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Feb 23, 2005 12:03 AM

Lebanese Vs Greek Vs Turkish

  • h

The three cuisines seem awfully similar. Is it only the names that differ?

I'm third generation Turkish, proud of my heritage (I'm the only Ottoman on my block!), but am embarrassed to say that I don't know too much of the culinary history.

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  1. I can kind of speak to the Lebanese vs. Greek issue. My mom is Lebanese and we ate a lot of the cuisine growing up.

    For me, I think the two cuisines are similar, but ours is not as heavy. All the greek Dolmas I've had (stuffed grape leaves) have been soaking in olive oil. Ours have ground lamb or beef in them and are not swimming in oil. In fact, the last time I made them, I used no olive oil at all. Our version of baklava uses sugar water and not honey, and we use less of it.

    There are a lot of similarities in yogurts, olives, etc, but I prefer the lebanese versions of almost all greek fare. It tastes cleaner and lighter to me. Of course I am very biased, and I'll admit that, but I have yet to have a greek meal that hasn't seem ridiculously heavy.

    13 Replies
    1. re: Chris in VA

      I think most of the stuffed grape leaves that you get at Greek restaurants in the US come out of a can--and are packed in olive oil... Are freshly made greek stuffed grape leaves also served in oil?

      1. re: butterfly

        The 2 times I've had the "home made" dolmas at two separate greek restaurants in this area, they were coated in the stuff.

        So in those two cases, yes they were in oil. The greek guy downstairs who runs our cafeteria goes with the cheaper is better mindset and I've seen those #10 cans of dolmas sitting around.

        And my observations are solely based on NJ/NY and DC/VA greek restaurants, and DC and my own home Lebanese. Don't know how much it differs around the country, or long time greek US residents.

        1. re: butterfly

          When i make them at home (the recipe was given to me by my greek grandmother) they are not swimming in olive oil, just enough.

          1. re: MV

            Mmm... swimming in olive oil--that actually sounds good. What can I say, I live in Spain and they've indoctrinated me.

            Would you mind sharing your grandmother's recipe?

            1. re: butterfly

              The exact recipe is at home, i will try to find it when i get home from work.

              1. re: butterfly

                Vegetarian dolmades with only rice, no meat, need the olive oil for human survival. No fat, no life. No meat, use olive oil. Consult doctor, get info. Some good, some bad. Depends on the individual cuisine.

                1. re: Pavlos

                  An Armenian version from a grocery I frequent, tho i have seen similar variationsin other Armenian groceries, is totally different from the greek. It's meatless, but stuffed with chickpeas, pinenuts, some tomato, and sometimes raisin... A piquant combination that I've always considered Armenian-style, and meat-eaters seem to love...Very *little* oil....


                  1. re: galleygirl

                    The Sevan bakery is owned by Armenians from Turkey. Their grape leaves are unique - you can really taste the fresh lemon juice. They are my favorites.

                    1. re: Taralli

                      Have you had their veggie ones? They are the ones of which I speak. The dear, departed Homesy's made a similar version.


                      1. re: galleygirl

                        Yes, love the veggie ones & am almost never without a small supply. 1st had them when an old SO's mother used to make them.

                2. re: butterfly

                  I'm with you, pour it on. I like honey too.

              2. re: butterfly

                NOO! this is a common mistake.
                The ones in a tin are smothered in olive oil. But freshly made they are not served in oil and are infact dry.
                They are commonly known as Dolmas or koubedia .

              3. re: Chris in VA

                I agree with you. But of course, I'm biased as well b/c my mother's family is Lebanese. The dolmas I've had have usually been covered in agavolemno sauce. I also find Greek cuisine has more of a european mediterannean influence using more tomatoes and oregano.

                Also, Lebanese cuisine uses a lot more lemon and yogurt in things to make them sour. I think both use about the same about of garlic.

                Turkish cuisine I've only had once. To be honest and it was probably the cook, I found it blander than Greek or Lebanese cuisine. I am eternally grateful to the Turks though for meat on a stick. I love nothing more than a beef kebab that I take and put a piece in some Syrian bread, add some raw onion and a tomato piece or pepper piece that was in olive oil and vinegar and maybe some yogurt and chow down.

              4. Greece being based in Europe obviously has more european influences in their food, Turkey and Lebanon having more middle eastern.
                Greek cuisine employs the use of bechemel sauces and I would say is more cheese oriented than the other two.
                Also you have to remember that Greece was controlled by the Ottoman Turks for over 400 years, so obivoulsy the culinary traditions flowed from one side to another.

                4 Replies
                1. re: MV

                  Ah, so the Turks invented the cuisine? Sweet (though I like Greek and Lebanese food, too!)!

                  Thanks everyone for the great info!

                  1. re: Hafez C.

                    I wouldnt say that they invented it so much as had a strong influence. The ideas also flowed both ways as well.

                    1. re: Hafez C.

                      Greek cuisine existed thousands of years before turkey existed :P
                      therefore its the other way round :)

                      1. re: Hafez C.

                        I recommend you to travel to any part of Turkey where there is no such thing called Lebanese kitchen and you will find out that the dıshes you found ın Turkey you wont see it in Greece or any part of arabian cuisine

                    2. Lebanese has a limited number of meat and fish dishes that are common - you could say more natural meat and fish dishes. a lot of intersting salads and side dishes and starters.

                      greek has, like others have said, some european influence, cheese and milk products, less seasonings, maybe. more seafood than either lebanese or turkish

                      turkish has an endless list of types of kababs, roasted meats, often ground and mixed with other materials - pistashios, herbs, cheese, vegetables, 2 different types of meats, or accompanied by complex sauces. traditional turkish food, in a good place, can blow your mind.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: zach

                        the fish dishes and the zeytinyagli alone in Turkey are amazing.
                        And every region has its own styles.

                        Plus you have the classic osmanli cuisine. And the same dishes will be different - imam bayildi isn't quite the same as Greek melitzanes imam or Lebanese sheikh el-mekhshi.

                        1. re: Jerome

                          And the huge variety of pilafs with rice and bulgur wheat, short and long grain rice - not as many as the Persian kitchen perhaps but seriously

                          Also, I don't think the greeks or lebanese have a soup like iskembe, or the variety of muhallab sweets like the one made with chicken breast, Tavuk Göðsü (the third character, in case it doesn't come out is a g with a v atop it)

                      2. Having grown up with a Greek nanny, dated a Lebanese restauranteur, and now dating a Turkish gourmand, I can attest that the three cuisines are very similar.

                        I would agree with a previous poster that Greek food tends to be heavy on the oregano. I also find that the Greek style of eating is heavy on the starches. It's not uncommon to have beans, rice, potatoes, and bread all on the table at the same time. Greeks also have a great love affair with seafood, not surprisingly, given their geography. Greeks also really know how to make some lovely slow cooked stews.

                        Turkey, being at such a geographically central location (at a cross roads for Asia, Middle East, and Europe), has a much more varied cuisine than Lebanon or Greece. In Istanbul and along the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts in general, you'll find that the food and style of eating is more similar to that of the Greeks (lots of seafood, lots of veggies and starches). Dominant flavours are lemon and tomato.

                        In the east and northeast of Turkey, some of their food resembles that of the eastern european nations (starchy foods like dumplings, lots of soups, and meat and cheeses). The flavours tend to be 'cleaner' in that they use fewer herbs and spices than in other parts of the country.

                        In the southeast of the country, you get food that uses some rich and flavourful spices (influence from Persians and other Middle Eastern/North African cuisines). Kebabs and roasted meats in general, are often flavoured with chili flakes, lots of cumin, and sumac (which is not used often in other parts of the country).

                        Lebanon, takes much of their culinary influences from the rest of the Middle East and North Africa. However, you can also see some French influences in their pastries, since France did colonize them for the first half of the 20th century. Lebanese food tends to be more heavy handed on the garlic than Turkish or Greek food, and as the previous poster mentioned, they love sour -- they love to add sumac to just about everything for some tang. Lebanese cuisine also tends to use more sweet/savoury combinations than the Turkish or Greeks (adding pomegranate molasses to some meat marinades, for example). Lebanese tend to also use rose water more frequently than the Greeks or Turks.

                        So I don't know whether or not I answered any of your questions. You are right that the three cuisines are very similar. It's not simply a matter of names, but also the methods and ingredients used to achieve those flavours that differs.

                        1. If you haven't had Turkish midya tava with tarator sauce or ekmek kadayif with kaimak, you haven't lived.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Taralli

                            midya must be musles, tava the pot, in which they are cooked.

                            ekmek kadayif i know, kaimak i know also, but perhaps not in the context you suggest. please explain. also, sorry if i am mistaken in anything as well. thanks.