Lebanese food in Mexico
Mexico’s gastronomy is known for its tortillas, tacos, tequila, salsas and many other classics. Our food, language, and culture are a mix of mainly Spanish and indigenous origins, however, there are many other influences that have become part of our culture too. There is an important Arabic influence in our culture that came to us first via the Spanish and then via immigration, particularly, Lebanese migration to Mexico.
Our language is rich with many words of Arabic origins, our architecture also reflects this in the form of tiles, arches and courtyards. Food is of course, not the exception. Our famous tacos al pastor are directly related to that influence as is the mazapan that reminds us of the beautiful halvas. Spices and ingredients that are now an essential part of our gastronomy such as cilantro, cloves, cumin and cinnamon to name just a few are also part of this rich influence.
By the end of the 19th century, an important number of immigrants from Lebanon made Mexico their new home and while finding common ground, they became part of our culture. Gastronomically speaking, this created a beautiful fusion between two cuisines. When ingredients were not available, then recipes were modified and adapted producing unique dishes with amazing new flavours. Some examples of this rich fusion are:
- Tacos al pastor and shawarma.
- Tacos Arabes where in Puebla, are served not with tortillas but with pita bread.
- Mazapan is made with peanuts in Mexico while halva is made with almonds or pistachios.
- Kibbeh or kibis in Mexico.
- Stuffed grape leaves, also named tacos de parra (grape leaf tacos).
- Jocoque came to be as a substitute for strained yoghurt.
- Zatar is made with ground hibiscus flowers instead of sumac!
Kibi, the Mexican kibbeh
Kibbeh is one of those dishes that the Lebanese community adapted to the available ingredients in Mexico. Popular particularly in the Yucatan Peninsula, it uses a mix of wheat, beef and mint and is served with pickled onions and habanero pepper. Today, we focus on this dish that showcases the blend of two cultures in a delicious way. At the end of the day, there’s no better way to understand a culture than through its food and this one is fantastic.
-250g ground beef
-½ white onion, finely diced
-a handful of mint leaves, finely chopped
-1 garlic clove, crushed
-1 tbsp Fajita Seasoning (it contains annatto seeds, perfect for this dish)
-1 tsp Habanero Salsa (this is optional but it adds a fantastic tangy twist and a bit of heat)
-1 tsp salt
-1 tsp black pepper
-Vegetable oil, enough to fry the kibis
1 Rinse and soak the bulgur for at least two hours. Drain very before the next step.
2 Mix all the ingredients in a bowl until everything is well distributed. Make medium size balls with the mixture and gently form an elongated ball such as an American football.
3 Add oil to a frying pan, just enough to cover the bottom of it. Once the oil is hot, add a few kibis at a time and make sure to turn them every so often. The kibis are ready when they are perfectly golden brown on all sides. Remove from the oil and place them on a wire rack or over paper towels to drain any excess oil.
-1 small red onion, finely diced
-1 habanero pepper, sliced or finely diced
-¼ cup lemon juice
-¼ cup orange juice
-salt to taste
1 Mix the lemon juice with the orange juice and salt. Add the diced onion and habanero and leave to marinate while the kibis are ready.
We love to serve our Kibis with a side of black beans with jocoque (ricotta cheese or Greek yoghurt are a great substitute), a simple salad and pickled onions with habanero.
- You can find how to make your own black beans here.
- Jocoque is a common homemade Mexican cheese. It is very light and tasty. The great substitute for jocoque is ricotta cheese or Greek yoghurt for this dish.
- You can make your kibis in an air fryer! We recommend using the same settings to make meatballs. Just lightly brush the kibis with oil before placing them in the air fryer.
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