It's no wonder that the past decade has seen Middle Eastern cuisines global profile skyrocketing, as they are fresh, wholesome, healthy, rich, and aromatic. With today's consumers being more adventurous than ever, there are certain pockets of the world that have sparked interest particularly when it comes to food and flavors.
The Middle East is well known for kebabs, koftas, tabbouleh and fatoush, however, there are certain spice blends that are only associated with Middle Eastern cuisines.
Spices and herbs are the star of the show when it comes to the Middle East regions. Zatar (Za'atar) is a generic name for a group of herbs including oregano, basil thyme, thyme, and satureja, a savory spice mix which is very traditional and people use it throughout every meal of the day.
Baharat is another spice mix and cinnamon is also very widely used, as it is in Western Europe, but for the Middle East it is a staple spice. Floral flavor tones are also widely used such as coriander and rose water.
The spice heat from much of Middle Eastern cuisines is subtly influenced by Asia and regions of Africa. Middle Eastern flavor are very area specific. The Middle East is well known for spices and herbs, not only is this part of the culture, it represents the prosperity of the region.
The Gulf area is influenced by Asian cuisines incorporates a lot spicy ingredients in their meals such as black pepper, red chili and ginger. These are typical traditional ingredients with historic influences coming mainly from the fusion of Mediterranean and Asian cultures.
The level of complexity is usually high in Middle Eastern meals, with lots of herb and spice combinations inspired by the convergence of Eastern and Western influences to shape the food landscape.
Nowadays a trend towards natural ingredients can be seen clearly. Consumers are becoming savvier and taking an interest in the ingredient list on food packaging, and thus they are demanding changes to those ingredients, such as the inclusion of natural flavors as opposed to artificial.
There is a clear trend towards healthier and balanced diets which are coming into the countries. The provenance is a trend, but also naturalness and the need for natural flavors, is certainly a big trend.
There is a strong direction to reduce or remove ingredients considered as bad for you, and a lot is being done to curb the high sugar levels in drinks and to reduce salt and remove MSG in savory food across the Middle East.
Sugar and sodium reduction are becoming more and more of a priority. A sugar tax is being implemented in the region, so the market and producers also need to react to that. Reduced sugar beverages are becoming more popular and adding functional ingredients such as vitamins and minerals becomes more interesting.
Millennials and younger generations are pushing for healthier diets and raising awareness to the effect of lifestyle as a precursor for different health issues such as diabetes and obesity.
Using substitutes for sugar such as stevia can be useful, especially in beverages as typically consumers opt for high sugar and juice content for drinks. In sweet goods, indulgence and rich tasting products are driven by the taste preferences of the consumers.
The use of nuts is also quite prominent in this cuisine, such as walnuts, pistachios, almonds and hazelnuts, which are equally used in savory and sweet preparations. Dates and provenance fruits are also widely used in the region.
(By our own staff)