What is Man’oushe?
Manoushe (as it’s also spelled) is a Lebanese street food, a popular breakfast that is eaten on the go, crispy on the outside, slightly chewy on the inside, and topped with the most aromatic of spice blends – za’atar in olive oil.
I’ve not been to Lebanon (yet), but I’ve been lucky enough to have enjoyed the real thing in 2 very cosmopolitan cities: Paris and London.
Imagine my delight upon chancing on a manoushe stand in Paris the last couple of times I was there. Ok, that second time, I did seek it out! And boy, as much as I love freshly made French crêpes, that trip, I stuffed myself silly with all sorts of manakish (مناقيش the plural), with nary a sniff of pancake to be had!
In London, while we have so many supposedly Lebanese joints selling the usual kebabs and all, the only place that sells beautifully made manaqeesh is the dubiously named Shakeshuka Restaurant, a Palestinian and Lebanese eatery. Forget the name, because the food here is absolutely delicious, it’s difficult not to want to set up camp there everytime I’m in town.
Fancy a (very) simplified Arabic pronunciation lesson?
I am no expert, while I studied Arabic as a kid and can still comfortably read it, I struggle with the nuances of the language and script. But let me have a go, and if any of you wants to correct me, by all means, I shall appreciate it.
How to pronounce Man’oushe?
Man’oushe, as you can expect, has various spellings when spelled in English. The apostrophe (‘) represents a glottal stop. To put it simply, imagine there is a letter q after the letter n: so you would say manq, as in manqoushe, which is a variant spelling of this Lebanese flatbread, as is manooshe.
Having said that, dropping the q sound, is apparently, a pretty common practice amongst the Lebanese. The same principle also applies to the plural version.
But, let’s move on the the flatbread itself!
Manoushe can be eaten with a variety of toppings. The most popular, basic and well known is the za’atar topping.
What is Za’atar?
While Za’atar is also the generic name for certain herbs like wild thyme (Za’atar is thyme in Arabic), oregano and bible hyssop, the term itself is more commonly used to refer to a particular Middle Eastern spice mix of thyme, sesame seeds and sumac. You’ll find our recipe, and a link to the YouTube video I did some years ago, here.
Manakish are also commonly topped with cheese, labneh (yoghurt), salads, meat, kishk (dried yoghurt and burghul) and these days, in keeping with the times, heaven forbid, nutella! And various other sweet toppings.
In the image below, you can see one manoushe topped with a red sauce and cheese. This is how that came about – I had just posted a recipe for a homemade Red Chilli Pesto. One my friends Rita, who blogs over at Dolce Rita and is Lebanese/Syrian, said:
“Imagine this: red chili pesto on a sourdough mana’ich with some extra Parmesan and mozzarella. It sounds perfect, right?”
It sounded so perfect, that I dreamt about it that night. Seriously. Because I am in love with chilli pesto! So it just had to be done, and is definitely a favourite manoushe topping of mine now!
And that, was the kick in the butt I needed to finally get around to blogging about this favourite Lebanese flatbread, after first promising it with the za’atar post, 3 years ago!
But no sourdough for now, as I had to start with the basic version. Who knows, I might get around to posting the sourdough version one day too. Probably 3 years from now!
Manoushe is a very simple offering, like many flatbreads are, but once you taste it with its myriad of possible toppings, you will see that it is no poor man’s food, as it pretends to be! Just like pizza, it is food for any occasion; I have hosted many a flatbread party, and the manoushe never fails to be King! Above the pizza!
Making Man’oushe at Home
Making manoushe is a pretty straightforward affair. The dough is like that of pita, and you can make it a thin, crispy bread or make it thicker, with a chewy middle. When the manoushe is baked in an oven, whether a pizza oven or a standard one, it tends to be the thicker version.
When man’oushe is baked on a saj, then you roll it thinner, and it comes out leaner, and is perfect for rolling up. A saj is a cooking contraption that looks like an upside down wok. The flatbreads, and even sandwiches, are cooked on the hot slopes of the saj. It can be heated with coals, or the modern versions will be gas powered, these were the types found in the pop ups in Paris. So, theoretically, you could make your own saj by using your wok upside down!
Incidentally, the word man’oushe means stamped or decorated, referring to the dough being flattened using ones fingers, and leaving tiny, round dips on the top of the manoushe. These dips will also hold more of whatever wet topping you may be using.
However, as you can see from the images here, I don’t bother making pronounced finger dips on the flattened manoushe dough, although I do use my fingers to shape it. I’ve seen many people using a rolling pin, including David Lebovitz. If you prefer to, by all means, it’ll help you control the shape, but remember rustic?
Of course, if you’re like me, it took me about 20 years to master the art of rolling out chapatis into rounds! The fun my dad used to have when he visited me! Use the hands, baby, use the hands!
Tips for making Manoushe
A quick note before we get down to business; the manoushe dough is very wet and soft. It is probably best made in a food processor. If you are kneading it with your hands, keep flouring them, but be careful not to add too much extra flour to the dough.
If you regularly bake flatbreads, pizza included, then chances are, you already have one. If not, getting one is a very good idea.
A pizza peel will make transferring your man’oushe to the hot pizza stone or baking sheet much easier. A pizza peel is the pizza board (wooden or metal) you use for inserting and removing pizzas in the oven. Technically, any wooden board will also work, preferably, with a handle.
In fact, I tend to shape the manoushe on the pizza peel, which is liberally sprinkled with flour or fine semolina. For an idea on how the pizza peel comes in handy, head on over to the post on Barbari, the Persian breakfast flatbread.
And if you fancy more recipes from the region, head on over to the Middle Eastern and North African page for amazing offerings like:
More Bread Recipes on LinsFood
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Man’oushe (منقوشه), Lebanese Za’atar Flatbread
- 1 tsp dry active yeast
- 1 tsp white sugar
- 185 ml (3/4 cup) lukewarm water
- 350 g (2 4/5 cups) all purpose (AP) flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp EV olive oil plus extra for greasing the proofing bowl
- 125 ml (½ cup) EV olive oil
- 3 Tbsp za’atar
- Place the yeast, sugar and half the water in a large bowl (big enough to take the flour and the rest of the water. Mix and leave to froth, in a warm room, for 10 – 15 minutes. If you are mixing your dough using a food processor, just do this stage straight in your mixing bowl. Make sure that your metal bowl isn’t too cold to begin with. My kitchen is cool-cold, unless the oven is turned on, so the metal bowl is always cold.
- When the yeast is all activated and frothy/foamy, sift the flour straight into your bowl. Add the rest of the water, the salt and the olive oil. If using the food processor, mix on the lowest setting with a dough hook, for 1 minute. If using your hands, mix everything up with a wooden spoon, then finish off with well floured hands.
- If using your hands, tip the dough onto your well floured work surface, and knead for about 5 minutes, until you have a smooth and slightly shiny dough. Keep flouring your hands regularly, but don’t add too much flour to the dough.
- Lightly grease a large glass bowl, and place the dough into it. Cover with a cling film, and leave to rise and double in size for 90 minutes in a warm place. I place the bowl in amy airing cupboard.
- At the end of that time, tip the dough out onto a well floured surface, and divide into 6 balls.
- Using well floured fingers, flatten each dough ball into a flat, round bread. I also squash any large air bubbles at this stage, to stop the bread from puffing up unnecessarily, because we didn’t flatten the dough earlier, if you remember.
- Spread the za’atar mixture on each bread, as in the image here, stopping short of the edges. You’ll probably need 2-3 tsp for each manoushe. Leave the manakish to rest for 5 minutes. Place 2 pizza stones or baking sheets in the oven and turn the oven on to 250˚C (500˚F/230˚C Fan).
- Transfer the za’atar manoushe onto the pizza stone using a pizza peel. If you don’t have a pizza peel, place a layer of baking paper on a baking sheet, transfer the manoushe onto it, then slide the whole thing onto the pizza stone.
- Bake for 7-8 minutes, until a lovely shade of medium brown. As mentioned above, you can top the manoushe with anything you like.
The cooking time also assumes you are baking 2 manakish at a time.