Labneh, Laban and Shanklish

Labneh is the Levantine cousin of crème fraîche and sour cream. It’s made by straining yogurt and is often served with a drizzle of olive oil and eaten with bread. But labneh is also often processed further, with additional drying, whereupon it is rolled into balls. The balls are then pressed with herbs (often za’atar) and preserved in olive oil, and handmade jars of them are available in endless varieties in villages and towns all over Lebanon. Labneh is a daily staple of Lebanese food. It's eaten at breakfast, as a snack in a sandwich, and with mezze, often with garlic or chopped vegetables. 

 

A delicacy made in a similar fashion is shanklish. These are labneh balls that have been coated in zaatar and fermented and aged, and they’re traditionally served with finely chopped tomatoes and onion and olive oil as well as other sides as a means of cutting across the intense flavor. Other presentations include mashing shanklish chopped hardboiled eggs. A glass of arak definitely fits the bill when eathing shankish, as well. 

 

Laban is yogurt. It's similar to Greek yogurt in sourness, but it's not as thick. Laban ayran is a drinkable version, and makes an excellent companion to many traditional meals.