OOps!!! I made a mistake!
After receiving a comment from Maria, I got besieged by doubts on my previous statement –namely that Lebanese cuisine was based on ghee, not olive oil-so I e-mailed Kamal Mouzawak!!!
Kamal is Lebanon’s foremost authority on culinary traditions. I interviewed him back in January and wrote about it.
Here is what he said: Lebanese cuisine used olive oil in cooking because it was the only oil available!!!
(I should have checked with him first!)
So, to recap correctly this time! Lebanese cuisine uses:
A. Olive oil, first and foremost, since olive trees are our second national tree after the cedar (source: Chef Ramzi, The culinary Heritage of Lebanon)
B. Samneh or ghee
C. Sheep tail fat, but more as a condiment.
Some people like to make their own samneh, by clarifying butter at home; for detailed instructions, check Arlette’s post. In Lebanon, the Bedouins of the Bekaa Valley are skilled at making the clarified butter; their clarified butter is so pure and so potent that you only need a teaspoon of it to flavor an entire dish (according to Chef Ramzi’s in his Culinary Heritage of Lebanon).
There is yet another type of fat used a lot in Lebanese cuisine, namely sheep tail fat, aka leeyeh; I remember one day seeing a whole mutton in the kitchen and noticing the fat, round tail of the animal. Needless to say, this type of fat is not available in the US. In Lebanese cooking, this fat is sold at every butcher shop; it is used a lot as a way to add flavor to a dish without adding any meat! Some so-called vegetarian kibbeh are stuffed with this sheep tail fat or leeyeh and some onions and sumac spice. It is delicious but I know you are thinking, “Hmmm…we will have to see about that!” For a nice photo of a sheep with the fat tail and a post detailing sheep-tail fat, check Pomegranate and Zaatar‘s blog.
What type of fat do you use? (I am curious!)
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