May 15, 2010 by bethanjthomas
Not the most common of questions I’m asked when having lunch on a business trip. I was slightly perturbed at how to answer. Holding back the desire to immediately say no, I slowly smiled and asked what kind of meat exactly…
‘Oh, a kind of mince, you know’
Steak tatare leapt immediately into my mind. I’d always avoided this in French restaurants finding the concept of a lump of raw mince slightly stomach churning. However, when in Beirut, do as the Lebanese do.
‘I haven’t tried it before, but I’d love to’
With the aforementioned smile plastered on my face, the table began to fill with dishes – steaming hot bread, arak (a similar drink to ouzo – cloudy and full of aniseed flavour), hummus, olives, fried potatoes, fattoush, stuffed vine leaves, fried liver, raw liver, pickles and raw mince.
The concept of meze in general didn’t phase me, but the two dishes of raw meat were a bizarre fascination to me. My host explained that for the raw liver, I should place one piece of liver in pitta bread, sprinkle it with a mix of spices, add some mint and raw onion and then devour.
I did as I was told. Luckily, I do enjoy offal, so I knew that I’d like the taste of liver. The texture was the real point of interest. It was soft and silky and this texture mixed with the crunchiness of the onion and the warmth of the hot pitta was fantastic.
The second raw meat on offer was a little more difficult to get excited about though.
The dish of pink mush that had arrived did not set my culinary heart on fire, but I continued to smile as I was shown how to scoop a spoonful of the meat onto my plate and mix with olive oil to make a paste. Then this was to put onto pitta bread and eaten. I took the cowards option and added some mint and onion to my first bite. Not too bad. Slightly slimy due to the thick oily consistency of the paste, but no where near as horrific as I was expecting.
This is certainly not to say that I will be ordering raw meat regularly in the future. But I was glad to have tried it and to have impressed my hosts by refusing to flinch or turn my nose up at anything. I took the best that Beirut had to offer!