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Hummus: A Disputed Dip
One of the most crowd-pleasing starters on any Middle Eastern menu is hummus. To discover the secrets of this social dish, dip into Groupon’s examination.
Hummus at its most basic is a Middle Eastern dip made of blended chickpeas, the sesame-seed paste tahini, lemon, garlic, and olive oil. In American restaurants and supermarkets, chefs often innovate by adding other ingredients such as chili peppers, cayenne, vegetables, and even spices from other cultures such as curry powder. But back in the Middle East, flavored hummus is often frowned upon, and variation happens in the realm of technique, resulting in thicker and thinner dishes with different levels of creaminess, acidity, and bite. With high protein content and low cholesterol, plenty of dietary fiber and vitamin B6, the dish serves as a reminder of chickpeas’ nutritional benefits. It may also make diners feel good for reasons beyond a full belly. The Christian Science Monitor reported in 2007 that researchers at Hebrew University and Tel Aviv University found that chickpeas have high levels of tryptophan, which helps boost production of the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin.
In the Middle East today, one contested issue is the matter of who originated hummus: Israel claims it as a national dish, but so do Lebanon and Egypt, and in any event, evidence of chickpea cultivation by the peoples of the Levant has been found as far back as the 7th century BC. One proving ground in this debate has been the Guinness World Record for largest plate of hummus—a title currently held by Lebanon for an 11.5-ton serving made by 300 chefs, enough to support an entire navy of pita-bread boats.