June 14, 2014 Tripoli North Lebanon Lebanon Middle East

Dabboussy Moghrabieh Sandwiches: An Ancient Inspiration in Tripoli

My latest discovery is something unique to the city of Tripoli. We all know moghrabieh, but did you ever imagine it as a street food and not just any street food, but as a sandwich? Yes, in the heart of the old souks, built more than 900 years ago, is a small shop that has been producing this meat-free moghrabieh for the last two centuries or so. Al Dabboussi claims to be the inventor of the modern mograbieh, inspired by couscous, simplified and transformed to fit the Middle East.
Some info before we start:
  • Couscous is a traditional Berber dish of semolina (granules of durum wheat) which is cooked by steaming. It is traditionally served with a meat or vegetable stew spooned over it. Couscous is a staple food throughout the North African cuisines of Morocco, Algeria,Tunisia, Mauritania, Libya and the Western Sahara.
  • Moghrabieh, (meaning ” a dish from the Maghreb”) is a much-beloved traditional dish in Lebanon and is considered a feasting type of meal to which many relatives or friends are  invited. It used to be made with both lamb shanks and chicken but nowadays most people prefer a streamlined version with only one or the other. Moghrabieh refers to both the grains and the finished dish. This dish involves  two main  steps: The first is to cook the chicken (or meat) and the onions and obtain a good bouillon which will be used to cook the moghrabieh grains. The second is to cook the moghrabieh grains in the bouillon. 
Historically speaking, the souks were grouped by profession. Thus, one would find a market for jewelry, for shoes, for soap, for tailored clothing, spices, copper artifacts and so on. We went into those busy souks on an early Monday morning and started walking until I reached a restaurant. I'm not sure why, but I felt like stopping in front of this huge casserole grilling moghrabieh. I love moghrabieh and search for any opportunity to enjoy it. Hicham has written about it in detail and is proud of how his mother does it the old fashioned way.

So, now you know that the origins of moghrabieh are found in this small hidden spot in Tripoli's souk. Mr. Dabboussi welcomed me, the great grandson of a family of passionate cooks. They have developed a handmade recipe without meat which they fill in sandwiches with pickled cucumbers and beetroots.

The moghrabieh is simple, containing semolina, hummus and onions. A filling food for the poor, Mr. Dabboussi tells me. All it needs is to be grilled with margarine fat and rolled into a sandwich. Honestly, it's a tasty thing. The fat is absorbed by the tender bread, while the inner filling melts slowly. Perfectly cooked onions you rarely feel, well seasoned moghrabieh and crunchy vegetables transform a dish into a street food bite. All of this for only LBP2,000.

PS: You can buy Moghrabieh for take-away and home preparation for LBP1,000 a kilo

A very special discovery that reminded me of the "Guarantita", Algeria's most renowned street food which amazed me back than. Enjoy Tripoli in a special way and go try this moghrabieh sandwich. I'm sorry to say again that I can't recall a street name or an easy set of directions to show you the way, I hope someone can help me with that.
Categories: Street Food Sandwiches





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