Eggplant dip (M’tabbal)

Will not speak for other expats, but this is the one dish that beckons after arrival. Something about that  lemony, silky, garlicky, smokey eggplant cream is all that one needs to feel acclimated once again.


  • 1 large shiny eggplant, about 1 pound
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • salt
  • 1 tbsp of tahini
  • olive oil


  1. Char the eggplant over an open flame, either on a gas stove or on a BBQ grill; once the skin is blackened all over, dip into a bowl of cold water to cool it and peel it; place the eggplant on a colander and let it drain.
  2. Mash it with a meat mallet and add the juice of a lemon, a teaspoon of garlic (mashed in a mortar with a dash of salt) and just a touch of tahini (You don’t want the taste of tahini to be noticeable).
  3. Taste, drizzle with a filet of olive oil  and serve with pita.

NOTE: m’tabbal is a word meaning seasoned or spiced.

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  1. Posted December 2, 2011 at 4:52 am | Permalink

    Glad you touched down safely in Beirut…I would go straight for old standby’s in Greece too! I love our Melitzanosalata…all smoky from charring the eggplants.

  2. Posted December 2, 2011 at 4:56 am | Permalink

    Good to know that you had a good flight and that you have landed safely in Beirut. A delicious dip!



  3. Posted December 2, 2011 at 4:58 am | Permalink

    même si je ne suis pas libanaise, j’adooore les aubergines ainsi préparés!! Bon séjour au Liban.

  4. Posted December 2, 2011 at 6:25 am | Permalink

    Joumana, At first I thought you were in San Francisco, (Oakland Bay Bridge in the background), but no, the sunlit shot is a bit more exotic indeed. Your recipe is spot on and brilliantly simple and one I will make this weekend when a couple potlucks are on the social calendar. Safe travels, Tom

  5. Adriano Petrich
    Posted December 2, 2011 at 6:31 am | Permalink

    Very nice! Here in Brazil we have a lebanese eggplant dip called Babaganoush I’m wondering how the M’tabbal is different from that

  6. Posted December 2, 2011 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    Hope all your travels are safe-and delicious ;-)

  7. Nisa
    Posted December 2, 2011 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    I never knew how good baba ganouj could be until I came to Beirut and discovered Mutabbal. The best I’ve had (and I’ve tried it everywhere I’ve eaten, now that I’m a connoisseur!) is at the Palace Cafe on the Corniche. Lovely smoky flavor, eaten mere inches from the sea. Enjoy your trip!

  8. Posted December 2, 2011 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    mmm, one of my favorites! I don’t know why I never think to make it at home. I really should!

  9. Posted December 2, 2011 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    Glad you made it! And definitely a classic to enjoy.

  10. Verkin
    Posted December 2, 2011 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    Enjoy! have a good time, please post pictures.

  11. Posted December 2, 2011 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    I LOVE this recipe, love eggplant dip made this way. It has been much too long since I have made it.

  12. Posted December 2, 2011 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    Une savoureuse recette libanaise que j’adore!!!!
    Merci pour le partage.

  13. Posted December 2, 2011 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    The dip looks absolutely delicious..:) Keep safe..

  14. Joumana
    Posted December 2, 2011 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    @Adriano: Baba ghanouj is what it is also called, probably in Syria where they like to use pomegranate molasses with it. The key is to smoke the eggplant and to go easy on the tahini; too much tahini and as my aunt Wadad says (she makes the best one), “you ruin it!”.

  15. Posted December 2, 2011 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    Quelle chance tu as. Profite au maximum de ton séjour.
    Un m’tabbal plein de saveurs.
    A très bientôt

  16. Posted December 2, 2011 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    Safely down! And still coming up with enticements to lure me into the kitchen. It’s the charring of the eggplant that I so love.

  17. Posted December 2, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    Un délicieux retour aux sources bien gourmand et léger, bisous et bon WE

  18. Posted December 2, 2011 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    I knew this recipe as Baba Ghanoush, good to know the other name, too. And I made it myself for the first time recently. Very good dip

  19. Posted December 2, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    I’m going to have to try this out, the last time I tried to make baba ghanouj it was a complete disaster.

    Happy to hear you arrived safely!

  20. Posted December 3, 2011 at 1:09 am | Permalink

    delicious dip Joumana, have a good weekend….

  21. Posted December 3, 2011 at 4:31 am | Permalink

    This dip sounds so delicious…hope your having a great trip and enjoying plenty of good food.

  22. Posted December 3, 2011 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    I like egg plant and tahini, both. This seems like a delicious dip or starter and also is so healthy!

  23. Posted December 3, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    I have all the ingredients for this eggplant dip. Love the idea of not using too much tahini–for me, the flavor tends to overpower sometimes. Can’t wait to try it!

  24. Posted December 3, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    Lovely recipe and much lighter than our Libyan version of baba ghanuj, perfect too because I only have a tiny amount of tahina left and was going to make a very yogurty baba ghanuj tomorrow

    Does anyone have a definition of mtabbal and baba ghanuj? And is there a third terms word used for chooped grilled aubergine mixed with tomatoes and parsely sometimes with a drizzle of tahina sometimes without? Because I know that as mtabbal :) another lebanese blog had a recipe for mtabal that made me think I had it right

  25. Joumana
    Posted December 4, 2011 at 2:31 am | Permalink

    @Lybian food: Both baba ghanouj and m’tabbal are different names for the same dish; regional variations call it differently; m’tabbal means something seasoned and the actual name for this dish is m’tabbal al-betenjane. Baba ghanouj means cuddly daddy and I guess it was a term of endearment ; need to find out why it was called this way, will keep you posted.

  26. Posted December 4, 2011 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    Glad you’ve landed safely. The charring of the eggplant must give it a fantastic, smoky flavor. Beautiful presentation too.

  27. Posted December 4, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    I used to have this quite often as a child when I was growing up in the Middle East. For some reason, I’ve never made it at home since then! Thanks for sharing, I’ll have to try this one out.

  28. Posted December 4, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Silky, garlicky, smokey, creamy….oh man..I am drooling!

  29. Posted December 4, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    tu es de retour à beyrouth !! tu vas encore nous régaler !!Pierre

  30. Posted December 4, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    Is it same as Baba Ganoush? I love this dip!

  31. Posted December 5, 2011 at 2:18 am | Permalink

    After safe journey, I think we’ll see a lot of different dishes in the origin of …
    I love this dish and I make a lot in summer time.

  32. Posted December 5, 2011 at 5:33 am | Permalink

    I was just going to ask how thise differed from babghanouj, but I read through your answers and got the answer. It really must have tasted like being home!

  33. Posted December 5, 2011 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    Thank you for clearing that up, I thought my Libyan 3rd hand knowledge of Shami salads was to blame for my confusion :) Made your recipe and it is much easier and delicious plus lighter than any recipe I’ve used before, my new favourite

  34. Joumana
    Posted December 5, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    @LibyanFood: so glad to heat this! Thanks for letting me know!

  35. Posted December 6, 2011 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    I hope you enjoy your time in Lebanon. I can see what you mean by just needing one dish to feel home. I wish I had decent aubergines to try your version or one of my all time favourites.

  36. Ali
    Posted February 25, 2013 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Looks great, but I’m only worried about one thing. Even in Turkey, the winter eggplants are seldom ripe enough. So, after charring, I cook them in the oven for a while. In the summer it’s ok to just char.

  37. Joumana
    Posted February 25, 2013 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    @Ali: good point! I guess here we char them to death! :)

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