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Behemoth

Lebanon report with Pictures, June 2005

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Smithy-

That is a very odd way to eat, for a Lebanese at least! Usually the guests and hosts will be more than happyu in sharing a meal, a very large meal.

Samke Harra is one awsome dish, Basically it is baked whole fish (sometimes lighlty fried first), stuffed with a mixture of chilies, walnuts, cilantro and garlic. The final and very importatnt touch is to top it with a good dose of Tahini sauce (tahini, lemon, garlic,...). It is a truly amazing dish that is not hard to make but sure seems like it. hmm..maybe we should have a Samke Harr cookoff thread? Actually when cooking for my wife and I, I often sub fish fillet for the whole fish, but the real deal is much more dramatic.

Elie


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Ooh, a samke harra cookoff thread! Sounds wonderful! I like the flavor combinations you're describing. I've never had them with fish. <looks around for a drooling emoticon>


Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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Most people under 30 speak English. In Beirut you will certainly have no problems at any restaurants, bars etc. In Tripoli it might be a little harder to get around though any places popular with visitors such as Hallab (or abu Fadi for that matter) will be fine.

I would agree that Beirut is probably the most "English friendly" city in the entire Middle East. In addition to English you'll also hear French only being spoken amongst some circles. It becomes quite different once you step outside of Beirut and would probably require a guide (as in an English speaking driver who will take you around).

Lebanon is very small and these types of "organized" tours can be arranged from Beirut easily. Everything is only a few hours away from Beirut, and with the new coastal highway system, you can drive from north to south (Syrian border to Israeli border) in almost 3 hours and probably less if your driver learned how to drive in Lebanon...I always said if you can drive in Lebanon, then you can drive anywhere in the world :biggrin:

btw..I second/third the idea of a samke harra cookoff thread...


"A chicken is just an egg's way of making another egg." Samuel Butler

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Nadia, very interesting report and I loved seeing the pictures. I have some Lebanese friends who moved back to Beirut several years ago, and another friend here who's also been home for a visit, but this is the first time I've gotten all the details. The spreads you described remind me of the ones I've enjoyed at my friends' homes (minus the cigars!). What they modestly proclaim to be a "simple" meal seems to me to involve three days of cooking! :biggrin:

Elie, could you post your recipe for Samke Harra (the fish dish... not the whole meal!)? That's one of the dishes I feasted on at a friend's. Awesome, indeed!


SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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I always said if you can drive in Lebanon, then you can drive anywhere in the world  :biggrin:

btw..I second/third the idea of a samke harra cookoff thread...

I learned to drive in Lebanon but I drive like a granny! I have no idea how I managed over there. Probably people let me through intersections because I was a girl. :laugh:

I like the idea of a cookoff, though this means I have to somehow procure a reasonably fresh whole fish in central Illinois. I know they carry red snapper sometimes, maybe I will put in an advance order.

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Yow....the mere idea of traffic *worse* than Egypt's makes me shudder. I've never been so terrified as the time we came back along the Nile highway toward Luxor after dark. :shock: Cairo is wild, but at least the gridlock generally keeps speeds too slow for serious damage if you're in another vehicle.

At the risk of starting another of those pointless and interminable arguments about origin and pronunciation (please don't let's go there): Is samke harra specifically a Lebanese dish, or do variants exist across the Middle East? I'm going to have to look in my Egyptian cookbook to see if there's something like it in there.


Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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When visiting historical sites, there will always be at least one person who speaks English. For around town, if you have some French that would be very helpful. Most people over 30 at least speak decent french, though English seems to be taking over as the hip language for the younger crowd. (We overheard a couple of cafe conversations being carried on entirely in English by all Lebanese participants. We thought it might be practice for a class, but no, they were just showing off.  :rolleyes:  )

It seems that fate has spoken, and I'll have to pay Lebanon a visit - french is my only other language :biggrin:


Cutting the lemon/the knife/leaves a little cathedral:/alcoves unguessed by the eye/that open acidulous glass/to the light; topazes/riding the droplets,/altars,/aromatic facades. - Ode to a Lemon, Pablo Neruda

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There is no sense in waiting since we all want to start discussing Samke Harra. I started the thread here and moved some of the posts to it. Please let us discuss it over there.

Thanks,

Elie


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Some photos from my grandmother's village:

We were a few weeks too early for pomegranates:

26607137_f9ca598094.jpg

We also grow olives:

26606645_6ab349eeef.jpg

Also a few weeks too soon for cactus fruit:

26606607_8c207ffb72.jpg

I wrote something up that didn't seem to fit posting in a thread here, so chefzadi very kindly let me put it on his blog.

Memory of a Lebanese Village

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What are cactus fruits called in Arabic?


Michael aka "Pan

 

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Beautiful travelogue, Behemoth.

How are the cactus fruit used? Are the paddles eaten too, as in Mexican cuisine?


Priscilla

Writer, cook, & c. ● #TacoFriday observant ●  Twitter    Instagram

 

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What are cactus fruits called in Arabic?

Should be a familiar word to anyone who's spent time in Israel: sabr (aka sabra :smile: )

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Beautiful travelogue, Behemoth.

How are the cactus fruit used?  Are the paddles eaten too, as in Mexican cuisine?

The fruit becomes bright orange/red and very sweet, kind of a weird watery seedy texture but very cooling. I do remember eating the paddles, blanched in a salad. Very similar to the mexican dish, actually. Both the fuit and paddles need some heavy cleaning to get rid of the thorns.

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What are cactus fruits called in Arabic?

Should be a familiar word to anyone who's spent time in Israel: sabr (aka sabra :smile: )

The paddles are not edible in Lebanon or Egypt.

The correct name for cactus fruits in Lebanon is:

Teen el Sebai'r

The correct name for cactus fruits in Egypt is:

Teen Shawki

The fruit is devoid of any thorns as they are strictly on the skin.

The way to cut the fruit after washing (hand gloves). You cut out both ends and then make a deep incision the lenght of the fruit and prize open each side of the incision revealing the fruit. You eat the fruit by gently chewing on the pulp and you do not cruch the seeds or bite on them but simply swallow a la Huitres.

Very nice and refreshing.

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Beautiful travelogue, Behemoth.

How are the cactus fruit used?  Are the paddles eaten too, as in Mexican cuisine?

The fruit becomes bright orange/red and very sweet, kind of a weird watery seedy texture but very cooling. I do remember eating the paddles, blanched in a salad. Very similar to the mexican dish, actually. Both the fuit and paddles need some heavy cleaning to get rid of the thorns.

Sure would love to know the Lebanese preparations!

I love cactus salad. I have cut and cleaned the paddles myself, a treacherous task indeed, so always consider it a special gift when the nice lady at the farmer's market has bags of prepped paddles for sale.

The fruit on the variety growing in my Southern California canyon ripens to dusty grapey purple, but the flesh inside is lovely intense magenta. Excellent for sorbetto. The fruit are more difficult than the paddles to clean, some of the worst spines are of hairlike thinness, nearly invisible.


Priscilla

Writer, cook, & c. ● #TacoFriday observant ●  Twitter    Instagram

 

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The paddles are not edible in Lebanon or Egypt.

The correct name for cactus fruits in Lebanon is:

Teen el Sebai'r

The correct name for cactus fruits in Egypt is:

Teen Shawki

The fruit is devoid of any thorns as they are strictly on the skin.

The way to cut the fruit after washing (hand gloves). You cut out both ends and then make a deep incision the lenght of the fruit and prize open each side of the incision revealing the fruit. You eat the fruit by gently chewing on the pulp and you do not cruch the seeds or bite on them but simply swallow a la Huitres.

Very nice and refreshing.

Almass, my memory may be playing tricks on me about the paddles (I'll ask my dad tomorrow), though I really do remember eating them blanched, with the standard lemon and olive oil dressing. Maybe a different variety?

Anyway, I went back and looked in Chef Ramzi's book (Min Tourath Lubnan, Arabic edition, page 544) and he says that they are called "Sabbar" or "Sabbair" which as far as I'm concerned is just a minor difference in pronounciation (though you may disagree.) The term "teen" referring to cactus fruit might be a regional thing, as I have never heard of it and Chef Ramzi fails to mention it. Finally, he is quite emphatic that the fruit needs to be carefully cleaned, as it is covered in thorns. As for a la Huitres, whatever floats your boat, dude :smile:

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Priscilla, Paula Wolfert has a cactus paddle recipe from Tunisia in her cookbook Mediterranean Grains and Greens. From what I've read I don't see where Lebanese and Tunisian cactus paddles differ, but I will need to ask around.

edited to add link for the curious.


Edited by Behemoth (log)

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The paddles are not edible in Lebanon or Egypt.

The correct name for cactus fruits in Lebanon is:

Teen el Sebai'r

The correct name for cactus fruits in Egypt is:

Teen Shawki

The fruit is devoid of any thorns as they are strictly on the skin.

The way to cut the fruit after washing (hand gloves). You cut out both ends and then make a deep incision the lenght of the fruit and prize open each side of the incision revealing the fruit. You eat the fruit by gently chewing on the pulp and you do not cruch the seeds or bite on them but simply swallow a la Huitres.

Very nice and refreshing.

Almass, my memory may be playing tricks on me about the paddles (I'll ask my dad tomorrow), though I really do remember eating them blanched, with the standard lemon and olive oil dressing. Maybe a different variety?

Anyway, I went back and looked in Chef Ramzi's book (Min Tourath Lubnan, Arabic edition, page 544) and he says that they are called "Sabbar" or "Sabbair" which as far as I'm concerned is just a minor difference in pronounciation (though you may disagree.) The term "teen" referring to cactus fruit might be a regional thing, as I have never heard of it and Chef Ramzi fails to mention it. Finally, he is quite emphatic that the fruit needs to be carefully cleaned, as it is covered in thorns. As for a la Huitres, whatever floats your boat, dude :smile:

- Sabbar or Sabbair is acceptable but it is not Sabr or Sabra as you have stated.

- Was there any recipe in Chef Ramzi's Book for the paddles?

Whether Chef Ramzi's failed to mention or not the word "teen" or "Tin" is really up to him and he should have.

And of course the fruit "skin" is covered with thorns but not the inside pulp and seed!

- I look forward to read whether you have been able to locate a recipe in Lebanon for the "paddles" cause I sure never heard or tried any.

But then again I have also never been called a dude before. Not even with a smily :rolleyes: and I not have no boat but I know how to float. :smile:

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Priscilla, Paula Wolfert has a cactus paddle recipe from Tunisia in her cookbook Mediterranean Grains and Greens. From what I've read I don't see where Lebanese and Tunisian cactus paddles differ, but I will need to ask around.

edited to add link for the curious.

It is not the point of having a difference in Lebanese or Tunisian cacti or cactuses.

It is the mere fact that you could not have eaten cacti or cactuses paddles in the Lebanon as you are stating for the simple fact that, to the best of my knowledge, it is not a Lebanese dish and there is no Lebanese recipe for it.

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It is the mere fact that you could not have eaten cacti or cactuses paddles in the Lebanon as you are stating for the simple fact that, to the best of my knowledge,  it is not a Lebanese dish and there is no Lebanese recipe for it.

I have eaten Enchiladas in Lebanon even though as far as I know they are also not a Lebanese dish and there is no Lebanese recipes for those either. Perhaps my uncle read about the Tunisian dish, decided to give it a whirl, and it became a family favorite. Who knows. I'm really not sure what point you're trying to make here, or if you're just being cranky.

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Should be a familiar word to anyone who's spent time in Israel: sabr (aka sabra  :smile: )

So they too are hard and prickly on the outside and soft in the middle? :wink:

I'm really enjoying your stories and pictures. Thanks so much for sharing them.

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Should be a familiar word to anyone who's spent time in Israel: sabr (aka sabra  :smile: )

So they too are hard and prickly on the outside and soft in the middle? :wink:

I'm really enjoying your stories and pictures. Thanks so much for sharing them.

Prickly is a common feature in that part of the world I guess :laugh:

Actually, Almass is right about the name...sabbair is the cactus, whereas sabr (looking at Larousse arabic) apparently refers to aloe. I thought sabbair was just the name in Levantine dialect, but apparently it is the "standard arabic" name too.

In any case, the derivation is the same. "Sabr" means patience in arabic, so sabbair means "patient plant", presumably because it can do without water for so long. At least that's what Larousse says. Does anyone know if it has the same meaning in Hebrew?

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Actually, Almass is right about the name...sabbair is the cactus, whereas sabr (looking at Larousse arabic) apparently refers to aloe. I thought sabbair was just the name in Levantine dialect, but apparently it is the "standard arabic" name too.

In any case, the derivation is the same. "Sabr" means patience in arabic, so sabbair means "patient plant", presumably because it can do without water for so long. At least that's what Larousse says. Does anyone know if it has the same meaning in Hebrew?

According to answers.com , Sabra is a prickly pear... or native Israeli.

My hebrew dictionary is at work... I'll try to remember to check next week.

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Nadia-

Sabr is what it is called where I come from as well.

Almass-

It does not matter one bit if it is Sabr, Sabra, Tiin Al Sabr, or Sabr il Teen or whatever. I am done playing word games on the boards. If we all know what it is and what we are refering to then a vowel here and there DOES NOT matter. Let me say it again, ANY debate as to how a certain word is correctly pronounced by anyone will be removed.

How on earth do you know if Nadia had the Sabr paddles in Lebanon or not? I have never eaten it over there and do not know of anyone who does either but I cannot say for sure that NO ONE in Lebanon eats it, or that no parts of the Levant serve it. Please if you are going to make a comment let it be constructive or at least inquisitive instead of purely aiming at finding fault with other people's comments!

Elie


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Wow - I've learned so much from this wonderful tale. I've learned that your name is actually Nadia (although I still love the little 'possum and will forever think of you as Behemoth) and I've learned that Lebanon is a beautiful country that I hope to have the good fortune to visit someday, and I've learned that your ethnicity is NOT, as I had always believed, "former Philadelphian"! :biggrin:

Thanks so much for sharing this. It's fabulous on so many levels.

And PLEASE post your recipes to RecipeGullet and let us know when they're there!!! :wub:


Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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