27 February, 2023
Lebanese Food: a Brief History of Tabbouli, a Sydney Favourite

Lebanese food is home to some of the freshest and healthiest food in Sydney. It’s no secret that Sydney-siders love a delicious salad, which is why Lebanese restaurants have been incredibly popular in our city. Lebanese cuisine contains a variety of salads. At Zahli, we serve fattoush, tabbouli and our house special, the Zahli (a salad containing rocket leaves, beetroot, Spanish onion, sumac, and walnuts with fresh lemon juice and olive oil). Though all three are equally delicious, tabbouli seems to win the hearts of our customers and our chefs.

What is tabbouli?

Tabbouli is a traditional cold Lebanese salad that’s mainly made up of flat leaf parsley, mint, tomato, shallots, crushed wheat, fresh lemon juice and olive oil. It is served as part of mezze and is considered one of the national dishes of Lebanon. Tabbouli is not just one of Lebanon’s most popular foods, but its deliciousness has spread across to other parts of the world, including Australia, and has become a beloved salad by the international community.

Tabbouli is so important to Lebanon that there is an entire day dedicated to the dish. On the first Saturday of July each year, people gather to enjoy tabbouli.

Here’s a breakdown of the essential elements of tabbouli and what each adds to the overall experience of the dish:
Bulgur – this is made from wheat berries that have been partially ground, cooked and dried.
Parsley – the dish’s greens and flavour primarily come from parsley, however, at Zahli, shallots and mint are also used.
Tomatoes – extremely fresh tomatoes are included in this dish.
Seasonings – high-quality olive oil is incredibly important for dressing the tabbouli. For brightness, a squeeze of lemon juice is also recommended and traditional. You may add garlic, however, it is not necessary.

Tabbouli, a brief history

Tabbouli originated in the mountains of Lebanon and Syria. Wheat, specifically the salamouni variety, was cultivated in the Beqaa Valley region in Lebanon and was considered in the mid-19th century as particularly well-suited for making bulgur, one of tabbouli’s major ingredients.

Thousands of years ago, dishes like tabbouli, were an essential part of the diet of the Levant people. Edible herbs (known as qadb) grew in the hillsides and were often eaten by people in the Middle Ages. These herbs include one of the stars of tabbouli, flat leaf parsley.

Tabbouli’s name came from the Levantine Arabic word tabbūle which is derived from the Arabic word tābil, meaning “seasoning” or more literally “dip”.

Is tabbouli only eaten in Lebanon?

Though tabbouli is considered to be a Lebanese dish, variations are eaten throughout the Mediterranean and Arabic world.

Kisir, Turkey

This uses a lot of bulgur wheat, tomato paste and parsley. It’s served with lettuce at mezze or as a side dish.

Eetch, Armenia

Eetch also uses much more bulgur wheat than tabbouli. It is flavoured with crushed tomatoes and may include onion, parsley, olive oil, lemon, paprika, and bell peppers.

As tabbouli has spread throughout the world, variations on the dish have emerged. For example, in Cyprus, they have a similar dish called tambouli and in the Dominican Republican, they have tipile.

Did you know that tabbouli has health benefits?

It’s hard to believe that this delicious salad also has a number of health benefits. Here are a few of the benefits:
Excellent source of nutrients from the high ratio of vegetables (including parsley).
Fantastic sources of protein, fibre and essential minerals can be derived from bulgur. This is particularly important for vegetarians and vegans who struggle to get enough protein.
The dressing is mostly olive oil which is rich in monounsaturated fats, anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants.

It’s unsurprising that this salad is a hit with anyone in Australia – it’s both delicious and healthy!

Reserve your table at Zahli to taste traditional tabbouli!

Tabbouli is a beautiful dish that has evolved out of Lebanon’s rich history. It’s amazing that a dish that seems to have originated in the Middle Ages has survived to become a beloved salad by people around the world.

If you are interested in trying a traditional tabbouli or any other authentic Lebanese food then Zahli, Modern Middle Eastern restaurant can gladly provide a memorable meal. At Zahli, we take the traditions of our people seriously and aim to do every dish justice. Our restaurant 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.