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National Food of Syria: Top 20 Dishes

Welcome to an exploration of the lively culinary landscape of Syria, where tradition, flavor, and community interlink to create a rich textile of tastes. As we initiate this trip through the article you might find yourself asking: What makes Syrian cuisine unique? How do these dishes reflect the culture and heritage of the region? And perhaps most importantly, what culinary delights await us in this diverse and flavorful cuisine?

In this article, we’ll explore the heart of Syrian cuisine, uncovering the top 20 dishes that define its culinary identity. From iconic favorites like Kibbeh and Shawarma to lesser-known gems like Makdous and Horaa Osbao, each dish offers a glimpse into Syria’s rich culinary heritage. We’ll explore the artistry behind these recipes, the significance of spices in Syrian cooking, and the cultural nuances of dining etiquette.

Join us as we uncover the secrets of Syrian cuisine, tempting your taste buds and expanding your culinary horizons.

Top 9 National Food of Syria

1. Kibbeh

photo by insatiablemunch

Kibbeh, a beloved national dish of Syria, shows a delicious blend of finely ground meat, bulgur wheat, and aromatic spices. Often shaped into tear-shaped croquettes, these delicious treats can be fried, roasted, or grilled until golden brown. Typically made with lamb or beef, pine nuts, and various seasonings, kibbeh is a versatile dish enjoyed in many forms across Syria. Whether served with a salad, a creamy sauce, or simply on its own from a street vendor, kibbeh remains a staple in Syrian cuisine, always offering a break of flavor and texture.

2. Kebab Halabi

photo by Suad Kamardeen 

Kebab Halabi is a popular Syrian grilled meat dish that combines ground beef or lamb with nuts, seven spice mixes, onions, and vegetables. This flavorful mixture is wrapped around skewers, shaped into long patties, and grilled over an open fire. Often served with a tangy Syrian tomato sauce and strained yogurt, these skewered kebabs are a delicious accompaniment to vermicelli or flavored rice, making them a favorite among locals.

3. Mahshi

photo by Aseel zm

Mahshi refers to a variety of dishes where vegetables such as zucchinis, squash, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, onions, and even cabbage or vine leaves are stuffed with a mixture of rice, vegetables, and meat. This dish is similar to dolma but uses region-specific spices to flavor the rice base. Mahshi is a beloved part of Syrian cuisine, offering a wholesome and hearty meal with a unique blend of textures and flavors.

4. Maqluba

photo by Ramadan9044

Maqluba is a visually impressive one-pot dish that combines meat (usually chicken or lamb), rice, and vegetables, all cooked together and then inverted for serving. This method creates a stunning presentation, with the flavors of the meat and vegetables infusing the rice for a rich and satisfying meal. Maqluba is proof of the artistry and communal spirit of Syrian cooking.

5. Tabbouleh

photo by Toniher

Tabbouleh is a refreshing salad that fits with dynamic flavors, made from finely chopped parsley, bulgur wheat, tomatoes, onions, mint, lemon juice, and olive oil. This light and healthy dish is a staple in Syrian cuisine, often enjoyed as part of a mezze platter. The combination of fresh herbs and zesty lemon juice makes tabbouleh a perfect accompaniment to many meals.

6. Samaka Harra

photo by Alpha

Samaka Harra is a Syrian spiced fish dish originating from Lebanon but adapted with a local twist. This dish involves baking filleted fish in a spicy tomato sauce made with garlic, onions, pepper, salt, and tomatoes. The result is a melt-in-your-mouth meal that delivers a delightful mix of heat and flavor, often leaving diners craving more.

7. Mutabal

Mutabal is a tasty Middle Eastern dip made from roasted eggplants, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, yogurt, olive oil, and salt. The ingredients are blended to create a smooth or slightly coarse texture, depending on preference. Often garnished with parsley, pomegranate seeds, or cilantro, mutabal is typically served with pita bread as part of a meze platter, offering a creamy and flavorful experience.

8. Shawarma

photo by Dan Zelazo

Syrian shawarma stands out with its unique, flaky, and buttery bread, offering a delightful twist on this classic dish. Filled with meat cooked on a rotating spit, creamy garlic sauce, and sour pickles, Syrian shawarma is a flavorful and addictive street food. The combination of delicate meat and rich, tangy supplements makes it a beloved choice for both locals and tourists.

9. Muhammara

photo by Kate Andrews

Muhammara is a delectable red pepper and walnut dip that, despite its outstanding flavor, has yet to gain global fame like hummus. Originating from Damascus, this dip blends red bell peppers with walnuts, garlic, lemon, breadcrumbs, pomegranate molasses, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes, cumin, and olive oil. The result is a light, citrusy, sweet, and umami dip that pairs perfectly with flatbread, making it a must-try in Syrian cuisine.

8 Traditional Dishes to Eat

10. Makdous

Makdous is a traditional Syrian delicacy made from small, oil-cured eggplants that are thoroughly stuffed with a flavorful mixture of red pepper, walnuts, and garlic. These tasty treats are a staple on the Syrian breakfast table, offering a rich and tangy burst of flavor that perfectly complements a variety of morning dishes.

11. Jazmaz

photo by Vmalvjay

Jazmaz is a versatile and spicy egg dish that can be enjoyed at any time of day. It features soft, creamy eggs cooked in a strong chile and tomato sauce, topped with fresh herbs and chopped olives. Served with warm bread, Jazmaz combines simplicity and gourmet appeal, making it a beloved choice for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

12. Tabakh Roho

photo by freecandy13

Tabakh Roho is a perfect Syrian stew that highlights spiced lamb and delicate vegetables. Known for its healthy and delectable qualities, this dish stands out as a Syrian specialty among similar dishes found throughout the Middle East. The harmonious blend of spices and hearty ingredients makes it a comforting and flavorful meal.

13. Horaa Osbao

Horaa Osbao is a delightful stew made with earthy lentils, chewy pasta, caramelized onions, citrusy sumac, and pomegranate molasses. This dish offers a perfect balance of sweet and savory flavors, topped with fresh herbs and homemade pita chips for added texture and taste, making each bite a deliciously balanced experience.

14. Jaj Bl Hamed w Tum

photo by Tim Douglas 

Jaj Bl Hamed w Tum is a simple yet incredibly flavorful one-pan meal. This dish features chicken legs oven-roasted on a bed of thinly sliced onions and potato wedges, resulting in a hearty and satisfying meal that tastes like you’ve spent hours in the kitchen, though it requires minimal effort.

15. Syrian Fattet Djaj

Syrian Fattet Djaj is an excellent introduction to Middle Eastern cuisine, featuring a layered chicken platter that combines mild yet rich flavors. This dish highlights the best elements of Syrian food, such as delicate chicken, and aromatic spices, making it approachable and enjoyable for those new to these culinary traditions.

16. Syrian Kawaj

Kawaj is a wholesome, casserole-like dish featuring seasoned meatballs, potatoes, peppers, onions, and tomatoes. Cooked effortlessly in a Crockpot, this dish is both filling and healthy, perfect for serving over rice. The meatballs, spiced with the unique Arabic blend baharat, are the highlight, adding a distinct sweet and tasty flavor to the dish.

17. Halawet El-Jibn

photo by Karina Kungla

Halawet El-Jibn is a delicate and aromatic Syrian dessert. It consists of a chewy, mildly salty cheese dough (often substituted with mozzarella) filled with ashta, a rich milky cream. This confection is drizzled with a sweet syrup flavored with rose water and orange blossom, then topped with crushed pistachios and rose jam, creating an elegant and delectable treat.

Spices: The Heart of Syrian Cooking

photo by tigr

Syrian cuisine relies heavily on a rich range of spices and pantry essentials that create its distinctive flavors. Common ingredients include black pepper, allspice, paprika, sumac, cinnamon, nutmeg, cassia bark, coriander, cumin, and cardamom. These spices are used in various combinations to flavor stews, meats, and vegetables, providing depth and aromatic intensity to dishes.

Baharat, a seven-spice blend, is particularly notable and varies from family to family, often including spices like allspice, coriander, cloves, black pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Freshly ground spices are preferred for their robust flavors, and ready-made blends like those from Ziyad are also popular.

Beyond spices, other pantry staples are essential for authentic Syrian cooking. Aleppo pepper paste, made from lightly spicy red peppers, adds a fruity heat to dishes like muhammara and marinades. Pomegranate molasses, with its sweet and tangy profile, enhances salads, meats, and roasted vegetables.

Syrian Family Dining

photo by August de Richelieu 

Syrian family dining is characterized by a variety of flavorful dishes and a communal style of eating. Common dishes include stuffed grape leaves, hummus, falafel, and shish kebab, all of which are often eaten by hand or scooped up with flatbread. Meals are leisurely affairs, typically lasting two to three hours, allowing family and friends to enjoy each other’s company while savoring the food.

The dining experience is rich in tradition, with famous dips like hummus, baba ghanoush, and muhammara, alongside hearty main dishes such as lamb and vegetable stews and falafel. Syrians also have unique preferences in their produce, often enjoying fruit before it is fully ripe and savoring green almonds and pistachios.

Popular vegetables like eggplant, tomato, and cucumber are staples in many dishes. Pickled vegetables, such as turnips and cucumbers, add a tangy crunch and are commonly served with meals. This dynamic and diverse cuisine reflects the cultural importance of food in Syrian life, where meals are not just about eating but also about sharing and connecting with loved ones.

See Also Traditional Syrian Clothing

Street Food

18. Manakish

photo by Ewan Munro

Manakish is a traditional Syrian street food that originated from the daily bread-making practices of Syrian women. This round, pizza-like bread is typically spread with toppings such as cheese, meat, zaatar, or tomato sauce before being baked. Manakish has gained international popularity for its delicious versatility and is commonly enjoyed with a cup of tea. Whether served as a simple breakfast or a hearty snack, manakish remains a beloved staple in Syrian cuisine.

19. Falafel

photo by Miansari66

Falafel is a widely adored street food in Syria, with specialized shops dedicated to crafting these crispy chickpea fritters found in every city, town, and village. Most Syrians opt to buy falafel ready-made from these shops, though it can also be easily prepared at home in about thirty minutes. Falafel can be enjoyed hot and crunchy on its own or wrapped in flatbread, making it a versatile and convenient meal option. The delicious, spiced flavor of falafel has made it a favorite not only in Syria but around the world.

20. Syrian Stuffed Vine Leaves

photy by Elimali

Syrian stuffed vine leaves, a culinary favorite throughout the Mediterranean and the Middle East, feature spiced rice rolled into vine leaves and steamed alongside delicate chicken legs. The rice mixture, enriched with lemon, garlic, pomegranate molasses, and tomato, absorbs the flavors from the cooking liquid, resulting in a dish that is both flavorful and aromatic.

Farm-to-Table Movement

The farm-to-table movement in Syria has evolved significantly, influenced by historical changes in family structure and societal expectations. Historically, Syrian women, whether from urban elite or rural backgrounds, were tasked with ensuring the nourishment of their families. Post-war pressures heightened these responsibilities, particularly for middle- and upper-class women, who were cautioned against relying on domestic help for feeding their children due to concerns about hygiene and proper care.

This era saw a shift towards the nuclear family model, reducing reliance on extended kinship and domestic servants, which in turn emphasized the importance of women maintaining hygienic homes and personally overseeing the preparation of nutritious meals. The movement towards more self-sufficient household management laid the groundwork for a farm-to-table ethos, where fresh, locally sourced ingredients are preferred.

This focus on structured, home-cooked meals aligns closely with the principles of the farm-to-table movement, which values fresh, nutritious, and locally sourced food as essential components of a healthy lifestyle in Syria.

Dining Etiquette

photo by James Gordon

Dos

1. Offer Food to Others: If they are eating and someone else arrives, it is customary to offer them some of their food. This is a gesture of hospitality.

2. Polite Refusal: When offered food, it is polite to initially decline, even if they want to accept eventually.

3. Remove Footwear: They leave their shoes at the door or in a designated spot when entering a Syrian home.

4. Praise the Food: They compliment the taste and quality of the food, as this is a culturally appreciated gesture.

5. Use Their Right Hand: They eat using their right hand, as it is considered more respectful.

6. Enjoy Tea and Sweets: They are prepared to enjoy tea and homemade sweets after the meal.

7. Be Social: They engage in chitchat after the meal; it’s a normal part of the dining experience.

8. Thank the Host: They express their gratitude for the meal and their hospitality.

Don’ts

1. Don’t Force Acceptance of Food Offers: While it’s courteous to offer food, they don’t press too hard if someone declines.

2. Avoid Alcohol and Pork: They do not bring or consume alcohol or pork products, as they are prohibited for observant Muslims.

3. Don’t Divide Bills: When dining out, they do not expect to split the bill. Typically, men pay for women, and the oldest or wealthiest person usually covers the bill.

4. Respect Religious Practices: They are mindful of religious observances, such as not praying before meals, but whispering “in the name of Allah the most gracious most merciful” before eating.

5. Be Mindful with Gifts: They avoid bringing a wine bottle as a hostess gift. They opt for chocolates or other non-alcoholic items instead.

6. Handshaking Etiquette: Women generally do not shake hands with men. They pay attention to body language to avoid awkwardness.

7. Don’t Rush Eating: Lunch is a significant meal, and it’s common to eat slowly and enjoy the company. They don’t rush through the meal.

Global Influence and Popularity

Syrian cuisine is rich and diverse, featuring a wide range of dishes that reflect the country’s lively culinary traditions. The Mediterranean diet, of which Syrian cuisine is a part, is renowned for its health benefits, with staples like olives, za’atar, and olive oil being central to many dishes.

Among the standout dishes in Syrian cuisine is kibbeh, a national favorite made from ground meat and burghol (bulgur), which can be prepared in numerous ways. Another beloved dish is freekeh, typically cooked with lamb or chicken and garnished with nuts, offering a hearty and nutritious meal.

Mahashee, a delicacy featuring stuffed zucchini, eggplant, or peppers cooked in a tomato-based sauce, shows the Syrian mastery of combining flavors and textures. These dishes not only highlight the culinary skills of Syrian cooks but also reflect the rich agricultural bounty of the region.

See Also Famous Syrian Painters

Key Takings About National Food of Syria

1. Top 9 National Food of Syria: From Kibbeh to Muhammara, Syria’s top dishes offer a rich textile of flavors and textures that reflect the country’s culinary heritage.

2. 8 Traditional Dishes to Eat: Explore traditional favorites like Makdous and Halawet El-Jibn, each dish representing the heart of Syrian cuisine and its time-honored recipes.

3. Spices: The Heart of Syrian Cooking: Explore the dynamic world of Syrian spices, from the warmth of baharat to the tang of Aleppo pepper paste, infusing every dish with depth and character.

4. Syrian Family Dining: Experience the warmth and hospitality of Syrian family dining, where meals are a celebration of togetherness and shared cultural traditions.

5. Street Food: Indulge in the lively street food culture of Syria, where Manakish, Falafel, and Syrian Stuffed Vine Leaves tempt taste buds with their irresistible flavors.

6. Farm-to-Table Movement: Join the farm-to-table movement in Syria, where fresh, locally sourced ingredients raise home-cooked meals into culinary delights.

7. Dining Etiquette: Learn the dos and don’ts of Syrian dining etiquette, where gestures of hospitality and respect are central to the dining experience.

8. Global Influence and Popularity: Celebrate the global influence of Syrian cuisine, from its integration into the Mediterranean diet to its widespread popularity as a culinary gem cherished worldwide.