Dabbling with Middle Eastern Dips

Sonal Ved

When you think of the Middle East, sunshine, spices and safaris are quick to come to mind.

The Middle East is a haven for food lovers. Not only is every nook and cranny filled with delicious offerings, each of these delicacies is accompanied by a captivating history and depth of flavours. One of the many things that Middle Eastern chefs do like none other, are their dips.

Here is a low-down on some of the classics, as there’s nothing quite as handy as an array of Middle Eastern dips when hosting guests at your next soirée. 

Hummus
Hummus to the Middle East, is what chutney is to us; so no meal is complete without this mushy dip. Hummus is essentially a mixture of pureed chickpeas, olive oil and tahini which is nothing but white sesame paste. The dip is mainly eaten with bread, carrot and cucumber sticks and is widely used to stuff pita pockets while making falafel. Though authentic hummus has trails of garlic, these days the dip is flavoured with a host of other versatile ingredients such as sundried tomatoes, basil, caramelised onions, beetroot etc.

Baba Ganoush
If you love your baingan ka bharta, there is no reason why you wouldn’t like this dip. Roasted eggplant is squashed with generous helpings of olive oil and flavoured with garlic. The dip works best with Middle Eastern bread called manakeesh and can be eaten as a side dish or along with roasted meats. It has ample freshness pouring forth from the lemon juice and will work wonders on your healthy brunch or lunch table!

Labneh
Labneh is the heart of shawarma, a classic wrap from the desert region. It is made with Greek yoghurt (thicker that the usual), ample garlic cloves, some chives and other herbs tossed into it. At home, labneh should be served with chips and can be slathered on sandwiches, canapés and eaten with vegetable sticks as well. At Foodhall we have freshly made labneh flavoured with za’atar and sumac.

Muhammara
In Turkey, muhammara is referred to as acuka. The dip is made of chillies, walnut, bread crumbs and pomegranate syrup. The best part about muhammara is its colour, a beautiful red which works amazingly well to jazz up meat plates, kebab trays and dip platters. This dip has a potent spicy flavour and therefore needs simple accompaniments such as plain bread, fish, lamb meat, etc.

Moutabel
Moutabel is similar to baba ganoush, with the difference being that moutabel involves creamy yogurt poured on a mixture of roasted eggplant, tahini, garlic and olive oil. It also has generous helpings of fresh mint leaves which lends a fresh twist. A typical Middle Eastern platter is incomplete without this dip and it goes best when served with slightly warm pita bread.

Now that you’re familiar with the various dips that the Middle East has to offer here is a simple recipe that works like a charm at parties and should definitely be a part of your next soiree…