Tripoli is famous for its dazzling seaport, towering Crusader castle and bustling souks, but it’s the food that gets me really revved up. There is a wealth of sensational street food, many excellent restaurants and an abundance of fantastic fresh produce in the medina. Here are five of my favourite things to tuck into when I’m in Tripoli.
Moghrabieh – meaning from the Maghreb, moghrabieh are little semolina pearls, a bit like tiny balls of pasta. They are used to make a dish that is also called moghrabieh, where the butter-drenched pasta is served with a rich chicken broth. This is the home cooked version and I love it. However, on the streets of Tripoli things are done differently. Muhammad Abubsa (his stall is right in the centre of the souk near to the vegetable market. Ask anyone and they will know him.) has been making his moghrabieh street-food style, pan-fried with chickpeas, caraway and cumin. He serves it stuffed into a pillowy soft roll. It’s carb-tastic in all the right ways.
Ashta Ice cream @ Al Balha Glace – Drum roll please. I present you with clotted cream ice cream. This is about as indulgent as you can get. The ice cream has a slightly stretchy texture and a really intense creamy flavour. The guys in this rather retro ice cream parlour generously scoop the ashta ice cream into a crunchy cone and then lavishly roll it in smashed pistachio nuts. The gravelly green coating provides the perfect crunch to the lusciously soft ice cream.
Hummus @ Akra – set in an opulent old Ottoman building, this heavenly house of hummus dishes up several varieties for hungry diners. Here in Tripoli it’s a breakfast or lunch dish, so it’s totally socially acceptable to ditch the cornflakes and plough into a bowl of hummus instead. The meat hummus at Akra is rocking; beautifully textured, just on the course side of smooth really, with a wonderfully rich flavour from the local tahini. It’s served with loads of fried lamb and a side of tomatoes, nuclear pink pickled turnips and cornichons.
Laham Bajine – translated as meat bread, laham bajine covers loads of different snacks made of, well you guessed it (I hope), meat and bread. Head to the butcher in El Mina where they take the best pittas, which are made to order from the Bacha Bakery over the road, and stuff them with well seasoned, ground lamb. The pittas are then baked until crisp and served with wedges of lemon to freshen everything up.
Knafeh @ Hallab – take a seat in this swanky dessert parlour and enjoy great slabs of knafeh – a crunchy Arabic dessert with an oozy cheese filling that’s doused in wickedly sweet sugar syrup. The lively little terrace is a sensational spot in the late afternoons when the fierce heat of the sun has subsided.
To help you navigate your way around the city why not try a walking tour with Taste Lebanon – tour start from $125 per person.