In Lebanon, eating pizza for breakfast isn't the hallmark of a bad hangover or a fridge devoid of more conventional breakfast products – instead, it's a perfectly acceptable way to start the day, provided it's freshly baked and piping hot, rather than stone cold and slightly congealed as the Western Sunday morning tradition ordains.
Lebanese breakfast pizza - otherwise known as man'oushe, manousheh if you're referring to many (as in, the number you're eating tomorrow morning) or manakeesh - is a morning menu mainstay in Levantine cuisine, sitting alongside falafel in the ranks of the country's most iconic foods.
It's crispy on the outside, doughy on the inside and usually topped with a mix of thyme, sumac and sesame seeds (za'atar), meats, cheeses, Lebanese yoghurt or any combination of these before being baked to perfection in a large, hot oven. Countless dedicated bakeries are popping up in the boroughs and villages of Lebanon and beyond (Manaeesh Bakery and Pizza, to name one in Sydney), testament to the steadily increasing popularity of the flatbread variant, both at home and around the world.
"[It's] evolving to this day to become Lebanon’s most demanded breakfast," Lebanese celebrity chef Ramzi Choueiri writes in his 2002 book, The Culinary Heritage of Lebanon.
"The main reasons for that are its ease and and speed of preparation, its low price tag, it being tasty and its readiness to marry with a multitude of ingredients to produce a world of flavour.”
"It's evolving to this day to become Lebanon’s most demanded breakfast."
In Sydney, the fervour for Lebanese pizza is best illustrated in the lines snaking around the block outside Manoosh Pizzeria, the beloved fast food chain (voted most popular takeaway and delivery in the 2014 Menulog Awards) that starts peddling its breakfast offerings as early as 5:30am in some locations. Manoosh's traditional Lebanese pizza varieties include flatbread topped with za'atar, za'atar and haloumi, and three cheese – any one of which would be considered the breakfast of champions.
Smaller, independent bakeries in Sydney's suburbs are feeling the manousheh heat too. "In the past year or so we've definitely noticed an increase in customers ordering Lebanese pizza for breakfast," says Carl Boumehri, owner of Manoushee on Major's Bay in Concord. "People in Australia are getting used to it, what it is and how affordable it is."
And it's not just a hit with Lebanese Australians. Boumerhi has noticed more diversity in his customer base – everyone from Italians and Greeks to Eastern Europeans.
According to Boumerhi, the secret weapon that gets people hooked on manousheh is all in the dough. Lebanese pizza is made with a lighter dough than other types of pizza, meaning a crispier exterior and a fluffier, chewier interior. "The recipe we use has been passed down through our ancestors, from my great, great grandmother," he explains.
"It has authentic roots in North Lebanon, and every time I eat it it reminds me of my hometown."
Boumerhi puts its origins at "a long, long, long time ago," but exactly when is difficult to pinpoint.
"It's a basic meal, but it's wholesome. For $3-$4 you can be full for most of the day, and for the large part it's pretty nutritious," says Boumerhi. "It's better than eating Dominoes for breakfast!"
This classic Lebanese salad, known as peasant's salad, is made with fresh vegetables and herbs with the addition of fried crispy day-old bread. I'm using my grandmother's recipe to make my flatbread from scratch.