I don’t know if there is a single person in Lebanon that doesn’t love manakish. It is by excellence the people’s food and is eaten for breakfast, a quick lunch, dinner, or anytime during the day.
Today, a lot of restaurants propose manakish on their menu, but traditionally, manakish were the baker’s job. I remember being a kid and seeing my mom every Sunday prepare the zaatar mix at home, then go to the bakery and wait for the baker to spread the zaatar on the dough and bake it, then come back home so we’d enjoy a family breakfast of manakish with tomatoes, fresh mint, cucumbers, black olives and green fava beans.
This process is alas, cut in half today. People no longer prepare the zaatar or other fillings at home and it has become the baker’s job to do it all for you. And this, unfortunately, has left a serious question mark on the quality of ingredients and mostly zaatar used in a lot of bakeries across Lebanon.
But then you go to Abou Fadel, a small family-owned bakery located in Beit Mery, and you have the best manakish you can ask for! The dough is fresh, well baked and with just the right amount of everything. The zaatar mixed with olive oil is of superior quality and tastes exactly like the one in my childhood memories! The cheese is heavenly – not too sweet nor too salty; the lahm bi ajin are just perfect and the pizza they make is out of this world. You feel that what they do is done in an artisanal way, with love and with great ingredients that they never compromise on for the sake of profiting more. And this is the very reason why they have been in the market for over 30 years and are packed from the moment they open until they close – because people recognize the quality of what they’re eating there, and it is unlike anything else in the neighboring market.
If you haven’t paid them a visit yet, it is time you do. Then you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about, as they will become by far your favorite bakery.