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Updated by Joanna James on Nov 23, 2021
Headline for Ingredients that make Middle Eastern cuisine special - The delicious wonders that make you go mmmm
Joanna James Joanna James
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Ingredients that make Middle Eastern cuisine special - The delicious wonders that make you go mmmm

With its fresh, tangy, and fragrant flavours, Middle Eastern food is known to seduce people all around the world. Here are some unique ingredients that make the food of the Middle East explode with flavour. Take your tastebuds on a trip by whipping up a traditional Middle Eastern dish of your choice.


Za'atar - The wild thyme of the Arabs

If you are a foodie with a thing for salty and spicy food, za'atar is your go-to Middle Eastern ingredient. It is a savoury spice blend made with a combination of sumac, sesame seeds, marjoram, salt, and thyme that adds a beautiful flavour to almost any dish. Try sprinkling some za'atar on your favourite dishes, from meats to vegetables and even flatbread, to spice up some flavours whenever you get a craving for savouries.


Saffron - The world's most expensive spice

Saffron, which is widely known as the world's most expensive spice, is also a huge part of the local cuisine of the Middle East. You can easily recognize when you are served with a dish that contains saffron, as the spice gives a vivid golden hue and rich floral scent. Some of the best Middle Eastern foods that go best with saffron are Persian tahdig (a crispy rice dish), jewelled saffron rice, and saffron bulgur pilaf.


Sumac - The spice rich in both colour and taste

Anyone familiar with Middle Eastern cuisine will say that sumac is undoubtedly the most visually striking and unique of all spices available throughout the region. Made from the berries of the Rhus shrubs, the dark brick red colour of sumac will never fail to grab your eye. When it comes to treating your taste buds, sumac goes very closely with lemon but is slightly less tart. Sumac is a key ingredient used when making several other Middle Eastern ingredients, such as the previously mentioned za'atar, but it can also be used on its own.


Baharat - Spices in Arabic

Baharat is so popular in the Middle East that it literally means spices in Arabic. The composition of ingredients that make up this all-purpose spice blend varies from one region to another, but it typically contains allspice berries, ginger, cinnamon, rosebuds, black peppercorns, cardamom, and nutmeg.

If you happen to visit any country in the Middle East, you will find that people enjoy Baharat with all sorts of dishes. For instance, if you find yourself dining in Sir Bani Yas Island, there are many hotels and restaurants, including the likes of Desert Islands Resort & Spa by Anantara, where you can try Baharat with any dish of your liking.


Pomegranate molasses - A sweet-sour syrup

Made from pomegranate, a widely cultivated fruit in Iran and across the Middle East, pomegranate molasses or pomegranate syrup adds sweetness and acidity to some of Arabs' favourite foods. Some of the best dishes that go best with pomegranate molasses are fattoush salad, lamb kebabs, and baba ghanoush.