It can be easy to conjure a vague and simplistic Middle East in your mind, a rough area on the map with those two words stamped across the middle, a source of deflating news humming away in the background. But, reports Adam Suleiman, a closer look at the ethnic groups (and food) mapped out across our own region illustrates a remarkable diversity as dozens of colours speckle and blot the fraying borders.
Afghan, Lebanese, Iranian, Turkish, Egyptian… Middle Eastern food, taken as a whole, is a popular choice across the north east and as I sit in Newcastle’s Arayes, it’s easy to see why. I’m brought succulent marinated chicken wrapped up in flatbread and griddled, accompanied by pickled vegetables and peppered with sumac. There’s a growing market for Lebanese food in the UK says Muslim, an Iraqi Kurd working as a chef here. “It’s not oily and it’s fresh. In the UK people are searching for something healthy,” he suggests, to fit on the menu between their usual Chinese and Indian orders.
It’s quite posh as far as a shawarma sandwich goes, but then this is a Lebanese restaurant and according to my father, a native Palestinian and today’s dining partner, “they have a way with their presentation.” He fine tunes the air with his hands.“They put parsley in everything and do all these pretty decorations.”
Read the full version in The Northern Correspondent #5