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What Is Manakish?

By Rebecca Cartwright
Updated May 16, 2024
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Manakish is a dish made of flatbread covered with various toppings, commonly eaten in Lebanon, Syria, and other nearby countries. Other names for it are manaeesh, manakeesh and mangish. The most common variety is manakish zaatar, flatbread covered with a mixture of olive oil, wild thyme, culinary sumac and sesame seeds before it is baked. These types of breads are typically eaten for breakfast or lunch.

The bread is so popular in Lebanon that many communities have bakeries that specialize in the dish. It is served in a wide variety of settings, from roadside stands to upscale restaurants. Pieces of manakish may be sliced for serving, or smaller sheets may be folded and eaten.

In addition to zaatar, cheese and meat are common toppings for manakish. Akawi cheese, a brined, semi-soft white cheese, or kashkwan, a yellow cheese, are often used. Lamb or chicken are also popular toppings and may be mixed with cheese. Kishk, a mixture of dried yogurt and bulgur wheat, is another possible topping.

The dough used can be made with either bread flour or all-purpose flour. Flour suitable for pizza is often recommended. Typical recipes call for flour, yeast, and salt along with water and vegetable or olive oil. Depending on the recipe, the dough may rise once before shaping or may be shaped after kneading and a short resting period. It is a soft dough, made with enough oil to give the finished product a pliable rather than crisp texture.

Manakish is traditionally formed by flattening pieces of dough with the fingertips. This leaves characteristic indentations, which help hold the toppings. The name "manakish" is related to words meaning "decorated" or "carved out" in Arabic, and is often said to refer to these indentations, which are typically still visible after baking.

Any oven may be used for baking. Most recipes call for baking at moderate temperatures for 10 to 15 minutes. In Lebanon it is sometimes baked on a saj, a type of domed portable grill used for baking. The dough is cooked on the heated surface of the grill. If necessary, it can be prepared in a heavy skillet.

Tomatoes, cucumbers and yogurt cheese are often served along with manakish. Olives and fresh mint are commonly part of the meal, which is typically accompanied by hot tea. Although a very popular breakfast or lunch dish, manakish is also served as a meza, or snack.

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