Over the last few years, American demand for hummus has skyrocketed.
Last year’s nationwide sales totaled more than $500 million, up 11% from a year earlier and a 25% jump over 2010, according to market-research firm Information Resources Inc, reports the Wall Street Journal.
The result is that we now have some truly strange hummus variations, thanks to food companies attempting to appeal to American palates and increase market share.
And Asian fusion garden hummus? WHY.
But people in the Middle East have spent centuries perfecting diverse ways to eat hummus. And they do it better.
Hummus has been a staple of Middle Eastern cooking for centuries. It figures then, that some people take it really seriously, and even argue over who invented it. In 2008, for example, an association of Lebanese manufacturers threatened legal action to prevent Israel from selling hummus under the hummus name, which means chickpea in Arabic. (On a lighter note, the two countries traded rounds in a hummus war in 2010, battling to see who could make the biggest bowl. Lebanon won. For a great cookbook on food politics in the region, check out Jerusalem, co-written by an Israeli and Palestinian.)
But putting the debate over who invented hummus aside (perhaps Iraq wins because of the fertile crescent?), it is indisputable that the Middle East is home to wide-range of delicious recipes that embody the area’s regional and culinary diversity. Palestinians and Jordanians eat the dish for breakfast, while Israelis are more likely to eat it in a hummusia for lunch. Many consider Syrian and Lebanese hummus the best in the world (anything Syrian and Lebanese, for that matter, is stereotypically bound to be delicious); Egypt’s version is lackluster (no disrespect to the “mother of the world,” but much of the country’s cuisine isn’t as tasty). Hummus is often garnished with Middle Eastern staples like fried pine nuts, lemon juice, chili pepper, na’na (mint), olive oil, chopped onions or, the Syrian favorite, pomegranate seeds.
For your eating pleasure, here are seven traditional Middle Eastern hummus recipes that everyone can enjoy.
1. Some Hummus basics
In Arabic the word hummus is pronounced with a hard h from deep down in the throat, and in Hebrew it’s pronounced with a sharp chummus, like Chanukah. In English we just don’t care for these strange h sounds.
The secret to hummus? It’s a controversial question, but there’s a general consensus that removing the chickpea skins first is the best method.
2. Hummus With Tahini
Hummus with tahini, or sesame paste, is a classic wherever you go. Add a little olive oil, parsley, or pine nuts on top for extra zest, and pair it with some perfectly shaped pita chips, as shown.
3. Hummus With Garlic
Also called hummus beiruti, this traditional lebanese version adds an overload of garlic to create a slightly spicier (and arguably more delicious) hummus. Just take your favorite basic hummus recipe, and add as many garlic gloves as you can stomach. Eat it with other delicious Mediterranean spreads like mutable, babaganoush (babaganoug in Egypt), and fatoush salad, and you’re in for quite the culinary party, Beirut style.
4. Hummus With Meat
Hummus with meat takes the vegetarian out of hummus, but makes for a real protein packed dish. The meat spicing varies by region, but it’s an all around favorite for those who dismiss hummus as just dip.
5. Hummus With Ful
Ful, a fava bean dish that hails from Egypt, can be served on top of hummus, either warm or cold, for breakfast or lunch (or dinner, go crazy). Ful varies by region: for example, Syrian’s tend to use larger fava beans and keep them whole, while many Egyptians blend the beans instead.
6. Hummus Msabaha
This is another delicious hummus speciality popular around the region, often referring to a mix of blended and whole chickpeas. (The distinctions between dishes can sometimes be hazy; for example, some Syrians refer to hummus just as msabaha.) Hummus with msabaha is a little more involved of a recipe, but add some garnish, take a big bite, and you’ll understand.
7. And for some not-quite-as-traditional fun, try hummus with pomegranate molasses.
Because pomegranates are like, whoa.
Still hungry? Check out these other delicious ways to eat hummus.