“Return to Al-Namliah” is a program that reveals the treasures of Lebanese cuisine

In the past, the people of villages in Lebanon and some residents of the capital used to allocate a space in their kitchens for a cabinet in which cold food was kept, known as “the antler.” The door of this cabinet is designed so that air enters through a stylized iron grille with openings. Dishes at this location can therefore remain edible for as long as possible.

The “Namelia” used to have small plates daily on the Lebanese table. Just like olives and thyme and the kiosk with oil, jam or sweets prepared by the housewife, such as “soefs” and “namoura” were preserved in it.

But with the spread of refrigerators and their presence in most homes, the phenomenon of ants disappeared and was confined to the kitchens of some villagers. They still cling to it, especially because the cold weather in the mountains adds to the longevity of the food in it.

– “Return to al-Namliah” revives an old tradition

The journalist, Omar Khaddaj, decided to present a television program inspired by this corner of the kitchen. Under the title “Return to Al-Namliah”, Khaddaj undertakes trips to various Lebanese regions to see the oldest dishes prepared there. On the other hand, Khaddaj emphasizes the extent of the development of agriculture and industry related to food ingredients. Since the worsening of the economic crisis in Lebanon and the recent deterioration of the standard of living, it has seen popularity among many.

– Khaddaj’s story with “Return to Al-Namliah”

Omar Khaddaj tells his story with his show, because it goes back to his passion for Lebanese cuisine in general and his love for food in particular. “I am from the city of Aley, and I will never miss an opportunity to taste any new or old dish prepared at home. When I entered the field of media, I had the idea to host a program about Lebanese food. But I moved to the presentation of the technical paragraph in the news bulletin of the Al-Jadeed channel.

Khaddaj continues his story with his new program, which the said channel started showing about six months ago: “When the economic crisis in the country intensified and had a great negative impact on people, the people in charge of the station where i work decided to present a television show that sheds light on how the Lebanese are dealing with this ordeal. Their diet changed completely with the power outages, the decrease in purchase value and the deterioration of the Lebanese currency. From this point of view, we developed the idea of ​​the ancient Lebanese cuisine, which was in my mind. We decided to shine a light on Lebanese who have turned into local farmers and producers. With their individual effort, they could dispense with the importation of many types of food ingredients. It was necessary to encourage them and tighten their hands through this program. The administration wanted the program to be called “Back to Al-Namliah”.

The authentic Lebanese table is attended in “Return to Al-Namliah”

– Lebanese cuisine varies according to its regions

The Lebanese are generally interested in Mouneh, so they do not hesitate to travel long distances to get the best of them. Just like cereals, spices, juices and jams, they are also interested in the ingredients for delicious dishes that they buy in summer and use in winter. There is the municipal kiosk (consisting of yogurt and bulgur), rose water, rosemary, pomegranate molasses, salmon onions, coarse and fine bulgur, and others. To save time for the Lebanese, Khaddaj made these trips for him between the regions, thus providing him with a road map he could follow to buy the supplies he needed from the place he wanted. Khaddaj says: “The ingredients of food in Lebanon, and especially the Lebanese mouna, differ in the way it is prepared from one region to another. The taste of the Bekaa kiosk is not like those made in other towns. This difference is due to the quality of the livestock from which the milk is obtained. It is the main ingredient in this industry after being made into yogurt. The product changes its taste depending on the type of grass it eats. The same applies to other ingredients such as pomegranate molasses and rose water, because each has its own method of preparing and fermenting it.”

Discoveries and information we don’t know about our cuisine

Omar Khaddaj tells you about the discoveries he made on his travels between Tyre, Barouk, Ehden, Al-Adawsiyah (South Lebanon) and other Lebanese towns. He was fascinated by types of food of which he was ignorant, as well as by modern crops and fish species that had recently entered our seas.

He explains: «In the Baroque, for example, I discovered the production of apple molasses, which is prepared from the juice of apples collected with a specific quality of soil to absorb the acid from it. Then it is filtered and placed in special jars for use in cooking. It tastes delicious and is suitable for diabetics because it is completely sugar-free. Similarly, I was attracted to the mountain herb Akub. This plant is only found in the high mountains of Lebanon, specifically in the Chouf. It is a prickly plant that the villagers sing to cook with the Harissa dish (chopped wheat with lamb). Perhaps few Lebanese know that wild asparagus grows in our country, and it is tastier than what we buy at stores. It is prepared only with local eggs fried in olive oil, or it is boiled and flavored with lemon and garlic.”

The enthusiasm that impresses the news of Omar Khaddaj as he tells you about his discoveries in the Lebanese cuisine, whets the appetite for the listeners. He is passionate about Lebanese cuisine and even wants Lebanon to be represented by Morocco. “There they decided to introduce Moroccan cuisine into their school curriculum. It’s a wonderful thing, and I think we should follow it in our schools, because the culture of Lebanese cuisine deserves our attention.”

The economic crisis boosted the cheese industry

One of the things that drew Omar Khaddaj on his travels was that he met Lebanese who left their university degrees and specializations to make themselves cheese or plant different trees and plants.

Among them is a woman and her husband who, like other Lebanese, lost all their savings due to the recently adopted banking policies. So they decided to buy cattle and set up a farm to extract milk. They entered the white cheese industry of all kinds, through its wide door.

Akkawi, Baladiyeh and others, in addition to the Majdoula cheese, where Khaddaj stops: “It is one of the tastiest and most famous cheeses in the Mediterranean region. It is worth mentioning that the couple prepares it with fresh ingredients and mixes it with bulgur. Why bulgur? Because it absorbs the oxygen normally found in cheese and extends the life of the product. I tasted it together with the famous Tripolitan cake, and it tasted amazing.”

– Have you ever tasted tomato tabbouleh?

There is a remarkable diversity in Lebanese cuisine, so that you cannot count the dishes it contains due to the innovations of the people of each region. This difference in ingredients or in the method of preparation includes famous Lebanese foods. In the context of his speech, Omar Khaddaj says: “For example, have you tasted “tomato tabbouleh”? This dish, which is prepared in the way of the people of the southern town of Nabatiyeh, consists of tomatoes and bulgur with a sprinkling of spices, and it tastes very good.”

Like tabbouleh, so is the kibbeh dish, which has its masters in northern Lebanon, especially in the town of Zgharta, whose women are known for making it the old village way.

“We notice the difference in the kibbeh dish between North Lebanon and South Lebanon. This difference lies between the southern flavor of oregano and the northern flavor based on rendered fat. The first is called “Tahweesh Al-Kubba” and is served raw and flavorful with some fine bulgur. In North Ehden, they prepare large balls filled with melted meat fat, and they are known as “Zghartaweya Kibbeh”.

In the southern town of Al-Adawsiya, Khaddaj met Nabil and Danny Khoury, who are developing agriculture in Lebanon through trees and plants we have not seen before. “In their agricultural tents there are Chinese, American, African and other types of herbs. The two men came up with the idea of ​​growing the “wasabi” plant, which is served with sushi dishes. And they have a kind of American pepper known as “Carolina Reaper”, and the percentage of heat in it is higher than others. In Al-Adawsiyah we also find all kinds of parsley, and the radish plant, which weighs about 7 kilograms, is present there. Khaddaj says: “These are plants that Lebanon imported in the recent past, but today, thanks to people like Nabil and Danny Khoury, their cultivation has become local and prosperous at the same time.”

The journey with “Return to Al-Namliah” is long and the 22 episodes he has presented so far cannot be shortened in a few lines. But the most important thing is to highlight Lebanon’s wealth, marine, agriculture and industry, to realize that the Lebanese today are more inclined towards agriculture and industry. They have found in their broad horizons that for them represent a better tomorrow that they hope for.

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