I landed in Paris at 2pm. My friend came to pick me up from the airport. He had a plan. He said he was not taking me home just yet... As we drove out of the airport to an unknown destination, he looked at me and asked: "Would you like to try the tastiest mankoushe in Paris?" A Mankoushe? In Paris? The Tastiest? I didn't even believe that it ever existed. I was intrigued...
We reached the 15th district in the heart of the capital where a famous Lebanese address has been known for many years: "Les Délices D'Orient". Les Délices d'Orient provides Middle Eastern food lovers with all the essential ingredients and ready to eat food available in our country. Two distinct shops -a supermarket and a snack- offer a wide selection of fresh goods mainly imported from the land of the cedars. Baklava, sweets, black olives, nuts, bakery goods, dairy products, kafta, spices, foul, vegetables, pickles, hummus, kaak, jam and much more. My interest today is the manakish. We asked el m3alem Joseph to prepare one Zaatar Mankoushe and another cheese for us.
Manakish, also manaqish, manaeesh or manakeesh or in singular form man'ousheh is a Lebanese food consisting of dough topped with thyme, cheese, or ground meat. Similar to a pizza, it can be sliced or folded, and it can either be served for breakfast or lunch. The word manaqish is the plural of the Arabic word manq?shah, meaning that after the dough has been rolled flat, it is pressed by the fingertips to create little dips for the topping to lie in. Traditionally, Levantine women would bake dough in a communal oven in the morning, to provide their family with their daily bread needs, and would prepare smaller portions of dough with different toppings for breakfast at this time. Manakish is popular in most Levantine countries as well as Australia, especially in the major urban centers of Melbourne and Sydney where many Lebanese have settled. In these cities, bakeries selling Manakish are common in predominantly Lebanese areas, often called "Lebanese Pizzas". Zaatar: The most popular form of manakish uses zaatar as a topping. The zaatar is mixed with olive oil and spread onto the bread before baking it in the oven. It is a favorite breakfast preparation in Levantine cuisine. It is also served by Lebanese cooks as part of a mezze, or as a snack with a glass of mint tea and feta cheese on the side.
In his oven, he laid down the two round pieces of dough and waited for them to be baked.
Les Délices d'Orient Mankoushe:
- A round 30 cm thin dough topped generously with Zaatar
- It costs 3Euros: Not cheap compared to Lebanon where its sold on an average at 1.3Euros
- Light black zaatar that's easily swallowed, slightly sour and most importantly doesn't ignite acid burns
- The dough: The secret of its success is thin, crunchy without breaking with a slightly sweet aftertaste
- A dough that has a certain finesse few know how to create in Lebanon itself
- On its external borders a thin envelop of flour adds to it a European touch
- Pain au lait, Pâte sablée, French baguette or Lebanese bread, the dough is a mix of all combined, making it unique of its kind on all levels
As for the cheese Mankoushe, it was watery, undercooked, the dough tasted different and the cheese was dull in taste: Not my favorite for sure.
I've been to dozens of Lebanese restaurants abroad and tasted hundreds of Lebanese products around the world without ever feeling the fine flavors we master in our own country. But, today, believe me, I've tasted something magical. If you already tried it or happen to be passing around the area, I would love to hear your opinion about it.