I sometimes feel Lebanese Mutabbal, also known as “Eggplant Dip,” is somewhat misunderstood by foodies less familiar with the Middle Eastern culture. I watched a video the other day on the YouTube channel of one of America’s famous chefs, and I felt a strong urge to write about the traditional way of serving Mutabbal. From a cultural point of view, it was weird seeing her serve Mutabbal as a standalone dip with toasted pita bread on the side.
Where this dish originates, Mutabbal is seldom served on its own. Mutabbal is a staple dish in the Lebanese cuisine, usually served as part of “Mezza,” which is an elaborate assortment of appetizers that can be served as a standalone feast. However, Mezza is usually introduced as a prelude to a meatier Lebanese barbecue meal.
The latter is the more common approach to serving Mezza, which also includes dishes like Fattoush (salad with fried pita bread), Sujuk (sausage), grilled Halloumi cheese, pickles, Muhammara (a hot pepper “dip”), and other scrumptious starters.
Mutabbal can also be singled out of the Mezza conglomerate and served as a “side dish” next to certain foods that go well with it, like Kibbeh (minced meat in a shell of mashed meat and bulgur). That’s where it serves as an accompaniment to Kibbeh, and as a flavorsome enhancer of this authentic Lebanese dish.
You can check out the full argument about Mutabbal on my food and travel illustration blog.
Make two horizontal incisions with the knife on each side of the eggplant (so it won't explode), and roast it on the stove top. You can place it on a skillet, or a piece of tin (the latter is the way my Grandma used to do it).
Grill for 30 minutes. Keep changing the position of the eggplant so all sides are fire-kissed, and until the skin is slightly burnt on at least two sides. Remove the eggplants, place them on a plate and wait until they've cooled down a bit. Remove the inside of the eggplant and place it in a deep dish. Mash into smaller pieces until almost a paste.
Now, add the Tahini paste and the yogurt and mix well with a fork. Add the crushed garlic with a pinch of salt and mix.
To serve, create a well in the middle of the deep serving bowl, and add a drizzle of olive oil and chopped parsley for garnish.
If you want a Mezza-style meal, serve Mutabbal with french fries and Fattoush, and don't forget the pita bread so that you can add the Mutabbal to it like a spread.