Mannaeesh is a type of flat bread which is made and served in Lebanon. It is one among a large family of similar breads served across the Middle East and parts of Asia, from pita bread to chapatis. This bread is traditionally served with a wide range of meals, and it can be used to scoop up foods, absorb moist sauces, or as a wrap for various ingredients. Middle Eastern bakeries may carry mannaeesh or similar variants on this bread, and it can also be made at home.
Most mannaeesh is made from wheat, with some bakers using whole wheat for an additional rich, nutty flavor. The wheat flour is combined with flour, salt, oil, and yeast to make a dough which is allowed to rise before being punched down and formed into small rounds which are baked. Typically, the rounds develop a slightly curved surface, and some actually puff up into pockets of bread which can be sliced in half and stuffed.
Traditionally, this bread is topped with a mixture of herbs, seeds, and spices known as za'atar. The blend includes ground thyme, marjoram, sesame seeds, and sumac. The distinctive flavor of sumac is not to everyone's taste, so some bakers leave it off. The bread is also known as mankoush in some regions.
Like other flat breads, mannaeesh is an extremely versatile bread. Many people like to use it as a scoop for curries and dishes like lentils, breaking off chunks of the bread and dipping them into a central pot. It can also be served on the side with individual plates of food to allow people to absorb flavorful sauces, and some people use it to make wraps and sandwiches. Lebanese cuisine incorporates a lot of fresh ingredients and zesty blends of herbs and spices which this bread complements very well.
If you happen to live in an area with a reasonably large Lebanese population, you can probably find this bread at a bakery or grocery store. Some larger markets also stock mannaeesh or similar flatbreads, and you can also improvise your own with a bread recipe of choice. For a more authentic feel, mix some za'atar to top your bread. Like other breads, mannaeesh keeps for around a week when tightly wrapped, and if it starts to get stale, it can be sprinkled with water and toasted to revive the flavor of freshly baked bread.