Traditional food in Libya had been structured by its history. This is obvious in the indigenous population “Tamazight”, the different rulers, travelers and neighbors, which all had their great influence; the geographical diversity also had its role in enriching the culture and tradition of Libyan food. Food could talk history, cost differences of traditional Libyan food tells the regular change in history and its effect on people’s life. Generally, Libyan culinary art can be split into three categories: the coastline, which approaches the Mediterranean culture, the south represents the desert culture, in addition to the mountain region, which offer their own blend of mountainous nature, despite this diversity, all regions share the common rules of preparation, and the catering acts. Interesting and amazing!
Food in Libya means more than just eating, it is a way of socializing, and it has its role in social events and religious festivals, by getting together with family, relatives and friends. Libyan dishes as North Africa’s region are often coloured and flavoured with a hot spice mixture. One of the most characteristic dishes of the region is couscous, bearing in mind that each country offers its own blend. Couscous can be found in almost every kitchen cupboard in a Libyan home. Despite the fact that couscous is incredibly popular in Libya, and some consider it as the national dish of the country, the closed door policy imposed by the former regime, including lack of participation in international festivals to introduce their heritage in all its forms, made couscous usually attributed to neighboring countries without pointing to Libya.
Couscous is a steamed small-grained semolina, served with stew. It is one of the top dishes served in weddings and big occasions. The dish is ancient, mentioned by the medieval traveler Ibn-Battuta. It was even passed to Mediterranean territories like Spanish and Italian cuisine, and some parts of Spain still share the tradition of having couscous as a main dish at weekends.
Bazin is among the most distinctive foods of Libyan culinart arts. Bazin is identified by its special pyramid shape. It is prepared by boiling the barley flour in water until it ripens and then it is molded into a pyramid shape. It could be served with a wide variety of stews including meat stew, bean and legume sauce, sour milk besides other kind of stews. This dish expresses the Libyan lifestyle of eating healthfully. It is usually presented in special occasions. The Italian culinary arts has its touch on Libyan dishes. The most popular and widely spread is Pasta presented in different ways. One of Libyan’s favorite is Rishda, a homemade pasta cooked with dried salted meat, legume and herbs.
Usban is another top Libyan dish. Indisputably, it is the must-have meal. It is usually served in Eid and special occasions. Simplicity along with coloured and unique flavour makes any traditional Libyan dish worth trying. Sfinz is a traditional Libyan fried pastry made with a dough consisting of flour, sugar, yeast, salt, and water. The dough is shaped into small balls which are then flattened to form a thin layer of pastry. After it has been fried, sfinz is typically enjoyed with honey. Yet, it can also be fried with an egg on top. Also available is the Libyan doughnut, this fried pastry is especially popular for breaking the fast during Ramadan, but it can also be served for breakfast. If there is any leftover dough, Libyans usually transform it into herb bread.
Salata mashwiya (this means roasted salad, and it is known by that name in both Libya and Tunisia, where salata mashwiya is also quite popular) is a spicy Libyan dish that can be served either as a salad or a hot sauce accompanying barbecued meat and freshly baked bread. It consists of tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, eggplants, hot chiles, and garlic. The salad is typically flavored with ground caraway seeds and garnished with olives and hard-boiled eggs.
Tajin mahshi is a flavourful Lybian dish that is typically served as a main meal or a side dish. It consists of a variety of stuffed vegetables such as bell peppers, tomatoes, aubergines, and courgettes. The filling is usually prepared with a combination of ground meat, onions, rice, and spices such as chiles, salt, pepper, turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon. It is said that tajin mahshi tastes even better when reheated the next day.
Originating from East Libya, makaruna imbaukha is a savory dish made with steamed pasta as the key ingredient. The pasta is combined with meat (usually lamb) and a rich sauce made with clarified butter, tomatoes, onions, chickpeas, potatoes, pumpkin, and raisins. The whole dish is typically flavored with cloves, bay leaves, ginger, black pepper, and shaiba leaves. For the final touch, makaruna imbaukha can be sprinkled with orange flower water and cinnamon. When served, the pasta is traditionally spread in the center of the plate and topped with everything else. It is recommended to serve the dish with Libyan pickles known as mseyer on the side.
Ruz hoot bil kusbur is an aromatic Libyan dish consisting of rice cooked in a stock made from fish heads. It is combined with oil, roasted coriander seeds, onions, tomatoes, celery, and flavorings such as parsley, chile peppers, garlic, ginger, cumin, paprika, and black pepper. The dish is traditionally served with grilled, baked, or fried white fish fillets which were previously marinated in a combination of garlic, cumin, hot peppers, and lemon juice. It is recommended to further elevate the dish by serving it with haraymi sauce and lemon wedges on the side. Trying any of these dishes is worth it. You can just dare to have a taste different from the ones you’ve being used to.