Meat—lamb and chicken are the most used, followed by beef and goat. Other poultry is used in some regions, and fish is used in coastal areas including the Mediterranean Sea, Atlantic Ocean and the Red Sea. Some Christian Arabs eat pork. Dairy products—widely used, especially yogurt, buttermilk and white cheese.
Rice is the staple and is used for most dishes; wheat is the main source for bread. Bulgur and semolina are also used extensively. Legumes: Lentils are widely used, as well as fava beans and chickpeas (garbanzo beans).
Middle Easterners eat a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, nuts, dairy products and rice. Meat is used as a flavoring for soups, stews and rice dishes rather than a main dish. Particularly nice is freshly baked pita bread. It tastes delicious and is ideal for scooping up hummus and other dips.
Fresh and preserved seafood is consumed throughout the Arab region. The meat and offal of camel, sheep, lamb, goat, cattle, and chicken and game, such as rabbit, have a special place in the North African Arabic cuisine, which uses cooking techniques, such as stewing, baking, tandoor, and tajin.
Arabic dishes like hummus, falafel, and kebabs are popular worldwide and a staple of meals in the Middle East. These all come from Levantine cuisine, the traditional food of the Bilad ash-Sham region. The most distinctive aspect of Levantine cuisine is mezze, small dishes served at the beginning of a multi-course meal.
In the Khaleej al-Arab region, a guest should expect a dinner consisting of a very large platter, shared commonly, with a large amount of spiced rice, with spicy lamb, chicken, or both, as separate dishes, with various stewed vegetables, heavily spiced, sometimes with a tomato-based sauce.
If the animal is treated poorly or tortured while being slaughtered, the meat is haram. Forbidden food substances include alcohol, pork, carrion, the meat of carnivores and animals that died due to illness, injury, stunning, poisoning, or slaughtering not in the name of God.
Lunch is traditionally the main meal of the day, and it almost always includes a rice dish, like kabsa, considered the national dish of Saudi Arabia.
Middle Eastern cuisine is one of the healthiest, since it incorporates lean proteins, healthy fats, vegetables, and grains into almost every dish. Rich spices, seeds, and herbs (notably za'atar and cumin) sets it apart from European cuisines.
By ancient custom on the festival of Eid-al-Adha (Eid ul-Adha or Kurban Bayrami in Tyrkey) or the Feast of the Sacrifice, devout Muslims sacrifice a lamb in commemoration of the Prophet Abraham's willingness to honor the word of God by sacrificing his son.
Arab culture and the Islamic faith are deeply intertwined. While Islam is the predominant religion, other religious groups are accepted and treated with respect. Most Arabs believe that most of life's events are controlled and orchestrated by God.
By Islamic law, all foods are considered halal, or lawful, except for pork and its by-products, animals improperly slaughtered or dead before slaughtering, animals slaughtered in the name of anyone but Allah (God), carnivorous animals, birds of prey, animals without external ears (some birds and reptiles), blood, ...
Pork is a food taboo among Jews, Muslims, and some Christian denominations. Swine were prohibited in ancient Syria and Phoenicia, and the pig and its flesh represented a taboo observed, Strabo noted, at Comana in Pontus.
They traditionally do not use forks or spoons; instead they scoop up the food with pita or a thumb and two fingers. In Arabic culture, the left hand is considered unclean and even left-handed people eat with the right hand.
Honoring Arab American Heritage
Common dishes include hummus, ful medames, falafel, tabouleh and a wide variety of hearty stews. To make these flavorful dishes, ingredients like olive oil, whole grains, yogurts and beans are go-to must-haves.