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Every Trip to Syria Must Include Trying These 11 Syrian Dishes

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2 months ago

Syrian dishes are as diverse as the country is rich in history and culture. When you’re in Syria, you absolutely must try these dishes. And even if you’re familiar with food from the Levant region of the Middle East (Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel and Jordan), I’m almost certain there will be quite a few on this list that you haven’t heard of.

And if you’re planning a trip to Syria in 2024 (which you absolutely should consider), make sure you read up on everything you need to know before you visit Syria. As Syria rebuilds itself after its civil war, there is no doubt that Syria will become a hot travel destination for travelers seeking exciting new adventures.

Man in a black t-shit making saj in Syria with a pillow to stretch the dough
A man in Tartus making saj (unleavened flatbread) – and yes, that’s a pillow that he’s stretching the dough on

11. Toshka

Think of toshka as the Syrian answer to a grilled cheese toastie (and you know we are always seeking high-quality toasties). This very satisfying Syrian dish originates from Aleppo and has found its way into high-end restaurants and street food stalls alike all over the country.

Toshka is traditionally made with Arabic flatbread stuffed with sujuk meat (smoked beef sausage) and white Kashkawan cheese. It’s then baked over charcoal or on a flat griddle so that the cheese can melt. Chefs are getting more creative with toshka, so you’ll also find it made with other types of bread including a thicker seeded bread.

Toshka Syrian gilled cheese toastie
Toshka will become the standard for grilled cheese once the world knows about it

10. Round kibbeh

Often called the Syrian national dish, kibbeh is a Syrian dish that is made with spiced, ground meat and bulgur wheat. You’ll find variations of it in countries around the Mediterranean including Türkiye, Lebanon and Israel, but Syrians know how to make it just that bit more special.

You can also get vegan kibbeh which is usually made of pumpkin. It’s actually my favorite version of kibbeh. This is one of those Syrian dishes that is famous all over the world for a very good reason.

Round kibbeh from Ibn Abbas in Damascus best Syrian dishes national dish of Syria

While you’re in Damascus, the best place to try round kibbeh is at Ibn Abbas. Although Ibn Abbas is a sweet shop primarily, they also make incredible savory food, including round kibbeh.

9. Aleppo sour cherry meatballs

This is a classic Syrian dish that is actually somewhat difficult to find outside of Aleppo. The cherry sauce is actually a tamarind sweet and tangy sauce, and the meatball is usually made with ground beef. There is quite a nice sweetness to the dish which pairs nicely with the warm bread sitting underneath the dish.

Aleppo sour cherry meatballs

This is one of the more unique Syrian dishes that you’ll usually be able to find in a restaurant serving Aleppo-style cuisine.

8. Fatteh

Fatteh is probably also at the status of a Syrian national dish. You’ll find fatteh in our countries in the region, but Syrian-style Fatteh is usually made with pieces of toasted pita, chickpeas, yoghurt, pine nuts, lemon garlic and topped with parsley, olive oil and tomato.

Syrian fatteh with yoghurt and hummus one of the best Syrian dishes

7. Kurdish bread

Given Syria’s large Kurdish minority, it’s no surprise that certain Kurdish dishes have made their way into mainstream Syrian food. Kurdish bread has become a Syrian dish in and of itself which means you’ll be able to find it in traditional restaurants around the country.

Kurdish bread is usually stuffed with cheese and flavored with paprika, oregano and other spices. The bread is crispy and doughy at the same time which makes for a unique flavor.

Kurdish bread

6. Aleppo Zaatar

By now you’ve heard of zaatar. This spice mix has become incredibly prominent in the Western world. But what you’re probably used to is the green zaatar. In Syria and in the region, Aleppo is known for its unique dishes that you truly can’t find elsewhere. One of those dishes is Aleppo zaatar which is a brownish-red color as opposed to the usual green.

Aleppo zaatar is quite different in taste to typical green zaatar. Aleppo zaatar is made with cumin and has hints of fruit which adds a certain tartness. I can’t be sure what exactly creates the unique flavor of Aleppo zaatar, but what I am sure of is that Aleppo zaatar is very tasty.

Aleppo zaatar with olive oil red zaatar one of the best Syrian dishes
The distinctive red of Aleppo zaatar

One thing to note is that zaatar isn’t actually used as a spice but rather as a condiment for bread or a standalone dish. In my opinion, the best way to enjoy zaatar of any kind is to dip some thin bread in olive oil and then dip it into the zaatar. That’s it. No tricks.

5. Tannour bread (strictly from the roadside)

When you’re driving through the villages outside of urban centers in Syria, you’ll come across small, usually dilapidated-looking stone buildings that seem abandoned. Many of these are actually roadside clay ovens where you can find the freshest and tastiest bread being cooked.

Manoush bread with zaatar being cooked on an open hearth or tannour in Syria
Manoush from a roadside tannour is the only option

Take my advice: stop at a roadside tannour if it’s open and treat yourself to some freshly baked manoush (flatbread) with zaatar. You can usually add spices and cheese. The bread is doughy and filling so it’s quite a big meal even though it might not look like it.

4. Ouzeh

Ouzeh (or ouzi) are bundles of flaky filo pastry stuffed with spiced rice and meat and usually served with yoghurt. It’s the crunch of the pine nuts with the spices of the rice that make this dish so tasty. And, of course, you can usually find the best of them topped with a pistachio.

Ouzeh flaky pastry with pistachio one of the best Syrian dishes Syrian national dish
Ouzeh, cooked to perfection

There is nothing quite like breaking open the flaky pastry and watching the steam pour out. You can eat this like a hamburger if you like – it’s usually eaten by hand!

3. Ejjeh

This is essentially an Aleppo-style omelette made with whisked eggs, herbs, sumac, parsley, onion, garlic and other spices. It’s packed full of protein and is completely vegetarian. You might have seen this in Egypt where it’s usually made more like a frittata, but in Syria it’s less dense and more puffed.

Ejjeh Aleppo omelette being cooked one of the best Syrian dishes

The best places will put your ejjeh in a wrap with hot sauce, pickles and tomatoes. It can be a little bit salty, but the bread balances it out nicely.

2. Mishteh

This is a Syrian dish that seemingly nobody knows about. The best way to describe it is kind of like a Syrian pizza, but the one slab of dough has different sections which are comprised of different toppings. There is always a spicy section and always a cheese section, but the other sections are for you to decide.

What makes mishteh particularly unique is the way it’s eaten. You’ll normally layer two slices from two sections on top of each other and eat them together. So you can have a slice of cheese underneath a slice of spicy, and it’s a delight.

Syrian mishteh being made one of the best Syrian dishes that is unique

You can find an amazing one in Nasra in Wadi al-Nasara (the Valley of the Christians, which we think is one of the best places to visit in Syria).

1. Bagaja

This might be one of the tastiest and most versatile dishes that one can find (and not just in the realm of Syrian dishes, but generally). Bagaja is quite difficult to find outside of the markets of Damascus, but when you do find it you’ll be very happy that you did.

You can get sweet or savory bagaja, but if it’s bagaja as it should be eaten then the pastry will be lightly pan-fried and flaky, and will have whatever filling you’ve chosen in between the many layers. This is such a delicious eat that I think no trip to Syria would be complete without it.

Bagaja with cheese in Damascus Syrian flaky bread
The what-should-be world famous cheese bagaja

Cheese bagaja is an absolute standout because of the way the cheese sits in between each layer. You can even dip it in sauce just for some extra flavor. It is considered more of a street food delicacy so you won’t find it in restaurants. In fact, I don’t even think you’ll be able to find it on Google.

Savory bagaja being cooked in Damascus
Savory bagaja is quite a treat

There are so many more Syrian dishes that are absolutely delicious and will make your travel to Syria even better. We’ve chosen some of the more unique dishes, but make sure you let yourself try everything you see so that you can truly enjoy the food adventure that Syria offers.


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