Palestinian cuisine is a diffusion of the cultures of civilizations that settled in the geographical region of Palestine, particularly during and after the Islamic era beginning with the Arab Ummayad conquest, then the eventual Persian-influenced Abbasids and ending with the strong influences of Turkish cuisine, resulting from the coming of the Ottoman Turks.
Cooking styles vary by region and each type of cooking style and the ingredients used are generally based on the climate and location of the particular region and on traditions.
The West Bank engages primarily in heavier meals involving the use of taboon bread, rice and meat and coastal plain inhabitants frequent fish, other seafood, and lentils.
Musakhan is a common main dish that originated in the Jenin and Tulkarm area in the northern West Bank. It consists of a roasted chicken over a taboon bread that has been topped with pieces of fried sweet onions, sumac, allspice and pine nuts.
Maqluba is an upside-down rice and baked eggplant casserole mixed with cooked cauliflowers, or eggplants, some people use carrots and chicken or lamb. The meal is known throughout the Levant but among Palestinians especially. It dates back to the 13th century.
Mansaf is a traditional meal in the central West Bank and Naqab region in the southern West Bank, having its roots from the Bedouin population of ancient Arabia. It is mostly cooked on occasions such as, during holidays, weddings or a large gathering. Mansaf is cooked as a lamb leg or large pieces of lamb on top of a taboon bread that has usually been smothered with yellow rice. A type of thick and dried cheesecloth yogurt from goat’s milk, called jameed, is poured on top of the lamb and rice to give it its distinct flavor and taste. The dish is also garnished with cooked pine nuts and almonds. The classic form of eating mansaf is using the right hand as a utensil. For politeness, participants in the feast tear pieces of meat to hand to the person next to them.
The Gaza cuisine is a variation of the Levant cuisine, but is more diverse in seafood and spices. Gaza’s inhabitants heavily consume chili peppers too. Meals are usually eaten in the household but dining out has become prominent particularly during parties where light meals like salads, bread dips and skewered meats are served.
Besides fish, as well as other types of seafood, Zibdieh, is a clay pot dish that consists of , hot peppers, and peeled tomatoes. Crabs are cooked and then stuffed with a red hot pepper paste called shatta.
A dish native to the Gaza area is Sumaghiyyeh, consisting of water-soaked ground sumac mixed with tahina. The mixture is added to sliced chard and pieces of stewed beef and garbanzo beans and additionally flavored with dill seeds, garlic and hot peppers. It is often eaten cool with khubz. Rummaniyya is prepared differently depending on the time of the year and is made up of unripened pomegranate seeds, eggplant, tahina, garlic, hot peppers and lentils. Fukharit adas is a slow-cooked lentil stew flavored with red pepper flakes, crushed dill seeds, garlic, and cumin; it is traditionally made during winter and early spring.
Qidra is a rice dish named after the clay vessel and oven it is baked in. Rice is cooked with pieces of meat inside of the vessel, often using lamb, whole garlic cloves, garbanzo beans, cardamom pods, and various other spices such as, turmeric, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and cumin. Plain rice cooked in meat or chicken broth and flavored with mild spices including cinnamon is known as fatteh ghazzawiyyeh. The rice is layered over a thin markook bread known as farasheeh, smothered in ghee and topped with stuffed chicken or lamb. The meal is eaten with green peppers and lemon sauce.
The cuisine of the Galilee is very similar to Lebanese cuisine, due to the extensive communication between the two regions before the establishment of Israel. The Galilee specializes in a number of meals based on the combination of bulgur, spices and meat, known as kubbi by Arabs. Kubbi bi-siniyee is a combination of minced lamb or beef mixed with pepper, allspice and other spices wrapped in a bulgur crust, then baked. Kubbi bi-siniyee could serve as the main dish during a Palestinian lunch. Kubbi neyee is a variation of kubbi, that is served as raw meat mixed with bulgur and a variety of spices. It is mostly eaten as a side dish and pita or markook bread is used for scooping the meat. Since the dish is raw, whatever is not eaten is cooked the next day in either the baked version or as fried kibbee balls.
A special occasion meal in the Galilee consists of Roasted Lamb or any other type of meat complemented by a mixture of rice with chopped lamb and flavored with an assortment of spices, usually garnished with chopped parsley and toasted nuts. shish kebab or lahme mashwi and shish taouk are grilled meats on skewers and are commonly eaten after an array of appetizers known as the maza.
The mezzeh consists of a wide variety of appetizers, usually including hummus (sometimes topped with meat), baba ghannouj, tabouli, lebeneh, olives and pickled vegetables. Ackawi cheese, a semi-hard cheese common throughout the Middle East and among the Arab diaspora, originated in the city of Acre along the Galilee’s coast. Acre is pronounced Akka, from which the cheese receives its name.
Most of our sweets are pastries filled with either sweetened cheeses, dates or various nuts such as almonds, walnuts or pistachios. Beverages could also depend on holidays such as during Ramadan, where carob, tamarind and apricot juices are consumed at sunset. Coffee is consumed throughout the day and liquor is not very prevalent amongst the population.