Syrian food is either very sweet or very sour. Basic foods include lamb, chicken, chickpeas, eggplant, olives, yogurt, rice, and burghul
(cracked wheat). Stuffed grape leaves are a common dish. Other common dishes include hummus
(a ground chickpea paste) falafel
(fried ground chickpeas) and shish kebab
(lamb chunks on skewers). Most food is eaten by hand or scooped up with flatbread. Many meals usually last two or three hours.
When it comes to eating in Syria, there are several social norms and customs to be aware of. Here are some common social norms related to dining in Syria:
Eating with the Right Hand: In Syria, it is customary to eat with the right hand. Using the left hand is generally considered impolite because it is traditionally associated with hygiene purposes. When dining, try to use your right hand for picking up and eating food.
Sharing Food: Syrian meals often involve sharing dishes with others. It is common for several dishes to be placed in the center of the table, and everyone takes a portion from the shared plates. As a guest, wait for the host or the elders to start eating before you begin. It's polite to take small portions at first to ensure everyone gets a fair share.
Sharing Bread: Bread holds a significant role in Syrian cuisine and dining customs. Bread is usually served with meals, and it is customary to break off a piece and use it to scoop up food or as a utensil. It's polite to tear off a small piece and use it for picking up food rather than biting directly into the bread.
Using Utensils: In more formal or upscale settings, utensils such as spoons, forks, and knives may be provided. However, it is still common to use bread to pick up food even when utensils are available. Follow the lead of your hosts or those around you regarding the use of utensils.
Accepting Second Helpings: When dining in a Syrian home, it is polite to accept second helpings if offered. This demonstrates your appreciation for the meal and the hospitality of your hosts. Even if you are full, accepting a small portion or politely declining while expressing your gratitude is considered respectful.
Appreciating the Food: Syrians take pride in their cuisine, so it is appreciated when guests show enjoyment and appreciation for the food. Expressing compliments and thanking the host for the delicious meal is customary and considered polite.
Offering and Declining Food: In Syrian culture, it is common for hosts to continuously offer more food and encourage guests to eat. As a guest, it's acceptable to politely decline additional servings if you are satisfied. However, if you genuinely want more food, accepting second helpings or asking for more is also acceptable.
Wait for the Elderly or the Host to Finish: In a social gathering, it is considered polite to wait until the elderly or the host finishes eating before leaving the table. Leaving before the host or elders may be seen as impolite or disrespectful.