique dining experience with traditions and practices reflective of their Middle Eastern and Arab roots. These traditions do not just permeate the food, but also, the culture and experience of Middle-Eastern and Arabic restaurants. Many Middle-Eastern and Arabic restaurants in Sydney like Zahli, try to share the beauty of their country or region by making their restaurants reflective of the culture. 

At Zahli, we offer delicious food that is rooted in the traditional techniques of the Middle East and authentic Arabic flavours. However, like many other restaurants, we also try to provide a dining experience that represents Arab and Middle Eastern restaurant in sydney culture. Because of this commitment to culture, you’ll find that many Middle-Eastern and Arabic restaurants follow similar practices. 

In this article, we’ll identify a few of the most popular practices and traditions that Middle-Eastern and Arabic restaurants in Sydney follow. This will give you a better understanding of why certain practices are done.

5 traditions and practices you can find at some of the best Middle-Eastern and Arabic restaurants in Sydney

Communal experience 

The communal experience of eating at a Middle-Eastern and Arabic restaurant with your family and friends is one that cannot be duplicated in any other kind of restaurant. For the Middle-Eastern and Arab community, communal eating of food is precious to culture. Dishes are placed in the middle of the table so that every diner can reach it; diners then, eat out of the dish. Middle-Eastern and Arabic restaurants like Zahli do not serve individual appetisers or dishes as they expect diners to share.

While the experience itself is dependent on the family sitting at the table, it’s easy to walk into Zahli on any given day or night to find a group of diners having a communal dining experience. 

Eating with your hands

Using your hands to eat food is an important part of the dining experience at a Middle-Eastern and Arabic restaurant. Forgoing your knife and fork allows you to get closer to the food, and according to some of our diners, enjoy it much more.

It’s easy to see how Middle-Eastern and Arabic food is meant to be eaten with one’s hands. Many Middle-Eastern and Arabic dishes at Zahli are seemingly designed to be eaten with one’s hands, however, that’s just how they were made and eaten traditionally. Dishes like baba ghannouj, hommos and mouhamara are all meant to be eaten with Lebanese bread, which is best eaten with one’s hands. 

We should note that not every dish at a Middle-Eastern and Arabic restaurant needs to be eaten with your hands, however, many do, so don’t be surprised at the common use of hand-to-mouth eating when you visit our restaurant.

Absence of pork

Many Australians love pork and may be surprised at the absence of the meat on meat on many Middle-Eastern and Arabic restaurant menus. However, there’s a very good cultural reason for this. Because many Arabic and Middle Eastern cultures have high Muslim populations, many restaurants and eateries refrain from serving pork (even if the owners are not Muslim). 

This began a cultural trend throughout the region where pork does not have a strong presence (if any) in the national cuisines of countries in the Middle-Eastern and Arab region. This continued in the Middle-Eastern and Arabic restaurants in Sydney. At Zahli, there aren’t any dishes with pork because of this cultural element.


Mezza is a different way of eating one’s entire meal and is reflected in the menu at Zahli. Mezza involves a selection of small dishes which are served as appetisers before the main meal. However, instead of one or two appetisers, mezza usually consists of 4 to 5 dishes at a time (depending on the size of your group). Dishes include hommos, babba ghannouj, olives, Lebanese bread, labneh and more. In some cases, mezza is a meal in its own right, however, you can also order mains after.


In the Arab and Middle Eastern world, coffee is a major part of any get-together or meal. At Zahli, it is common for coffee to be served after every meal in a rakweh, a traditional coffee pot. It is poured in front of the guests and served in espresso-sized cups on a tray together with a glass of cold water.

Depending on the country, cardamom may be added to coffee as well. However, once the restaurant’s origin is within the Arab and Middle Eastern region, it is likely that coffee will be a major part of the traditions practised.

If you are interested in indulging in authentic Middle-Eastern and Arabic food and would like to have an authentic dining experience, then Zahli, Modern Middle Eastern restaurant can gladly provide a memorable meal. Zahli is here to provide you with a meal like no other. Call us on (02) 9318 2228 to reserve a table or for pick-up orders.