I think it’s now time to shed some light on the latest food trend in town: Bagels. Yes, bagels seem to be finding their way into most of Lebanon's trendiest restaurants. But of course, the concept is not new in town. Lebanon’s story with bagels started a long time ago when Tribeca on Monot street was around. After it’s closing, the trend disappeared for a while - up until late 2013.
Last year, a bagel shop opened its doors at City Mall Dora. Bunz managed to closely reproduce a Bagel… until it’s closing a few months afterwards. Bunz, used to serve freshly baked buns, a crunchy coffee crust on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside with a buttery taste, literally melting in your mouth. The sweet smell of the New York style bagels, toasty and soft with all sorts of varieties, a perfect bite for anytime of the day.
Afterwards, Crepaway introduced the Bagel burger, which is more of a burger bun with a whole in the middle. Gordon’s Cafe in Downtown Beirut did the same and it seems that people are accepting them as they are...
What is a bagel?
A bagel is a bread product, traditionally shaped by hand into the form of a ring from yeasted wheat dough, roughly hand-sized, which is first boiled for a short time in water and then baked. The result is a dense, chewy, doughy interior with a browned and sometimes crisp exterior. Bagels are often topped with seeds baked on the outer crust, with the traditional ones being poppy or sesame seeds. Some also may have salt sprinkled on their surface, and there are also a number of different dough types such as whole-grain or rye. The basic roll-with-a-hole design is hundreds of years old and has other practical advantages besides providing for a more even cooking and baking of the dough: the hole could be used to thread string or dowels through groups of bagels, allowing for easier handling and transportation and more appealing displays.
Yes, a bagel is boiled, a bagel is shaped by hand, baked and the dough is not just any dough, but is a special mix for bagels and bagels only.
Walking along the isles of Horeca 2014 a small stand caught my attention. A stand selling bagels, imported bagels from the States, filled by half dozens in nylon bags and ready to be enjoyed. I remembered bagels we used to buy at supermarkets when we were kids, from a brand which was discontinued a long time ago. A bite and here it was, simple love at first bite, the real texture and flavor of a bagel.
The only place that has succeeded in offering a decent and tasty bagel lately is Bagel Plus. I loved Bagel Plus’ bites so much that I went searching for the provider and finally found it.
More was yet to come… Visiting Crepaway again, bagels became even worse and to top the list, Dunkin’ Donuts offered something that wasn’t close to anything called a bagel.
Today, grabbing a large selection of bagels directly imported from the States, I made it a point to taste them all and let you know what a real bagel is.
The bagel should have a nice feel, a pronounced aromatic freshness, a moist touch, an envelope that isn’t hard and chewy, a homogeneous heart that’s chewy without being sticky. It should simply be toasted to avoid making it chewy.
Western Bagel Lebanon is a newly launched company, the one I found at Horeca, the one I enjoyed at Bagel Plus, importing real bagels from the States in packs of six.
Now for the tasting:
- Plain Bagel:The simplest of all is very tasty. I tried them as is, no filling, no toasting, no heating, nothing that could alter the original flavor. The bagels come cut down the middle and ready to be spread. Aromatic, the journey starts before you’ve even bitten into it. Enjoyably chewy, moist and feeling like a “Kaak bi 7alib” from Zahle. This is what a real bagel is.
- The Cinnamon Raison: Wow! My favorite. Just imagine the same chewiness, the same feel, the same richness and full-bodied roll with a cinnamon taste with some melting raisins within. This is a must try for sure.
- The whole wheat:As good as its cousin, it feels light with all the flavors within. Just imagine it with a spread of labneh and some tomatoes. I’m so excited to go back home and try them with something inside.
Good to know:
- Each bagel is an average of LBP1,000
- They are cholesterol free
- They last in the fridge after opening the bag for more than a month
- They are perfect with savory and sweet fillings
Please try them to understand that a real bagel... it's not a French baguette or a burger with a hole in the middle. A bagel is a creation that needs work and lots of knowhow. So how about we keep on importing them and stop creating copies that don’t even taste like actual bagels?
At least until someone perfects them here...