The Middle Eastern and North African region is a treasure trove of diverse culinary traditions. From aromatic spices to hearty ingredients, these cuisines offer many delicious and satisfying dishes. Among the many delicious dishes, soup holds a special place in the hearts and kitchens of these regions. These soups are a food source and reflect the rich history, geography, and cultural diversity of the Arab world. Let’s explore the culinary world of flavorful traditions of Middle Eastern and North African soups.
1. Chorba Frik (Algeria)
Chorba Frik is a comforting and nutritious soup often served as a starter or a main course in Algerian, Tunisian, and Libyan cuisine. It is a popular dish often enjoyed during the cold winter months. The main ingredient that sets Chorba Frik apart from other soups is frik, referring to cracked wheat or green wheat. This cracked wheat gives the soup a unique texture and a nutty flavor, plus it is prepared with mutton or lamb.
2. Lentil Soup (Egypt)
Lentil soup, known as Shorbat Adas, is unique in Middle Eastern cuisine. It is a popular dish in many cuisines worldwide and is known for its hearty and comforting qualities. Made from a delicious and nutritious dish called lentils- these are small legumes in various colors, including green, brown, and red. This soup is often seasoned with Egyptian spices like cumin and coriander.
3. Chickpea Soup or Shorbat Hummus (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestine)
A treasured part of Levantine cuisine, chickpea soup or Shorbat Hummus celebrates the importance of this versatile legume. It’s a creamy and hearty soup made from simple ingredients, including chickpeas, tahini (sesame paste), lemon juice, garlic, and various seasonings with a combination of cumin, coriander, and paprika.
4. Yogurt Soup or Shorba Bil Laban (Turkey)
Shorba Bil Laban, or yogurt soup created in Turkey, demonstrates the country’s profound influence on Middle Eastern cuisine. Since yogurt is a staple in Turkish cooking, it immediately found its way into numerous dishes, including this refreshing soup. It is particularly enjoyed in countries like Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, especially during hot summer, due to its cooling and soothing properties. With a combination of the creaminess of yogurt and the flavors of mint, garlic, and lemon, this dish highlights the unique taste of Turkey.
5. Chorba Bayda (Turkey)
Translated to white soup, Chorba Bayda is a simple and comforting dish typically made with a base of white beans, such as cannellini or navy beans, combined with vegetables, herbs, and sometimes meat. Chorba Bayda is a hearty and nutritious soup that can be enjoyed as a comfort meal, especially during the colder months. It is also commonly served during the month of Ramadan in Algerian cuisine.
6. Tomato and Red Lentil Soup or Shorbat Rumman (Morocco)
Moroccan cuisine is popularly known for its rich flavors and skillful combinations of spices. This soup embodies the quintessence of Moroccan cuisine with various tomatoes, red lentils, and an aromatic blend of Moroccan spices such as cumin, paprika, and coriander. This dish offers a more exotic and robust Moroccan dining experience.
7. Marak Temani (Israel)
This soup dish is typically made with either chicken or beef, different vegetables, and a heady spice blend called hawaij. It is a bold combination of turmeric, cumin, black pepper, coriander, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and ginger. This soup is usually served with a main course as the soup’s paste blends well.
8. Mulukhiyah (Middle East)
In most parts of the Arab world, this green soup is considered a meal, not an appetizer. You can add it to rice and serve it with chicken or beef, or use it as a dipping sauce and serve it with bread. It is made from the leaves of the jute plant, known by various names in different regions, including Jew’s mallow, jute mallow, or Egyptian spinach.
9. Harira (North Africa)
Harira soup is a traditional North African soup, particularly popular in Morocco. It is a tomato soup made with hummus and lentils. It is usually served with a honey and rose water-flavored pastry called chebakia. It’s a hearty and delicious soup often served during Ramadan to break the fast. Harira is known for its rich combination of ingredients and spices.
10. Lablabi (Tunisia)
Lablabi is a famous Tunisian dish often eaten for breakfast or as a hearty snack. It is a soup made from chickpeas and seasoned with various spices. It’s known for its bold flavors and is a perfect dish to warm you up on a cold day. This satisfying stew is often made with canned or cooked chickpeas, rustic bread, harissa paste, garlic, cumin, lemon, and plenty of fresh parsley.
11. Shorbat Adas (Lebanon)
Shorbat Adas is a famous Middle Eastern and Lebanese lentil soup. It’s a simple yet delicious dish often served as a starter or a comforting meal, especially during the colder months. The secret to this delightful dish is the squeeze of fresh lemon juice into the soup bowl before eating it.
12. Orzo Soup (Egypt)
This soup is well known in Egypt as it is quick and easy to make. Orzo soup is a type of soup that features orzo pasta as one of its main ingredients. Orzo is a small, rice-shaped pasta often used in Mediterranean and Italian cuisine. This type of pasta is versatile and works well in soups, adding a pleasant texture and thickness. Ingredients like salt, pepper, lemon sauce, olive oil, and your favorite veggies and chicken are added to achieve its delightful flavor.
Whether enjoyed in a bustling market, a family gathering, or an important event, Middle Eastern and North African soups are not just about nourishment; they celebrate culture, tradition, and the art of culinary expertise made with locally sourced ingredients and intricate preparation methods. If you are craving a comforting and flavorful soup, consider exploring the world of Arabian Nights soups and have an unforgettable experience.