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A large plate of Jordanian mezze in Petra, Jordan.
A large meze platter in Petra, Jordan
Alternative namesMezze

Meze (also spelled mezze or mezé) (/ˈmɛz/, /ˈmɛzɛ/) is a selection of small dishes served as appetizers in the Levant, Turkey, Greece, Iraq, Egypt, the Balkans, the Caucasus and Iran.[1][2] It is similar to Spanish tapas and Italian antipasti.[3] A mezze may be served as a part of a multi-course meal or form a meal in itself. Mezze are often served with alcoholic beverages such as arak.


Different meze plates from Turkey
Different meze plates from Turkey

The word meze is found in all the cuisines of the former Ottoman Empire, borrowed from Turkish, which in turn had borrowed it from the Persian mazzeh or mazzah (مَزّه) 'taste' or 'relish'.[4]

Common dishes

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In Turkey, meze often consist of beyaz peynir (literally "white cheese"), kavun (sliced ripe melon),[2] acılı ezme (hot pepper paste often with walnuts), haydari (thick strained yogurt with herbs), patlıcan salatası (cold eggplant salad), beyin salatası (brain salad), kalamar tava (fried calamari or squid), midye dolma and midye tava (stuffed or fried mussels), enginar (artichokes), cacık (yogurt with cucumber and garlic), pilaki (foods cooked in a special sauce), dolma or sarma (rice-stuffed vine leaves or other stuffed vegetables, such as bell peppers), Arnavut ciğeri (a liver dish, served cold), octopus salad, and çiğ köfte (raw meatballs with bulgur).

In Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria and the rest of the Balkans, mezé, mezés, or mezédhes (plural) are small dishes, hot or cold, spicy or savory. Seafood dishes such as grilled octopus may be included, along with salads, sliced hard-boiled eggs, garlic bread, kalamata olives, fava beans, fried vegetables, melitzanosalata (eggplant salad), taramosalata, fried or grilled cheeses called saganaki, and sheep, goat, or cow cheeses.

Simple Greek meze: cheese and olives (feta cheese drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with oregano, served with kalamata olives and bread)
Simple Greek meze: cheese and olives (feta cheese drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with oregano, served with kalamata olives and bread)
Meze plate in Albania
Meze plate in Albania
Tzatziki, a popular meze in Greece
Tzatziki, a popular meze in Greece

Popular meze dishes include the following.

Arabic Greek Turkish Armenian Image Description
Arayes Lahmacun Lahmajo Barbecued flatbread filled with lamb meat, onions, tomatoes and spices
Asbe sawda Sykotákia Arnavut ciğeri
Albanian liver.jpg
A liver dish
Baba ghanoush
Melitzanosaláta Patlıcan ezmesi
Baba Ghanoush.jpg
Mashed eggplant (aubergine)
Burek Bouréki Börek Boureg
Su Böreği.JPG
Phyllo/yufka-based filled pastries
Wara Enab Dolmathákia Sarma
(Yaprak sarma)


Yarpaq dolması.jpg
Leaves (mostly grape leaves) rolled around rice-based filling
Falafel Revithokeftédes Falafel/Felafel
A deep-fried ball or patty made from ground chickpeas, fava beans, or both
Fasuliya Gigantes plaki Fasulye pilaki Fasoulia
Fattoush Fettuş
Fattoush mixed-salad.jpg
Salad of vegetables and toasted or fried pieces of pita bread
Fáva Santorínis
Greek fava.jpg
Lathyrus clymenum seeds boiled and mashed into paste, with olive oil and chopped onion
Ful (Mdammas) Koukiá Bakla ezmesi
Fava beans mixed with seasonings
Hummus Hoúmous Humus Homus
A dip or spread made from cooked, mashed chickpeas
Kalamarákia tiganitá Kalamar tava Fried squid (calamari)
Khyar Bi Laban Tzatziki Cacık (read:jah-juck; soupy or dry variations), Haydari(dry; no cucumber and strained yoghurt) Jajik Cucumber, yogurt, herbs (mostly mint), seasonings(garlic optional), served thick as a dip in Greece and thin like a cold soup in Turkey and Arabic countries
Kibbeh Koúpes İçli köfte Ishli Kyufta
Meatballs made of bulghur, chopped meat, filled with meat, pine nuts and spices
Kafta(Kofta) Keftédes Kofte Kufteh Meatballs made of chopped meat, onion, parsley, and spices
Şiş köfte Kebab-style köfte
Kibbeh nayyeh Çiğ köfte Chi Kufte
Kibbeh Nayyeh.jpg
Raw meat dish
Kısır Eech
Bulgur salad with finely ground parsley, and tomato paste
Kolokythoanthoí gemistoí Kabak çiçeği dolması
Kolokythoanthoi gemistoi me giaourti.jpg
Stuffed squash blossom
Labaneh Labne

Süzme Yoğurt

Yoghurt that has been strained to remove most of its whey, resulting in a thicker consistency than unstrained yoghurt

(Seasoning such as garlic and herbs are sometimes added)

Ljit kousa Kolokythokeftédes Mücver
Zucchini Fritters - Lunch at Yanyali Fehmi Lokantasi (6421047753).jpg
Zucchini fritters
Muhammara Cevizli Acılı Ezme
Tanoreen muhammara.jpg
A hot pepper dip with ground walnuts, breadcrumbs, garlic, salt, lemon juice, and olive oil
Piyaz 01.jpg
Salad made from any kind of dry beans with onion, parsley and sumac
Salatit Roka Róka Saláta Roka


Rocket salad
Eggplant and green pepper şakşuka (shakshuka).jpg
Vegetables cooked in olive oil
Sikh lahme (for lamb or beef), Shish taouk (for chicken) Souvlaki Şiş tavuk

Çöp şiş
Shish taouk.jpg
Bite sized meat cubes (lamb is very common), grilled on a skewer over charcoal
Sujuk Soutzoúki Sucuk Sojoukh
Sucuk (1).jpg
Dry, spicy sausage
Tabbouleh Maintanosaláta Tabbule or Arap salatası Tabuleh
Flickr - cyclonebill - Tabbouleh.jpg
Bulgur, finely chopped parsley, mint, tomato, spring onion, with lemon juice, olive oil and seasonings
Taramosalata Tarama
Dip made from tarama, the salted and cured roe of the cod, carp, or grey mullet (bottarga) mixed with olive oil, lemon juice, and a starchy base of bread or potatoes, or sometimes almonds
Tajin Dip made of fish and Tarator (Tahini and lemon)
Gemistá Dolma Dolma
Peppers, eggplants, or courgettes stuffed with rice and meat

Other meze dishes include cheeses (like halloumi, labneh, tulum, or shanklish) or meat dishes (like afelia, lountza, or pastirma), fish (like fried whitebait, calamari).

In Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Cyprus, meze is often a meal in its own right. There are vegetarian, meat or fish mezes. Groups of dishes arrive at the table about four or five at a time (usually between five and ten groups). There is a set pattern to the dishes: typically olives, tahini, salad, and yogurt will be followed by dishes with vegetables and eggs, then small meat or fish dishes alongside special accompaniments, and finally more substantial dishes such as whole fish or meat stews and grills. Establishments will offer their own specialties, but the pattern remains the same. Naturally the dishes served will reflect the seasons. For example, in late autumn, snails will be prominent. As so much food is offered, it is not expected that every dish be finished, but rather shared at will and served at ease.

In the Balkans, meze is very similar to an Italian antipasto in that cured cold-cuts, cheese and salads are dominant and cooked foods are not included. In Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Montenegro it includes hard or creamy cheeses, kajmak (clotted cream) or smetana cream, salami, ham and other forms of suho/suvo meso (cured pork or beef), kulen (paprika flavoured, cured sausage), cured bacon, ajvar, and various savory pastries. For Muslims, meze replaces pork products with sudžuk (dry, spicy sausage) and the pastirma-like cured beef suho meso. In southern Croatia, Herzegovina, and Montenegro, cured meat such as pršut and panceta and regional products like olives are common. Albanian-style meze platters typically include prosciutto ham, salami, and brined cheese, accompanied with roasted bell peppers (capsicum) or green olives marinated in olive oil with garlic. In Bulgaria, popular mezes are lukanka (a spicy sausage), soujouk (a dry and spicy sausage) and sirene (a white brine cheese). The Bulgarian-made shopska salad is also a very popular meze. It is made with tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, peppers, and sirene. Ajvar and pindjur are popular mezes in North Macedonia. In Romania, mezelic means a quick appetizer and includes zacuscă, cheeses, and salamis, often accompanied by tuică.

Alcoholic accompaniment

Depending on the region, meze can be served with alcohol. In the Middle East, most people will opt for arak or ouzo. In the Balkans, meze are generally accompanied by the distilled drinks rakı, arak, ouzo, Aragh Sagi, rakia, mastika, or tsipouro. It may also be consumed with beer, wine and other alcoholic drinks. Cyprus brandy (served neat) is a favourite drink to accompany meze in Cyprus, although lager or wine are popular with some.[citation needed]

Serving traditions

In Bulgaria, meze is served primarily at the consumption of wine, rakia, and mastika, but also accompanying other alcoholic drinks that are not local to the region. In addition to traditional local foods, meze can include nuts, sweets, or pre-packaged snacks. The term meze is generally applied to any foods and snacks consumed alongside an alcoholic beverage. In Greece, meze is served in restaurants called mezedopoleíon and tsipourádiko or ouzerí, a type of café that serves ouzo or tsipouro. A tavérna (tavern) or estiatório (restaurant) offer a mezé as an orektikó (appetiser). Many restaurants offer their house poikilía ("variety")—a platter with a smorgasbord of mezédhes that can be served immediately to customers looking for a quick or light meal. Hosts commonly serve mezédhes to their guests at informal or impromptu get-togethers, as they are easy to prepare on short notice. Krasomezédhes (literally "wine-meze") is a meze that goes well with wine; ouzomezédhes are meze that goes with ouzo.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ Davidson, Alan (21 August 2014). The Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford University Press. pp. 517–518. ISBN 9780191040726 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ a b Arditi, Talya (29 December 2015). "How to drink raki: A crash course in Turkey's signature drink". CNN Travel. CNN. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
  3. ^ Weir, Joanne. From Tapas to Meze: Small Plates from the Mediterranean. United States, Ten Speed Press, 2004.
  4. ^ Speake, Jennifer; LaFlaur, Mark, eds. (1999). "Meze". The Oxford Essential Dictionary of Foreign Terms in English. Oxford Reference. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 13 December 2020.