Time has gone so fast since we first launched Lebanon's biggest street food market ‘Souk el Akel’ on the streets of Downtown Beirut two years ago. This one of a kind event has come a long way since it first started. Over fifty Souk el Akel events have taken place around Lebanon; some of which were scaled down pop-up versions in various towns and villages around the country.
Here I would like to highlight some - all of which I truly enjoy - of my favorite creations. Time after time these are the bites I salivate over at Souk el Akel.
Crepe with Dark Chocolate, Banana, Nuts and Strawberries
Light and thin, crispy and fresh, this crepe is not chewy like many others I've had around town, but offers a balance of different textures within. Heated gently, turning to a red-gold hue, the crepe has a fresh scent and doesn’t have an overbearing hit of sugar or vanilla. In one bite warm and soft bananas caress your palate, dark chocolate punches your taste buds, strawberry refreshes your brain and nuts give a crunch: which I love! One of my favorite crepes in town, I'm proud it can be found at Souk el Akel.
Popcicles... All of Them!
Popcity, or the Souk's cold treat as many call it. It's not ice cream, it's not gelato, it's Popcity! Popcity is a colorful, icy stick made from the freshest of fruits. Ali Chokor is the man responsible. A passionate man who left his old life behind to entirely devote himself to developing his handmade and homemade business. He picks the fruits himself and invests time and love into every stick to make it look great and taste even better. Close your eyes and let your taste buds take you places... enjoy the taste of real fruit as vibrant as if they were picked just minutes earlier. Many like the chocolate ice cream, the lychee is the most popular, the cheesecake and berries is a killer, the Nutella is like a dream come true... but my personal favorite would be lemon, simply lemon! It's so good... surely Lebanon's best sorbet served on a stick. A light crunch, fresh lemon, no artificial coloring, zesty and acidic, a certain freshness that makes you say, "Ahh!"... It transports you somewhere, it makes you happy.
The Special Lebanese Submarine
Tender and soft, covered with sesame and loaded with unique ingredients prepared by Mido's. Souk el Akel's friend Mouhammad is loved by all, attending with his family on a weekly basis all the way from Saida. Alongside the delicious roast beef sandwich and juicy turkey and cheese, Mido's has introduced a new item, a Lebanese submarine sandwich with cheese, ham, roast beef, vegetables and mustard! I love how tender it is on the inside, while toasted on the outside and with a touch of mustard that makes all the difference. It's so fresh, such good quality and feels home-grown.
A Superb Sushi Burrito
Our Sushi Burrito is Lebanon's, the Middle East’s and probably the worlds’ best. I've had many in my time; I’ve traveled to New York to taste what they offer, and I've come back to Lebanon proud of what we can create. It’s a thick and loaded Sushi Burrito, soft - but not chewy - rice, premium quality fish, fresh vegetables, crunchy crisps, mayo and a hint of spiciness. It's your ticket to Japan and back, and it's American knowhow and Lebanese passion in every bite. Souk el Akel's Sushi Burrito is one of the kings, a must try it would be a travesty not to have at least once in your lifetime. Who wants to use chopsticks on the street when you can get the same feeling in a sandwich? Four times the size of a maki, filled to bursting: Souk el Akel’s Sushi Burrito. Rice, salmon, crisps, avocado, mayo and much more wrapped in a nori leaf to go. It was, and still is, the country’s food revolution, the talk of the town.
The Raclette Cheese Loaded Sandwich
When you think of raclette cheese you think of Souk el Akel... but it's much more than cheese, it's the finest of ingredients: a fresh baguette from Paul at the Souk; a generous load of melted cheese served hot; baked potatoes that melt on your tongue like butter, some arugula for color and a sauce of mushroom and crème fraîche. "La Raclette Sandwicherie" celebrates one special sandwich - an ode to cheese – and a load of it, plus your choice of cold cuts. I can't go to a Souk without having one of their sandwiches; it's gourmet food brought down to street level, the finest of cheeses, the finest bread, the best quality cold cuts and all for only LBP10,000.
Three Bites: Mini Burgers
Miniature, three bites only, juicy and rich, fresh and spicy, the Souk has a new burger and it's called the Mini. Grab it with one hand and indulge in a superb combination of flavors. Expect the unexpected, it’s small but mighty; not dry, not chewy, but balanced and well done. The Doctor has opened a burger stand offering unique treats at the Souk and this sandwich is a must try! Ask for two or even three, each one is a different experience. The sauce, the bun, the patty! Yummy!
Chicago Deep Dish Pizza
I was first introduced to Deep Dish Pizza in Dubai four years ago, and then I visited the Chicago establishment last summer. The real Chicago Deep Dish has made it to Lebanon thanks to Souk el Akel. A high thin crust, two layers of cheese, two layers of sauce and toppings of your choice. I love the taste, the sauce and the crunchiness of the crust before finally reaching the cheese... melting cheese that can only impress! A blend of two cheeses mixed together to melt like you've never seen on a pizza. Two thick centimeters of ingredients sit on top - not your average millimeter’s worth of toppings.
Mme. Wafika's Home Made Specialities
I remember food, back when I was young, when it had substance: the awesome preparations of my Grandma... I can't forget those unique flavors, the richness, the knowhow, the ingredients that sang out clearly in every bite. My grandma was a queen, a queen of Lebanese specialities and I miss her meals. Today, I have the chance to remember her while biting into a "Kebbeh Arnabiyyeh" or a "Lasagna" from the hands of Mme. Wafika, who smiles at every passing customer. The stand is Akel Betm where comfort food is prepared with love, straight from the hands of a hard working and passionate woman.
The Princess of Pancakes
Stacks! Yes, real pancakes, three of them, a stack covered with one of Sara's unique sauces. I love the double chocolate pancake with its chocolate dough and chocolate sauce. Stacks offers up some of the country's best pancakes, you have to try them. Soft and moist, airy and not chewy, chocolate flavored with a chocolate sauce that smothers them. A smile on her face, Sara brings in her customers with charm... she's not just the princess, but the queen of pancakes!
The Burger Bros' Cheddar Cheese orgasm!
OMG, this is awesome! From Jbeil to Souk el Akel, the brothers are rocking the Souk! A gourmet burger served at street level and created to make you scream with pleasure. A superb patty, so, so juicy, a superb bun, fresh tomatoes and a slice of battered fried cheese with chips. I have rarely come across something as good as this. The ingredients alone are exceptional: divine meat; moreish fried cheddar cheese and a delightful bun. Look at this melted cheddar patty with its light crispy envelope and molten heart...needless to say, I'm a fan!
The Sausage from Poland
If you think you've had good sausages in Lebanon before "The Sausage House" existed, think again. Imported for your ultimate pleasure, these sausages are the finest quality and are really, really good. One beef sausage - which is not my favorite however - and six pork sausages, each offering a different experience. Do you fancy one filled with melted cheese, loaded or wrapped with bacon? True examples of what sausages should be, even better than the ones you can enjoy in street food markets around Eastern Europe. Imported from Germany, the United Kingdom, Austria and Poland, you'll have something new to try every time you visit Souk el Akel. The one wrapped with bacon is my absolute favorite.
Multi-Grain Mankouchet Saj
I hear you say - "How can a "Mankouchet Saj" make it to a Best of the Best?", yes, but this one is different. Made of multi-grain dough, the saj is so thin and so good! A little chewy, firm and not crunchy, the grains are felt in pleasant contrast to a certain smoothness. Inside, ask for a Mankoushe Zaatar, spread it with Labneh, stuff it with fresh vegetables and enjoy. I've been ordering it every Souk el Akel at least once a day. I love how fresh it is, how crunchy the vegetables are and how authentic it feels. If I could, I'd have this for breakfast every day.
Suzanne: Queen of Kebbeh
Suzanne, the lady Suzanne, my second mom, a person I admire and love from the bottom of my heart. Suzanne is the Kebbeh Queen, the Moghrabieh Goddess, the Duchess of Stuffed Grapevine Leaves … She prepares homey food like no one else, putting in all the love, dedication and respect she can give while staying true to culinary tradition. Suzanne comes from Zgharta, the village of Kebbeh. Let’s be clear about this, no one does Kebbeh like the women of Zgharta and Suzanne is their queen. Try the Kebbeh with tabbouleh or the goat laban cup with cucumbers and kebbeh. I’m a dedicated fan: I love what Suzanne cooks.
One-of-a-kind Smoked Salmon
Chance to try a one-of-a-kind smoked salmon at Souk el Akel. Here world famous Scottish salmon has been taken to another level. Marinated and salted, Emile gets his salmon from the finest sources, drying it and smoking it vertically over the soft flames of oak. See it turn into an orange color, smell it and prepare to be amazed. Each portion consists of salmon with sour cream on the side and some boiled potato. Lay it on your tongue and enjoy while it melts like butter caressing every palatal bud. You can feel the love poured into this salmon: as I always say, it's one of the country's best.
Red Velvet Waffle
Thick and contained within a crunchy envelope, the souk's red velvet waffle is to die for! It explodes with flavors, it takes you on a journey, and it makes you smile. It's more than food; it's fun on a plate. Eat it as is or ask Randa - the Mama - to serve it with her homemade kashta. A drizzle of honey and let your emotions lead on. I've had waffles all over the world and believe me, this one is surely one of the best. I can't help but have at least one waffle every time there's a Souk el Akel.
Burger Bar’s "Anthony’s" Double/Double Burger
It's a simple but tasty, enjoyable burger. I love Burger Bar's burger, let's say it's the Anthony's way. Ask for a double patty, double cheese with a bit of caramelized onion to give it the sweet kick it needs as well as some pickles to boost its acidity and add some crunch. I rarely finish a meal, but I can't not savor every bite of this burger. A juicy patty, two of them sticking to each other with cheddar cheese as the onions simply add sweetness. The bread is tender and soft, caressing your palate like a sponge on wet marble. It's simple and tasty; this is a burger I enjoy.
Baker Street’s Pork Ribs
New and trendy, Baker Street has introduced pork ribs to Souk el Akel. After marinating the pork ribs for long hours they bring out a stack of tender ribs infused inside and out with barbecue sauce and ready to fall off the bone. Tender and juicy, this pork is just finger licking good. Wear a glove, grab a plate and walk the Souk while licking the last drops of sauce off this incredible rib. Feeling like pushing the boundaries a bit more, why not try the pulled pork sandwich that will tickle your teeth and make you crazy for more?
The explosive Potato Spring!
This is exactly when a photo says a thousand words... Cooked with butter, crispy on the outside and richly buttery on the inside, this potato "ressort" is baked to perfection and waiting to be covered with melted cheese and bacon cubes... It's awesome!!!! I'm in love with it, it's a must try for sure.
Great food, amazing vibes, Souk el Akel is where people unite to eat and enjoy the real Lebanon. Souk el Akel's commitment is to spread happiness while taking food to another level, importing new trends and developing local talent and creations. See you at Souk el Akel this summer.