Tourism

Tastes of Lebanon

EXPORTING LEBANESE CUISINE

If you cannot come to Lebanon, Lebanon is bringing its rich, delectable cuisine to you.

With a mix of meat-, vegetable-, and yogurt-based dishes, Lebanese cuisine is a foodie’s paradise and can accommodate many dietary needs or preferences. The Lebanese table is, for the most part, healthy and is part of the Mediterranean diet often associated with a healthy lifestyle. For all these reasons, it comes as no surprise that Lebanese cuisine is celebrated across the world, with numerous Lebanese restaurants having popped up across the continents—no doubt also supported and propagated by the massive Lebanese diaspora. Theories about the success of exporting the Levantine cuisines abound.

Some hypothesize it is the trendiness of street food in the US partnered with the perception of Lebanese as an affordable, quick, and delicious food option. Lebanese food marketers’ greatest success, though, is focusing on the health benefits. To the international audience, this speaks of an escape from the industrial, reinforced foods and a shift toward fresh and uncommon ingredients such as sesame, olive oil, dates, local yogurt, or other local delicacies. Blominvest Bank’s report, “Hidden Opportunities in the Lebanese Economic Sectors” identifies olive oil as a product fit for export given the rising global demand for high-quality extra virgin olive oil and the unique taste of the Lebanese variety.

To go with Mediterranean fare, Lebanon is also boosting its Mediterranean wine production with, again, an emphasis on exports. Beqaa Valley, once the Roman Empire’s vineyard, is revitalizing the industry after an Ottoman ban on wine production and devastation from the Lebanese Civil War. Lebanon’s top vineyards—Chí¢teau Ksara, Chí¢teau Kefraya, and Chí¢teau Musar—are hoping to put Lebanese wine on tables around the world, particularly in the US and Europe.

Within those markets, unsurprisingly, France is currently the top destination for Lebanese wine exports. Indeed, wine is one of only two export groups in which Lebanon has a positive balance of trade, meaning the Lebanese export more wine than they import.

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