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The Mahrajan Middle Eastern Food Festival. Courtesy photo.




Mahrajan Middle Eastern Food Festival 

Where: Our Lady of the Cedars Church, 140 Mitchell St., Manchester
When: Friday, Aug. 19, from 5 to 10 p.m.; Saturday, Aug. 20, from noon to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, Aug. 21, from noon to 5 p.m. 
Cost: Admission is free. Food is priced per item. 
Visit: bestfestnh.com




Middle East feast
Mahrajan festival features Lebanese specialties

08/18/16
By Angie Sykeny asykeny@hippopress.com



Whether you love Middle Eastern food already or you’ve never tried it but would like to, the Mahrajan Middle Eastern Food Festival will offer plenty of the culture’s specialties, like lamb kabobs, shawarma, mamoul cookies and more.

The three-day festival is held Friday, Aug. 19, through Sunday, Aug. 21, at Our Lady of the Cedars Melkite Catholic Church in Manchester.
The festival began about 40 years ago as a small Sunday afternoon meal, then gained more and more community interest over time. Since the church’s original founders were from Lebanon, the food is primarily Lebanese in origin.
“They’re very traditional [dishes]. These are all of our mothers’ recipes that we’re using,” said festival co-coordinator Marylou Lazos, who oversees the cooking operations for the festival. “Some of these things you won’t find anywhere else.”
The appetizer menu has items like hummus with lemon and tahini (a sesame paste), tabbouleh salad (parsley, cracked wheat and tomato with lemon and spices), tzatziki (a yogurt cucumber dip spiced with garlic and mint) and individual servings of meat pies and spinach pies known as fatayars.
“The flavors in this kind of food are familiar to most people,” Lazos said. “It’s a lot of garlic, salt and pepper, cinnamon, allspice, mint and sesame tastes, and there’s nothing hot and spicy. There’s definitely a lot of flavor, but it’s nothing too strange tasting.”
For entrees, there’s the lubyeh (green beans cooked in tomato sauce and spices, served over rice), falafel, the kibbee platter (spiced ground beef baked and mixed with cracked wheat and layered with pine nuts, lamb and onions) and mujaddara (lentils with rice and caramelized onions).
But the biggest sellers, Lazos said, are the marinated lamb, beef tip and chicken kabobs, the stuffed grape leaves known as warak arish, served with Lebanese-style yogurt, and a very popular dish called shawarma.
“People love the shawarma,” she said. “It’s roasted lamb or chicken sliced thinly and put into a wrap of vegetables and sauces, either tahini sauce, which has a sesame taste, or the yogurt sauce, tzatziki, which has a mint taste.”
The festival’s menu also includes traditional Middle Eastern desserts like baklawa (Lebanese baklava), date- and nut-filled mamoul cookies, coosa pita (custard made with a sweetened summer squash that’s layered between sheets of phyllo dough) and almond butter cookies known as ghrybe.
People can eat at the event or take their food to go, but most people stay to enjoy the other cultural activities like music and dancing, hookah rentals, a bazaar and fun and games for kids.
“We just hope people come and try us out,” Lazos said. “Every year we listen to what people say and keep improving the recipes a little, so the food tastes better every year.”





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