An odyssey of Palestinian dishes in the West Bank

Yalla! Let's Eat: A journey through Palestinian tastebuds
3 min read
22 February, 2023

Palestine is world-renowned for its cuisine. Join us on a journey through Palestine where we'll give you a rundown of some of the most popular Palestinian dishes and the best spots to find them in the West Bank. 

The first to try is, of course, Maqlouba. Translating to "upside-down" because of how it's presented, the rice-based dish is a medley of meat and vegetables cooked in warm spices like cumin and cinnamon.  

Maqlouba is always served to much fanfare at the table [Getty Images]

A weekend family favourite, Maqlouba is served to share and is true Palestinian comfort food. 

The best place to get the closest to a homemade Maqlouba is Jenin Restaurant in Ramallah. Costing about $10, the restaurant is a mixture of modern design and atmosphere with home-cooked, traditional dishes; a great mix between new and old. 

Mussakhan is a symbol of Palestinian food culture: carefully grown, slow-cooked cuisine

The second Palestinian dish that should be on your radar is Musakkhan. A celebration of the olive harvest, the meal is made with bread made in taboun ovens that were heated slowly overnight until they're hot enough to heat bread; one of the original kinds of slow cooking. The bread is then covered in olive oil, sumac and onions and topped with chicken. The dish is a staple of Palestinian cuisine and is associated with some of the culture's most ancient food traditions. 

Our favourite place to get Musakkhan is from Al-Falaha restaurant in Ein-Arik, approximately 15 minutes drive away from Ramallah city centre. Based in a heritage house, Al-Falaha's food reminds us of grandma's cooking and is certainly not one to be missed.

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In terms of savoury dishes, the final must-try dish is Mahashi wa Warak - stuffed vegetables and grape leaves. Prepared by removing the pulp of the vegetable, often courgette or aubergine, minced meat is then stuffed into the vegetable and steamed with stock and tomatoes.  Like Maqlouba, Mahashi wa Warak is a food that brings the family together and, despite its long cooking time, is guaranteed to be devoured in minutes.

We recommend you try Mahashi wa Warak at Samer restaurant in Al-Bireh. Samer is a welcoming family restaurant that offers a full range of traditional Palestinian dishes, but we think their stuffed vegetables are their best dish.

Man serving kanafeh, traditional pastry from Nablus
A street vendor plates up Knafeh in Nablus [Getty Images]

Now for the sweet dishes where there is only one place to start. Knafeh, Palestinian's pride and joy. Originating in Nablus, known for its goat's cheese, Knafeh is a sweet cheese dish made with semolina dough cooked in large pans with crystallised syrup and pistachios. Whilst most of Palestine has it after later meals, folks from Nablus are known to have Knafeh for breakfast, sandwiched within pita bread.

Whilst Nablus is naturally the best place to get KnafehThe New Arab recommends you go to Abu Salha in the city. Always bustling with activity, you really get a sense at Abu Salha that Knafeh isn't just a food, it's a way of life. 

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Our Palestinian food tour next takes us south to Hebron where we find Karabeej Halab. Similar to churros, it's made with a dough mix that is deep fried and then dipped into syrup. The best place to get the dish is from one of the many stalls scattered around the old city. Be ready for a long-ish wait though as these hole-in-the-walls are very popular.

We conclude our whistle-stop tour with Mutabbaq, a dish solely made by the famous Zalatimo Sweets. A thin sheet of dough stuffed with goat's cheese, walnuts and cinnamon, Mutabbaq is a must-try dish and can only be found in Palestine. $7 per plate, although you make want to save some space in your stomach as we've been back for seconds on multiple occasions!

Lama Obeid is a Palestinian foodie always on the lookout for the best flavours in town.