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About Middle Eastren Food

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Middle Eastern Cuisine

Middle Eastern cuisine or West Asian cuisine is the cuisine of the various countries and peoples of the Middle East (Western Asia). The cuisine of the region is diverse while having a degree of homogeneity. Some commonly used ingredients include olives and olive oil, pitas, honey, sesame seeds, sumac, chickpeas, mint and parsley. Some popular dishes include kibbeh and shawarma.

History and influences
The Middle East was where wheat was first cultivated, followed by barley, pistachios, figs, pomegranates, dates and other regional staples. Fermentation was also discovered here to leaven bread and make beer. As a crossroads between Europe, Asia and Africa, this area has long been a hub of food and recipe exchange. During the Persian Empire (ca. 550–330 BCE) the foundation was laid for Middle Eastern food when rice, poultry and fruits were incorporated into their diets. Figs, dates and nuts were brought by Arabian warriors to conquered lands.

These were only the first influences on the area. During Turkey's Ottoman Empire the sweet pastries of paper thin phyllo dough and the dense, sweet coffee was brought to the area; coffee is now consumed throughout the Middle East.

The area was also influenced by dumplings from Mongol invaders; turmeric, cumin, garlic and other spices from India; cloves, peppercorns and allspice from the Spice Islands[disambiguation needed]; okra from Africa; and tomatoes from the New World, via the Moors of Spain. Religion has also changed the cuisine as neither Jews nor Muslims eat pork, making lamb the primary meat. In addition, the Qur'an forbids alcohol, so consequently the region is not generally noted for its wines.


Elements
Many Middle Eastern dishes are made with a paste called tahini. Tahini is a sesame paste made with hulled seeds, unlike its Asian counterpart. It is used to make such popular meze, or appetizers, as baba ghanoush and hummus along with pungent dipping sauces served with falafel, keftes or kofta and vegetables. Hummus is made from chickpeas, which are staples of the diet. Middle Eastern cuisine is based on healthy foods like vegetables, fruits, fish, lean meat, beans and nuts. It is also known for it aromatic spices and subtle flavors. 

Beverages
Aside from the ever-popular Middle Eastern coffee, there is also an alcoholic drink called arak. Arak has a high alcohol content, so water and ice is almost always added, producing the drink nicknamed "the milk of lions".

Etiquette
In some areas in the Middle East, it is common for people to take their food from a common plate in the centre of the table. Rather than employing forks or spoons, people may scoop up hummus and other foodstuff with pita bread. Among Muslims in particular, the left hand is reserved for bodily hygiene and considered unclean. Thus, the right hand should be used for eating; shaking hands or handing over an item with one's left hand is an insult.