Eating well in Sydney CBD is no longer difficult thanks to Zahli Restaurant

From Lebanon to Surry Hills - Revealing the culture behind the best Lebanese restaurants & food

Take a food journey to Lebanon within the comfort of your own city Sydney. The ever-growing Lebanese cuisine is a popular choice for many, combining taste, culture and custom, delivering an unforgettable experience to people.

Bringing a unique and beautiful culture to the buzzing city of Sydney, Lebanese traditions are rich in history and love.

To understand the traditions behind their food, it is key to understand their customs, geography and history.

Lebanon is a small country located in the Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea between Israel and Syria. With a population over 6 million and an ethnic makeup of predominantly Lebanese.

Lebanese culture is filled with particular customs and etiquette, which have been brought into the streets of Sydney.

Greetings in Lebanon are usually very warm and welcoming accompanied by a handshake and smile with the word ‘Marhaba’  which is a common term used as a greeting. Many people also greet close friends with three kisses on the cheek. So if you’ve had an experience similar to that, be sure to know they probably come from Lebanese descent.

These rich traditions have now made their way into the streets and restaurants in Sydney CBD and all over Australia. So, how did the Lebanese people make their way into Australia and establish some of the best Lebanese restaurants in Sydney CBD?

Lebanese migration to Australia occurred in many different phases. The first one occurred from 1880 – 1947 where many Maronite and Orthodox Christians migrated.

Following that, there were many political and economic reasons why other people from the community made their way into Australia.

According to the 2011 census, “almost 70% of Australia’s residents who were born in Lebanon arrived before 1991”, highlighting how well established they are and have been residents for decades. Their migration to Australia has brought along with them their rich culture, traditions, customs and some of the best Lebanese restaurants in Sydney CBD!

Combining History & Food: Best Lebanese restaurants in Sydney’s CBD

Lebanese food has a unique cultural history, being a part of Middle Eastern traditions.

Lebanon has been through many difficult phases, being ruled by foreign powers which had a major influence on their customs, including what they ate.

The Ottoman Turks had a tremendous influence on Lebanon from 1516 to 1918, controlling many of their movements and introducing a variety of foods and ingredients which have now become staples of the Lebanese cuisine. These include ingredients such as olive oil, fresh bread, homemade yoghurt, stuffed vegetables, and the increased popularity of lamb.

Lebanon was still not left alone. After the Ottomans were defeated in World War I, France decided to take control until 1946 until the country proclaimed its independence. The French also had an influence on the culture, introducing some of their foods including the flan, croissants and particular desserts.

Lebanese people have also brought many of their own food traditions into their diet. Many ancient tribes travelled and journeyed through the Middle East carrying food that doesn’t go spoil easily including rice and dates. These particular foods became staples in their diet and as time went on they discovered new ingredients, fruits and vegetables they could use within their everyday preparation of food.

Culture: Religious & Holiday Celebrations

Lebanon is home to two main religions: Christianity and Islam. These two religions celebrate particular holidays and religious holy days which have their own food traditions. These festive celebrations tend to include large feasts, sharing, family, friends and entertainment.

Muslims celebrate many holidays throughout the year with the most important being Ramadan. This particular holiday requires Muslims to avoid food between the times of sunrise and sunset. An old tradition which was used within the streets of Lebanon including a man beating a drum through the streets to wake people up before sunrise in order for them to enjoy an early breakfast. These early breakfasts were usually accompanied by pita bread, olive oil, boiled egg, yoghurt, grapefruit and tea.

The festival that breaks the fast (Eid al-Fitr), marks the end of the Ramadan period and is celebrated with a large amount of food with loved ones. The Feast of the Sacrifice (Eid al-Adha), is also another tradition celebrated with a variety of foods and customs.

Christians have two main feast days throughout the year including Christmas and Easter. Food is at the centre of both of them.

Christmas traditions are usually accompanied by a large chicken or turkey and houses are decorated with Christmas trees and tinsel.

Easter, one of the most important holidays for Christians is celebrated with a Lebanese Easter egg game called Biis-Biis where people compete with hard boiled eggs, hitting each other to see who’s is the strongest.

A traditional lamb dinner is served and followed by dessert including ma’moul (cookies filled with dates) and ka’ak (sweetbread cookies).

These traditions are highlighted throughout many of their dishes today and brought into the streets of Sydney in some of the best Lebanese restaurants.

Meal Time Customs

Lebanese culture is made up of a range of customs. Their reputation for hospitality is known to be one of the best, providing guests with an experience like no other, even if the visit was not planned. Food is always in abundance. Tip: Be careful not to leave your plate empty or the host will just keep filling it up for more!

Traditionally, a family who lived in rural areas of Lebanon would pick their own fruits and vegetables from their crops and gardens. If they needed anything else, they would usually go to the street market (souk) where they would pick up all their other necessities.

Bread is a key element of most Lebanese meals. For this reason, the women would normally travel to a bakery in their village (foorn) to bake their fresh bread and pastries for the day.

Served at around 2 pm, lunch is a meal everyone looks forward to! One of the largest meals eaten throughout the day with a variety of Mezze followed by mains and dessert. Mezze usually includes appetizer dishes with bread, dips, olives and cheese. Kibbeh and Kefta are usually served as the main meal following a fresh bowl of fruit and Baklava. Now I think that calls for a post-meal nap.

Now that you have had more of an understanding of the Lebanese culture, it is time to take a trip to one of the best Lebanese restaurant in Sydney.

Lebanese food is a combination of tradition, culture and history. Zahli brings these elements together and places them at the front door of Sydney CBD, in Surry Hills. Experience Lebanese cuisine the way it should be at Zahli.

Hosting simple dinners or large celebrations, Zahli will cater to your needs and make sure guests experience the finest Lebanese cuisine.

Contact us today, or call us at 9318 2228 to reserve your table at one of the best Lebanese restaurants in Sydney.