Al-Man’oucheh is the quintessential Lebanese breakfast. The term Man’oucheh describes an indented dough. It comes from the Arabic word na’sh, which refers to the way the fingertips of the practitioners, regardless of gender or age, create impressions on the dough to prevent the garnish from dripping off. The dough used for al-Man’ouché is made from sifted wheat flour, baker’s yeast, sugar, salt, a small amount of oil, and water. Its preparation is carried out by women for domestic consumption or by individuals of any gender within the same family in small Man’ouché bakeries. The dough is kneaded by hand, either by experienced women accustomed to making traditional bread or by men and women with the assistance of electric kneading machines. While preparing the dough, the practitioners, especially the women, pray that it will rise. Muslims recite the beginning of fatiha, and Christians recite several prayers and then make the sign of the cross before allowing the dough to rest. Once the dough has rested, it is divided into portions by hand.

The flattening of the portions of dough and their preparation is generally done by women, by hand; they make circular movements with the hands, then flip the dough from one hand to the other to enlarge it or roll it out with a rolling pin before indenting it and stretching it out over a sewn and stuffed round pillow. It is then placed on the iron dome (saj) or on the internal walls of a brick oven (tannour) or clay oven (taboun), which are made by the men. The topping is added once the dough is placed on the heat source.An electric press is also used. In this case, the dough is spread out on boards, indented and topped and then placed in the gas or wood-fired oven or stretched out over a round pillow for the saj, tannour or taboun. Once cooked, al-Man’oucheh is rolled up and eaten by hand, with or without an additional filling.

The preparation of the Man’oucheh dough and topping requires knowledge and skills that are generally passed down from generation to generation and among peers. The techniques are learned through observation, participation, and imitation.

In the home, mothers teach their daughters and, less frequently, their sons how to prepare al-Man’oucheh dough and topping. This transmission often takes place between women of the same family, the same generation or among friends or neighbours who share recipes. In the small Man’oucheh bakeries, mostly owned by men and/or women of the same family, the men pass on the skills from father to son and the women from mother to daughter or son.

When all the members of the same family participate in making al-Man’oucheh, there is a division of family tasks according to gender. Women transmit the techniques of kneading, cutting, flattening and garnishing, and men transmit the skills of stoking the fire, placing the flatbread in the oven and packaging it. These techniques are also transmitted among peers.

Delicious and filling at the same time, this flatbread garnished with wild thyme provides energy in the morning. Its aroma evokes the morning gatherings called sobhhiyé, which are important moments for Lebanese sociability, bringing together families, neighbours or friends. These gatherings in homes and in small al-Manoucheh bakeries called forn (oven) or snack bars in the city’s neighbourhoods and villages create or strengthen social ties.

Family members and female neighbours or friends come together to eat it while drinking tea or coffee. In urban and rural areas, small bakeries are also a gathering place for customers, for students on their way to school and anyone passing.

Massaad Abdeni Barbara, Man’ouché. Inside The Lebanese Street Corner Bakery, Massachussets: Interlink books, 2015.
Mhaidli Nabiha, man’ouchet Mariam, Beyrouth : Dar al-hada’eq lilnasher, 2013. (livre pour enfants en langue arabe)
Yazbeck Cherine, The rural taste of Lebanon, 2013.
Zébib Daher Rania, man’ouchet zaatar, Beyrouth : Dar ‘asala, 2000. (livre pour enfants en langue arabe)