There’s no Lebanese breakfast food more popularized in the culture than manakeesh. Widely beloved in Lebanese culture, for those who have come to Canada from the Middle East, manakeesh is a food that acts as a kind reminder of where we’re from.
To North Americans who do not have prior knowledge of Middle Eastern cuisine, manakeesh is somewhat similar to a pizza. Though it’s made a little different, its appearance strongly resembles it. That said, manakeesh goes beyond being just another version of a pizza. The spices used, the way in which the bread is prepared, and the way in which it’s cooked is different. Needless to say, manakeesh has its own identity and it’s one that is very close to the hearts of Lebanese people.
There are a few different ways to make manakeesh. In large part, manakeesh is made from round flat breads covered with a mix of thyme, sumac, and sesame seeds known as ‘zaatar’. The zaatar is mixed with olive oil and is then baked in an oven. Walking through Lebanon, it’s not uncommon to see every village with their own manakeesh-specific bakery. In Lebanese pop culture, manakeesh is a representation of the people and is symbolic of the working class Lebanese.
In traditional Lebanese method of preparation, manakeesh is decorated and stamped using the tips of the fingers. To some degree, for wives and mothers of Lebanese families who make manakeesh, this makes every bake different from the next family’s. Thereby, manakeesh becomes an expression of family preferences and is oftentimes customized according to the ingredients available. Despite manakeesh being around for generation in Lebanon, little is known about its origin and few books have been written exploring the subject.
Today, manakeesh is by and far the most requested breakfast meal in Lebanon. Why it has become so popular over the last few decades has to do with its ease of preparation and speed of the bake. The ingredients are also easy to obtain in Lebanon, are affordable for low-income families, and the taste is really flavorful! In the past, housewives would go out into the fields to get the necessary ingredients to prepare the zaatar mix. This would then be distributed across the loaves. In many cases, manakeesh would be then baked and cooked in a community oven. The evolution of traditional Lebanese village cuisine has adapted to the preferences of the modern Lebanese consumer and in turn, manakeesh continues to sustain significant popularity.
Digging further into the background of manakeesh, we would like to focus on the mix of what makes it. Historically, zaatar is unique to the Lebanese mountains, made from its wild herbs. The olive oil that makes a significant difference to manakeesh is assumed to have been around for thousands of years and so has the flat breads which reach back even further. To some degree, these ingredients have been used for thousands of years by the Lebanese. To identify when they were first mixed together in manakeesh, it’s still largely a mystery.
To Lebanese who have traveled the world, including here in Canada, manakeesh is a reminder of home for them. Though Lebanese families are welcomed into Canada as Canadians, reminders of culture are important. The simplicity of manakeesh makes it easy to put together however one of the disadvantages of living in Canada as a Lebanese person is that open flame ovens are few and far between. Though Al’deewan Bakery has an open flame oven for manakeesh, few other places do making genuine manakeesh hard to find.
For those that have had manakeesh before, its aromas are sure to bring memories of childhood. For those that haven’t, it’s an opportunity to dig into a dish that is a staple in the diets of so many Lebanese families. Toppings on manakeesh can also vary quite a bit, ranging from cheese to dried yogurt, spinach, meat, eggs, and more. Though the original with zaatar is always there, things can get a little crazy with manakeesh when one starts to really experiment with what goes on top. If there’s ever been a dish that could be voted as the ‘taste of Lebanon’, manakeesh might be it.
In Toronto, there’s only one place to find authentic Lebanese manakeesh and that’s Al’deewan Bakery. We are so fortunate and grateful to have an open flame bakery to prepare our manakeesh. From our perspective, this is the absolute closest you’ll come to tasting authentic Lebanese manakeesh in Toronto. Having welcomed in Canadian-born residents, Lebanese families, Jordanese-Canadians, Palestinian-Canadians, Syrian-Canadians, and people from all walks of life, our manakeesh is proving to be a big hit across the GTA. The next time you’re in the area and have the chance to stop in, we would love to show you our best manakeesh.
Visit anytime. At Al’deewan Bakery, hot and delicious halal manakeesh starts as low as $2.50 + taxes each. Across our menu, you’ll find a range of ingredient options to choose from including cheese, meat, zatar, hummus plate, falafel wrap, zatar-veggie sauce, spinach, spinach and cheese, mhammara/spicy, baba ganoush plate, foul with bread, kishk, feta cheese, sujur and sausage, pizza pepperoni, the Deewan special and more. If you’re bringing a friend who’s not deep into trying manakeesh, we also have large cheese pizzas starting at only $9.99 + tax.
Manakeesh acts as a focal point of the Al’deewan Bakery menu and it’s already won us many fans. We’ve worked hard on providing an inclusive environment where the atmosphere is welcoming. At Al’deewan Bakery, we want to be a place the average Canadian family can come to grab an affordable meal. Providing Lebanese-Canadians a taste of home and introducing many Canadians to one of their new favourites, manakeesh is one of the most delicious foods. For families, its deliciousness is why manakeesh continues to be a Lebanese breakfast favourite.
Al’deewan Bakery is the top Toronto and Scarborough manakeesh bakery. Come and get it in a range of flavors. Choose from cheese manakeesh, cheese and beef manakeesh, zaatar manakeesh, beef manakeesh, and more.