10 top Middle Eastern foods:
The big daddy chickpea spread can be slathered on anything from a burger or baked potato to the traditional hot pita bread.
Veteran preference: more garlic, more better.
The pizza of the Arabic world, manakeesh is a round bread sprinkled with either cheese, ground meat or herbs (zaatar). It's ideal for breakfast or lunch. Varieties come from both fancy Levantine restaurants or street vendors.
3. Grilled halloumi
These mini-slabs of chewy goodness are made from goat and sheep milk. Unlike other cheeses, no acid or bacteria is used during processing.
4. Foul meddamas
Made of fava beans, olive oil, parsley, onion, garlic and lemon, this dish doesn't have the most appetizing of presentations -- blobby brown mush is about the best we can say of it. Taste and texture make up for it.
You may consider fried chickpeas with herbs as simply a great snack. Or tasty pita filler. For Middle Easterners, however, the origins of falafel are a matter of patriotic interest.
The 'New York TImes' has reported how the dish's provenance sparks fierce debates, but we're happy to sit on the sidelines and remain addicted to the taste.
You don't have to be a vegetarian to enjoy this magical combination of bulgur, parsley, mint, onion and tomatoes. But watch out, you just might be tempted to switch teams after a steady diet of this popular salad.
7. Moutabal/baba ghanoush
Just when you're ready to declare hummus the best dip on the planet, you find moutabal. Similar to baba ghanoush, the dip offers a similar consistency with an eggplant kick. Spiced up with chili, it delivers a zing.
This tangy salad is one of the Middle East's greatest contributions to world culture. Crispy lettuce, crunchy fried squares of pita, diced tomatoes, cucumbers and onion, garlic, lemon, olive oil and mint make for a refreshing addiction.
9. Umm ali
Egyptian bread pudding, or umm ali, is a hearty pastry cooked in milk and cream. Versions are made with croissant pieces, raisins, pistachios, vanilla and condensed milk.
This cow or sheep milk cheese is usually fashioned into golf ball-sized bites