On a job assignment recently, I met a group of people who all worked for the same company (a mega chain of restaurants and hotels in the Middle-East); they were all native Lebanese, but each one came from a different region. One (the chef) was from Akkar in the North, another was from the South, etc. I asked them what kinds of foods they ate growing up. Each had completely different recollections; in fact, neither had ever tasted the foods that the other had experienced. (One even described homemade pasta with savory sauces called macaroons that is widespread in the country as a sweet donut!). Lebanon is a tiny country (smaller than Connecticut) yet the diversity here is astounding.
Here is one example of a dish I heard about and read about and had to search high and low all over the markets in Beirut for one of its component: Mung beans! Apparently mung beans are consumed in the North but are very hard to find in the capital. This dish is as rustic as it gets. Mung beans are cooked in water and potatoes are added halfway through. Flavor comes at the end by mixing the two with fried onions and adding salt and black pepper.
Recipe is an adaptation of Chef Ramzi’s Min Turath Lubnan. In the recipe, the potatoes end up mashed and I kept them cubed for vanity’s sake (looks better).
- 3 potatoes, cubed and kept in a bowl of water
- 1 cup of mung beans
- 1/3 cup of olive oil
- 2 large onions
- salt, black pepper, to taste
- Place the beans in a pot; add three cups of water and bring to a simmer. Simmer the beans for 20 minutes. Add the potatoes and cook for another 20 minutes until soft and fully cooked.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and fry the onions till golden. When the potatoes are cooked, add the onions and season to taste. Serve immediately.
NOTE: I would add some lemon juice at the end of cooking for flavor and (why not) a teaspoon of mashed garlic as well.