Libyan cuisine is the cooking traditions, practices, foods and dishes associated with the country of Libya. The cuisine derives much from the traditions of the Mediterranean, North Africa (Tunisian cuisine), and the Middle East (Egyptian cuisine). One of the most popular Libyan dishes is a thick highly spiced soup, known simply as Shorba Arabiya, or “Arabian soup”. Shorba Arabiya contains many of the ingredients from many other Libyan dishes, including onions, tomatoes, lamb (or chicken), chilli peppers, cayenne pepper, saffron, chickpeas, mint, coriander and parsley. Pork consumption is forbidden, in accordance with Sharia, the religious laws of Islam. Tripoli is Libya’s capital, and the cuisine there is particularly influenced by Italian cuisine. Pasta is common, and many seafood dishes are available. Southern Libyan cuisine is more traditionally Arab and Berber. Common fruits and vegetables include figs, dates, oranges, apricots and olives.
Common foods and dishes
Bazin is a common Libyan food made with wheat flour and a little plain flour, which is boiled in salted water to make a hard dough, and then formed into a rounded, smooth dome placed in the middle of the dish. The sauce around the dough is made by frying chopped onions with lamb meat, turmeric, salt, cayenne pepper, black pepper, fenugreek, sweet paprika, and tomato paste. Potatoes can also be added. Finally, eggs are boiled and arranged around the dome. The dish is then served with lemon and fresh or pickled chili peppers, known as asamyar. Batata mubattana (filled potato) is another popular dish that consists of fried potato pieces filled with spiced minced meat and covered with egg and breadcrumbs.
Additional common foods and dishes include:
- Asida – A dish made up of a cooked wheat flour lump of dough, sometimes with added butter or honey.
- Breads, including flatbreads
- Bureek, turnovers
- Couscous, a North African dish of semolina
- Ghreyba, butter cookies
- Harissa – A hot chilli sauce commonly eaten in North Africa. Main ingredients include chilli peppers, such as bird’s eye chilli and serrano peppers, and spices such as garlic paste, coriander, red chilli powder, caraway and olive oil.
- Hassaa, type of gravy
- Magrood, date-filled cookies
- Mhalbiya, type of rice pudding
- Mutton, meat of an adult sheep
- Rub is a thick dark brown, very sweet syrup extracted from dates or carob that is widely used in Libya, usually with Asida.
- Shakshouka – A dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, chilli peppers, and onions, often spiced with cumin.
- Sherba, lamb and vegetable soup with mint and tomato paste
- Tajeen, spiced lamb with a tomato and paprika sauce
- Usban – A traditional kind of sausage in Tunisia and Libya , stuffed with a mixture of rice, herbs, lamb, chopped liver and heart. This dish is usually served alongside the main meal of rice or couscous, often on special occasions.
Libyan tea is a thick beverage served in a small glass, often accompanied by peanuts. Regular American/British coffee is available in Libya, and is known as “Nescafé” (a misnomer). Soft drinks and bottled water are also consumed. Mint tea is also a popular drink. All alcoholic drinks have been banned in Libya since 1969, in accordance with Sharia, the religious laws of Islam.