Lebanese sure do love to eat. Though our cuisine is—in all modesty—the best in the world, with its masterful use of herbs, spices, and vegetables, we like to import foreign gastronomies and make them our own. We adore pizza, burgers, and fries, but we wouldn’t be Lebanese if we didn’t put our own personal touch on them, a little bit of Lebanese flair that foreigners might find unsettling.

Let’s take a walk on the wild side and see what creativity the Lebanese are infusing in their adopted foods. You won’t find these food hacks anywhere else in the world—trust me.

1. Strange Pizza Toppings

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Ah, the pizza. The quintessential foodstuff of our equally frenetic European brethren, the Italians. The basic pie is an assembly of round flat dough, tomato sauce, and mozzarella. A Lebanese pizza, however, can often be found to chuck the tomato sauce altogether in favor of ketchup, and let’s not forget to scatter a deluge of corn pellets (when did that get admitted into the list of permissible pizza toppings?). Some Lebanese even like to dip their pizza in ketchup, the all-purpose condiment.

2. The Zaatar Croissant

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Never make the mistake of requesting a croissant au thym in Paris: the boulangier will frown at you in confusion and perhaps a tinge of disgust. That’s our invention, folks! The zaatar croissant is actually an ingenious fusion of the best of two worlds: France’s beloved layered, buttery pastry, Lebanon’s tart herb that can lift even the dullest of dishes. Together they are an indomitable combination.

3. The Lebanese Burger

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The true Lebanese burger is making a comeback on the diner scene in this country. What, you ask, comprises such a specimen? For starters, a massive, airy bun is hollowed out and stuffed with a crisp coleslaw drowning in mayo. Atop the kafta-like beef patty, which is noticeably smaller in circumference than the burger bun, expect a stack of hand-cut fries slathered in—you guessed it—ketchup.

4. The Sandwich Batata

(Image via Village Voice)

You’d think fries alone were a sufficiently carb-heavy indulgence. No, no, let’s wrap them in bread and call it a meal. The sandwich batata is an indispensable fixture of Lebanese “snack” joints, and it is essentially a thin pita filled with creamy coleslaw, perfectly arranged columns of frites, generous heaps of garlic paste, and, indeed, more ketchup. Catching on to a theme here? We love our ketchup dearly.

5. The Nutella Crepe

(Image via Fromages and Fridays)

When I was living in the USA, the birthplace of Aunt Jemima and her adorably fluffy pancakes, I devoured the heftier cousins of the French crepe with one of three toppings: maple syrup, butter, or, if I wanted to go gourmet, jam and jelly. Never did I behold anyone who smeared a pancake with Nutella and then jazzed it up with whipped cream like an ice cream sundae. In fact, in Lebanon, you’ll be hard-pressed to find proper syrup just anywhere. So tote along your own bottle, BYOB style.

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