Broad Differences between Turkish , Persian, Tunisian, Lebanese, Moroccan etc Cuisines?

I know this is a huge question, but i don't want to trouble you for a Masters' Thesis! I just find myself feeling a bit confused. I'm aware that there is an awful lot of cross-fertilization in that huge area, but I'd like to know what sets each cuisine apart (some are more spicy, some are not spicy much, some use particular ingredients or techniques more than others,and they usually have 'signature dishes.') Do you know a book or link that is an overview of these cuisines, to help me keep them more defined in my mind? I'm not wanting to be lazy; I'm perfectly willing to do the work.Thanks much for your time.

LeBec Fin


Maedl January 25, 2014
Oh, goodness, I misread your original question. I thought you were asking about bread and completely missed that you wanted a broad comparison. To the other books already recmmended, I would add Olive Trees and Honey by Gil Marks. He takes a cross cultural look at Jewish cuisine and a significant part of the book focuses on North Africa, the Middle East and the Silk Route. Another source might be Darra Goldstein, who used to be editor of Gastronomica. She wrote at least one book about the foods of Georgia, which is a center of botanical biodiversity and crossroads for many culinary influences.
healthierkitchen January 24, 2014
sorry - that's Louisa Shafia
healthierkitchen January 24, 2014
In addition to those mentioned, Najmieh Batmanglij has a book on Silk Road vegetarian cooking and also another on Persian cooking. Also, Louisa Sharifa who was featured here on Food52 a while back. There is a lot of cross polinization so that when I was recently reading Anya von Bremzen's 1990 book on cooking of the former Soviet Republics "Please to the Table", there were many recipes from the outer republics that felt familiar from some of these books.
Sam C. January 24, 2014
Claudia Roden's books are a great resource here. I especially like Arabesque (Moroccan, Lebanese, Turkish). But you can group them geographically. Except for Persian the other cultures are Mediterranean, which means that olive oil, garlic and onions are the start of many dishes (as is true for Mediterranean Europe as well). Lamb, seasonal vegetables, and lots of little plates of dips, salads and pickles are common. Braise, pan fry, stew, deep fry, and grill are the most common techniques. Turkish and Lebanese food have a lot in common. Here's a Cliff's Notes overview of some of them.
Lebanon: signature dish - kibbeh. Common flavorings - tahini, yogurt, parsley, mint, cilantro, sumac, lemon, pomegranate syrup, cinnamon, allspice, orange blossom water.
Turkish: a lot of similarities but remove cilantro and promegranate syrup, add dill and paprika, and name eggplant king.
Morocco: signature dishes - couscous or lamb tagine with seasonal veggies, harira soup during the annual fast; Common flavoring -lots of spices (saffron, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, ginger, paprika, turmeric), preserved lemon, tomatoes, parsley and cilantro (often together), olives, fruits in savory dishes.
Persian: signature dishes - pomegranate walnut chicken stew and rice pilafs (often with saffron and dried fruits); common flavorings:

Hope that helps! I'm hungry now.
LeBec F. January 26, 2014
ah sam, my little cliff notes guy,will you marry me? that info was most helpful and exactly what i was hoping for!

And thx to all of you. I'm happy to say i do own many of your recommended books so now all i have to do is READ and STUDY. It will get done eventually. I guess I'm starting with the Now, the cooking of it, because i've always admired Ram Dass(Be Here Now) at heart, and the past I will eventually get to :-}

Voted the Best Reply!

boulangere January 24, 2014
As well as similar climates which tend to produce similar products.

Claudia Roden, a cultural anthropologist turned cooking writer has spent most of a lifetime writing about the broad region. Any one of her books would probably go a long way to both answering your question and letting you explore on your own.

pierino January 24, 2014
I too am a great admirer of Claudia Roden's books, and I think I own all of them. She's a remarkable food historian. Another big, door stopper of a book is Clifford Wright's A MEDITERRANEAN FEAST.
pierino January 24, 2014
First, Turkey and Morocco are on separate continents although both both border the Mediterranean. Persia does not. One of the unifying links is the spice trade. That's what sent Columbus off to look for a sea route to India, counterintuitively sailing west. Then there is religious and ethnic migration which is another can of worms. Not to mention language in a polyglot world.
Maedl January 24, 2014
I think you've hit on a topic for a great book! There are so many different breads in each of the cuisines you mention, and if you stretch the field of interest to Central Asia and India to look at the flow of ideas and cultural contact, well, you've got an epic on your hands. I would start by looking through ethnic cookbooks, identifying a specific bread and then trying to follow its trail. Check through cookbooks of neighboring cuisines, google, talk to people from the regions . . . . depending on where you live, you may find some people recently or only a generation away from these countries. Another resource may be local mosques. Do they have food festivals? Go to them and ask there about the foods. I did that last spring and was told the food was cooked by the local Turkish women. I asked where they cooked and was led to the basement of the mosque where I met about ten women, all immigrants from Central Anatolia, who were absolutely thrilled that someone outside their community would be interested in what they were doing.
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