The Best of Beirut
on Jul 31, 2014 By Danielle Issa
Every country has its own take on pizza, and Lebanon is no exception.
Originally derived from Turkey’s lahmacun, our Lebanese lahm bajine begins with a wafer-thin flat dough; topped with a fine layer of minced lamb or beef; seasoned with red pepper paste, onions, herbs, and spices; and baked swiftly in a wood-fired oven before being finished with a squeeze of lemon. It’s a feisty little pie, and only a cool ayran can wash it down splendidly.
While each neighborhood has its go-to for this classic meat pizza, we’ve got our sights (and stomachs) set on a select few in and around Beirut. Vegetarians, go ahead, renounce your no-meat stance for a day. We won’t judge!
Ichkhanian Bakery in Zokak el Blat dates back to 1946 and has expertly survived the test of time. An Armenian stronghold whose specialties are lahm bajine, su boereg, and mante, the bakery is run by a spirited old lady who mans the cashier as a dozen workers tend scrupulously to the factory line. The bakery churns out two types of the meat pizza: the Armenian version is made with both lamb and beef and seasoned with Armenian spices. The Aleppo counterpart features beef exclusively, with tangy pomegranate molasses and some piquant flair.
Opening hours are Tuesday to Sunday, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Hussein Beyhum Street
Photo via Plus 961
Furn Beaino in Sarba uses fresh and flavorsome ingredients to craft a self-described “indelible eating experience for dough lovers.” And that is no understatement. Serving up a host of pies to satisfy every palate—from the quintessential zaatar to the heartier kafta w jebneh - Beaino’s lahm bajine is easily its top seller. Lines of devotees from near and far exact the pilgrimage here for the masterfully mixed meat, tomato, and spices and the inimitable dough with its hot air pockets.
Fortunately Furn Beaino is open from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday!
Photo via Instagram
Sometimes what you seek is more than a quick chow-down perched on an uneven plastic lawn chair. You want to indulge in lahm bajine while slouched in comfortable seating, sucking at your water pipe, and socializing with friends. If so, Saniour is your certain paradise, with a second-to-none in-house wood-fired oven that bakes a trio of the meat pies. Besides the standard Lebanese variety, the “Armanieh” comes slathered with rib el 7ar (hot pepper paste) and garnished with parsley. A second deviant is doused in debs el remman (pomegranate syrup) to bind the ingredients wonderfully. All three pies merit a go!
Photo via Jocooks
Most people associate Abdul Rahman Al Hallab as Kasr el Helo, the empire of sweets, and that it indisputably is. But did you know the culinary king produces savory treats too? Their lahm bajine comes in square format, roughly 15 cm on each side, stuffed liberally with a rich concoction of lamb, fat, and spices all folded into a buttery phyllo pastry dough. Pine nuts jazz up the look and taste, but beware: this beast is a cholesterol mine!
Riad el Solh Street
*Other locations across Lebanon.
Photo via No Garlic No Onions
For days when you just can’t be bothered to ungroup yourself from the couch, who’s your delivery savior when the itch for the Lebanese meat pie kicks in full force? Kababji, of course, and they’ve got three fantastic specimens on offer. The Halabi blends loosely ground meat with pomegranate molasses and house spices all atop a crusty dough. The Lebanese nixes the syrup in favor of fresh tomato, parsley and more subtle seasoning. But the eponymous house specialty amplifies the Lebanese pie with pine nuts, green chili, and hot pepper paste, and a cool Lebanese lassi (aka ayran) is imperative to subdue the heat. Go on, get dialing!
*Other locations across Lebanon.
Photo via Pretty Capricieuse
Danielle Issa is a food blogger in Lebanon. You can find her on Twitter, and be sure to check out her blog, Beirutista.
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