The freshness of its ingredients and simplicity of its preparations has made Lebanese one of the most demanded cuisines In India.
Over the years, thus, we have witnessed the growth of Lebanese chain restaurants in India. From a road side corner, to a QSR chain and a five-star hotel, the cuisine can be now found on everybody’s menu. And it doesn’t stop the growth here, as we have some amazing chains like Zizo and Shawarma Xpress spreading their wings in the Indian market.
Lebanese cuisine is much more than pita bread and a falafel roll; it is all about flavours topped with lots of fresh vegetables, cheese, meat and traditional drinks like sherbet, desserts like Baklawa and drinks like Qahwa which makes it different from all other cuisines.
History of the cuisine
The Lebanese cuisine is part of the Levantine cuisine, which includes the Egyptian cuisine, Palestinian cuisine, Syrian cuisine and the Arab cuisine in general.
Many dishes in the Lebanese cuisine can be traced back to thousands of years to Roman era, and even Phoenician times. For most of its past, Lebanon has been ruled by foreign powers that have influenced the types of food the Lebanese ate. From 1516 to 1918, the Ottoman Turks controlled Lebanon and introduced a variety of foods such as cooking with lamb that have become staple diets in Lebanese food. After the Ottomans were defeated in World War I (1914–1918), France took control of Lebanon until 1943, when the country achieved its independence. This time, the French introduced foods such as flan, a caramel custard dessert dating back to the 16th century, and buttery croissants.
Hitting the Indian palate
Though Indian food is similar to Lebanese food, Lebanese cuisine is not new to the Indian market. With Mughals ruling the country for years, India has witnessed similar taste though in different forms, Yakhni, Biryani, Haleem are some of the dishes already present in the market from ancient days. But as people are becoming more experimental, global brands are seeing Indian market as an opportunity wherein they can spread their business and Lebanese cuisine with an all-new get up is the way forward. Although healthy, authentic Lebanese food is still a challenge in Indian market on account of it being less spicy with lots of vegetables present in it.
“I never imagined, the whole world is going for healthy and organic food, but here, Indians want all unhealthy food. People complain that it is simply not fried, spicy etc,” shared Fouad Abdel Malak, CEO and Partner, ZIzo a Lebanese chain restaurant in CP, Delhi.
Marketed and promoted as Shawarma globally, people used to think that this is the only food that describes Lebanese food in terms of the menu it offers. But it doesn’t stop here. Indian market has seen lots of brands serving Shawarma including the typical Lebanese chain restaurants to local home grown Lebanese brands like Maroosh, which started with a single store in 2001 and today it stands at 21 stores in Mumbai and Pune.
“Lebanese is one such cuisine which has great potential in the market like India because of its healthiness and easy to grab nature,” shared Ketan Kadam, CEO, Impresa Hospitality which owns the Lebanese chain.
Adding his view on Lebanese cuisine in the Indian market, Andrew H McNair, Regional General Manager, Middle East, Shawarma Xpress said, “Everybody knows that Shawarma is an Arab product with a little difference. It is a ham product which one can eat in the restaurant as well as on the go. We are not a burger chain, not even a chicken chain, we are totally a different product and this makes the cuisine different.”
Hence, with local as well as global brands setting their outlets in the market, the country may see more health conscious people turning towards Lebanese and Arab cuisines.