Visitor article by Jaimie Eckert.
The Greatest Vegan Meals and Vegan Eating places in Beirut Lebanon
When my husband and I moved to Beirut in 2013, I had solely two questions: (1) would I’ve an electrical washer; and (2) would I have the ability to discover vegan eating places in Beirut, or any vegan meals in any respect?
We had each been concerned within the nonprofit sector for a while, however most of my earlier worldwide experiences have been with short-term tasks in locations like Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, and Belize.
In each case, I had washed laundry by hand and struggled to seek out plant-based meals. Now that we have been making the leap to turn out to be long-term expats, I felt anxious. I’d by no means visited the Center East earlier than. How was I alleged to know what I’d discover after relocating my total life?
Transitioning to expat life as a Extremely Delicate Individual was robust. Thank goodness for vegan ice cream once I wanted it!
I’ve now been residing in Beirut, Lebanon for nearly seven years. I’ve an electrical washer, a stunning little flat with a sea view, and wonderful recollections. However maybe better of all, I’ve turn out to be nicely versed in vegan meals within the space.
Center Jap delicacies consists of quite a few vegan dishes, and there are even a couple of totally vegan eating places in Beirut. So, when you’re a vegan planning a go to right here, I’m happy to share with you my all-time favourite dishes and eating places!
Breakfast in Beirut
It’s 9 am and also you simply awoke in your downtown resort. After an extended night time of transatlantic journey, you’re ravenous.
However what do Lebanese eat for breakfast? And what’s extra, how are you going to discover one thing plant-based?
Breakfast in Lebanon is usually very low-key and is often a carb-and-dairy combo. Among the commonest choices are:
– A cheese or chocolate-filled croissant with espresso
– Manaeesh (an oven-baked disk of dough with numerous toppings) with laban, a thick milk drink
– Labneh (savory strained yogurt) eaten with Arabic bread, olives, and greens
– A handbag-shaped, sesame-seed lined bread referred to as kaak, eaten with labneh and olives and sizzling pepper paste
Your resort will probably supply these key breakfast gadgets, together with sliced meat, sliced cheese, and squares of halawa — agency, sugared tahini that’s eaten with bread and is often vegan.
Essentially the most fool-proof vegan breakfast possibility in Lebanon is zaatar manaeesh (pronounced ZAA-tar man-a-EESH). Not like cheese manaeesh and kishek manaeesh, which comprise dairy, the zaatar topping is a dairy-free combination of olive oil, thyme, sesame, and different pure spices.
It has a pointy, bitter style that most individuals both love or hate, and Lebanese bakers serve it sizzling out of the oven on a thick, filling crust.
It’s a consolation meals, it’s a breakfast meals, and you should purchase it at any bakery at any time of the day. It’s excellent.
And if it’s lunchtime, you can even ask them to load your zaatar manaeesh with greens and roll it like a burrito.
Professional Tip: for a GPS-friendly bakery, kind in my favourite chain, Wood Bakery. You’ll discover it everywhere in the metropolis. When you’re on foot, simply ask for the closest “furn” they usually’ll direct you to an area bakery.)
When you don’t fancy a Lebanese breakfast, you can even go the American route. There are a couple of expensive eating places — principally in touristy districts like Hamra, Gemmayze, and Achrafieh — the place you may get avocado on toast, granola with almond milk, or chia pudding.
The Greatest Vegan Breakfast in Beirut
Now, simply earlier than we transfer on from the subject of breakfast, I’ve bought to let you know one thing. There’s this place that serves probably the most wonderful vegan breakfast in your entire metropolis, and it’s very low cost. However the vegan breakfast they serve is sort of an acquired style. Assuming you’re an adventurous, open-minded traveler, I’ll guess you wish to learn about it, proper?
Good. As a result of I saved the most effective breakfast for final.
Though most Lebanese are low-key about breakfast, there’s one dish they make when they’re able to take breakfast severely. It’s referred to as ful, typically referred to as ful mudammas.
Sure, you pronounce it like “idiot,” though you would possibly see it spelled “foul.” It’s a scrumptious mix of soppy, mashed fava beans with a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil. Most individuals get pleasure from it with cumin or purple pepper. This juicy bean dish is served with sliced greens and scooped up with contemporary Arabic bread.
Ful is the final word Center Jap breakfast. My husband and I’ve come to get pleasure from it a lot that we eat it 3-Four occasions per week. However not everyone is as much as consuming beans for breakfast.
Except you’re from the UK, maybe. Once we first arrived, beans for breakfast didn’t match into my American paradigm.
However now it does. We’re loopy about ful for breakfast.
You may load up on fava beans to begin out your day, too. In an unlikely again alley simply off the freeway, as you drive east out of downtown, a tiny restaurant sells the most effective ful in Beirut.
It’s referred to as Abu Abdallah’s. Ful is principally all they promote — their menu is a listing of hummus, labneh, and ful combos. Fava beans, fava beans with yogurt, fava beans with tahini, fava bean particular, and so forth. Regardless of the restaurant’s small measurement, it’s nearly all the time stuffed with buyer
So, when you assume breakfast is a very powerful meal of the day, you’ll wish to head to Abu Abdallah’s to eat with different individuals who assume the identical approach.
Discovering Vegan Kibbeh
It looks as if each tradition has their very own model of a crispy, savory, fried appetizer. Lebanon isn’t any exception: let me introduce you to kibbeh.
The dough is made with coarsely floor bulgar wheat, fashioned into an rectangular ball, and filled with onions and floor beef or lamb earlier than deep frying to golden perfection.
However wait! There’s a vegan model!
On the east facet of higher Beirut is a restaurant referred to as Al-Mazar Resto. It sits at a busy intersection and billows white barbecue smoke into the air from morning until night time.
Passing a 3-meter excessive statue of the Virgin Mary, you’ll enter both the take-away a part of the restaurant — the place you possibly can choose up a sandwich made with sheep brains or livers or every other sort of meat — or the informal eating space.
Getting a dish of hummus is a no brainer. And, in fact, vegan kibbeh. A plate of 4 items — every the dimensions of a giant kiwi — prices about $4. As a substitute of walnuts and floor beef, it’s filled with a lemony combination of spinach and chickpeas.
Biting right into a steaming sizzling, tender-yet-crispy kibbeh is principally the vegan model of fried hen consolation meals. You would possibly remorse solely ordering a plate of 4.
The place to Get a Non-Greasy Falafel Sandwich in Beirut?
Most individuals instantly affiliate the falafel sandwich with Mediterranean nations like Lebanon. This affiliation is a real one, however every nation has its personal particular spin on the well-known falafel.
Egyptians are likely to base their recipe on fava beans, which makes the top product denser, whereas Lebanese use a mix constructed from fava beans, chickpeas, and tahini.
The Syrian falafel is much less intensely flavored and lighter — nearly fluffy — and might be formed like a small donut.
However regardless of these nuanced variations in falafel recipes, there’s a near-ubiquitous high quality present in all of them: oil. And many it. Falafels are deep-fried in a big vat of reused oil, left on the facet of the pan to drip, and loaded immediately into your flatbread.
It’s true, you may get a $2 falafel sandwich at any hole-in-the-wall institution bearing the phrase “Snack” over the door. But it surely’ll be low cost, greasy, and of questionable hygienic requirements. As a warning, I vomited as soon as after consuming from one in every of these locations.
To get a clear, wholesome, non-greasy falafel, your finest guess is the star restaurant chain Zaatar W Zeit.
Zaatar W Zeit, translated into English, means “thyme and oil.” Translated into American phrases, we’d say “peanut butter and jelly” or “meat and potatoes”, since these two components are eaten nearly on daily basis by Lebanese. Zaatar W Zeit is one in every of our favourite eating places due to its cleanliness requirements and wholesome meals.
Their falafel — get this — is definitely baked.
That’s proper, you may get a baked falafel sandwich and eat it on wholesome oat bread. Who stated you possibly can’t have your cake and eat it, too? This wholesome model will value extra — simply over $5 — however your physique will thanks.
Oh, and another reason Zaatar W Zeit tops my checklist of finest restaurant chains in Lebanon: you possibly can order on-line they usually get your order proper each time.
Vegan Variations of Conventional Lebanese Dishes
Hidden in a tiny, magical city backyard is Beirut’s first 100% vegan restaurant, Luna’s Kitchen. It was based in 2018 by a European woman who fell in love with Beirut and determined to remain long-term.
Since then, a couple of different totally vegan eating places in Beirut have popped up, however Luna’s stays the clear favourite.
The restaurant is cozy and private sufficient that the proprietor stops by each desk to greet her visitors whereas serving up smoothies, salads, and vegan sandwiches.
You may eat outdoors within the backyard or hand around in a again nook to play board video games. There’s even a ping pong desk! College students from the close by American College of Beirut frequent Luna’s Kitchen, in addition to Beirut’s most open-minded crowd.
Veganism continues to be rising in recognition right here in Lebanon, and on this little nook of the capital, it has a loyal following. Luna’s is open 24/7 and can also be animal-friendly, so folks usually include their canine or cats.
Observe that the fish tank was inherited from the earlier house owners. Luna’s employees are actually giving the fish the most effective life they will and will not be including any new fish to the tank.
As for the meals, all of the Lebanese classics have gotten a vegan makeover right here. You may order a shawarma sandwich constructed from seitan, a creamy rice-based labneh sandwich, or a tawouk sandwich made with tofu.
Plus, when you’re feeling a bit homesick for western meals, you may get classics like veggie canine, veggie burgers, and vegan fajitas. There are many vegan truffles and different desserts on supply as nicely.
Greatest and Worst Vegan Burgers in Beirut
After practically seven years as an expat vegan in Beirut, I’ve executed my rounds tasting veggie burgers. Surprisingly, there’s fairly a spread of high quality.
To save lots of you the pains of ending up with a horrible burger, let me share my checklist of finest, worst, and runner-up vegan burgers in Beirut.
Worst: Zaatar W Zeit’s Vegan Increase
I do know, I simply bought executed raving about how a lot I really like Zaatar W Zeit. I truthfully don’t know the way this product snuck onto their menu, as a result of it’s actually the worst vegan burger I’ve ever tasted.
Really, take that again — the Burger King bean burger we ate in Antalya, Turkey was worse. So Zaatar W Zeit’s Vegan Increase is the second worst I’ve ever had. Dry, tasteless, and heavy, its solely attraction is the gorgeous presentation of being baked contained in the bun. Please, keep away from the Vegan Increase in any respect prices.
Runner Up: Fiber’s Veggie Burger
Hamra district is a favourite amongst expats and vacationers. When you’re right here and within the temper for one thing western, you possibly can’t go incorrect with Fiber’s 317-calorie vegan burger.
The patty is constructed from purple beans, mushrooms, leeks, sunflower seeds, beansprouts, carrots, and eggplant. Though the feel is a bit crumbly, it has a pleasantly contemporary style and received’t depart you feeling heavy. It would, nevertheless, depart you feeling hungry in an hour or two.
Runner Up: Basic Burger Joint’s Quinoa Burger
You will discover Basic Burger Joint in all the most effective and most secure elements of town: Hamra, Hazmiyeh, Dbiyeh, Achrafieh, Zaytouna Bay, Uruguay Avenue, and extra. The quinoa burger is every little thing you anticipate a veggie burger to be, however will depart you $9 lighter — fries not included.
Throughout Lent, additionally they supply a particular falafel burger. Do you know that 30% to 45% of the inhabitants of Lebanon is Christian?
And each the Maronite Catholics and the Jap Orthodox Christians in Lebanon keep away from animal merchandise throughout Lent and different fasting durations. For extra particulars, see the articles on this weblog about fasting traditions within the Greek Orthodox Church and fasting in Serbia.
Third Place: Crepaway’s Vegan Burger
It’s an in depth tie for second and third place, however Crepaway’s Vegan Burger strikes an ideal steadiness between wholesome, filling, and engaging. It’s served with a surprisingly peppy sweet-and-spicy chili sauce plus fries and a salad. And better of all, it isn’t greasy.
Second Place: Roadster Diner’s Vegan Mushroom Burger
Roadster Diner’s Vegan Mushroom Burger has nice texture and a traditional barbecue style. This restaurant will provide you with the best high quality components in a clear setting.
Though I’d fee the Crepaway and Roadster Diner burgers about the identical so far as style, Roadster Diner takes the lead in second place since they provide a ton of different plant-based dishes, like vegan tacos, veggie wraps, vegan pasta, and many alternative salads.
First Place: Sandches’ Vegan Burger Combo
When you’d wish to get a 317-calorie, oil-free, guilt-free veggie burger, go to Fiber. However if you need a extremely tasty, lick-your-fingers-with-a-sigh-of-content vegan burger, you’ll wish to cease by Sandches.
Sandches is a tiny restaurant with a always buzzing supply service and three guys behind the counter. For about $6, you’ll get a huge, crispy-juicy-savory vegan burger with fries and a drink. And also you’ll waddle away questioning the way you’ll ever discover a higher tasting burger than that. Belief me.
Typically the most effective issues are in lesser-known locations. Sandches has the most effective vegan burger in Beirut.
Greatest Manaeesh in Beirut
When you’re in Lebanon for any size of time, you’ll in all probability find yourself consuming a LOT of manaeesh. Manaeesh is to Lebanon what pad Thai is to Thailand.
However don’t think about that each one furns (bakeries) are the identical. A few of them have higher dough recipes, some are cleaner, some are cheaper, and a few even have particular flavors that you simply received’t discover elsewhere.
My favourite furn is, as soon as once more, in Hamra district. Regardless that I don’t stay wherever near Hamra, I went there a number of occasions per week for a 12 months and a half once I was learning Arabic.
A pair streets over from Hamra Avenue is Sidani Avenue, the place additionally, you will discover the aforementioned Fiber. Wander down Sidani Avenue till you see a giant blue signal promoting “Berlitz Language Middle.” At that intersection is a tiny, anonymous furn that sells a hard-to-find manaeesh taste: tomato and onion.
So easy, proper? But so elusive. Comfortable-and-crackly dough smothered in a young mixture of chunky onions and tomato with a touch of salt and oil. Its simplicity is what makes it lovable.
You’ll in all probability should ask for it in Arabic. Simply say “banadura wa basal” (tomato and onion) they usually’ll flash you a smile and offer you an appetizer whilst you wait. Being proper subsequent to the language heart, they’re used to college students attempting out new phrases.
Professional Tip: when you pronounce your “r” and your vowels like Spanish, you’ll be midway to sounding like an area: ban-a-DOO-ra wa ba-SAL.
Discovering Vegan Eats in Lebanon
After practically seven years of residing in Beirut, I can safely conclude that this metropolis is wealthy with vegan treasures. Whether or not you intend on coming for a couple of days or a couple of years, your plant-based preferences received’t endure. The vegan choices listed here are nearly countless.
The Lebanese persons are extraordinarily hospitable and glad that can assist you discover meals that fits your life-style. You may need to be a bit proactive in explaining what “vegan” means, however as soon as they determine it out, they’ll often go to nice lengths that can assist you.
This checklist of my private favorites is barely a begin. In every single place you go, you’ll discover locations that match your personal tastes and preferences.
You’ll meet cool waiters and restaurant house owners who will bear in mind you each time you come again. Typically, they’ll even bear in mind your vegan alteration requests and can predict your order for you.
Lebanon is a superb nation — for visiting, for residing, for consuming.
I assure that when you’ve been in Beirut for only one weekend, you received’t have the ability to depart the nation with out falling in love with one in every of its signature dishes.
Wanting ahead to seeing you right here!