To the Egyptians, it is salata baladi (سلطة البلدي), or salata arbya (سلطة عربية). They also call it Jerusalem salad.
This salad is the most served in Egypt, in the Levant countries, the Middle East and North Africa.
What is salata baladi?
Made with tomato, cucumber, parsley, onion, and bell pepper, the salata baladi is very quick and easy to prepare.
Just cut the vegetables very finely, season them with lemon and vinegar and flavor them with a subtle hint of cumin and ground red chili pepper.
It is possible to vary the quantities: more cucumber to obtain more crunchiness, more parsley to add more green or even the addition of a green chili to add spiciness. Only the skin of the onion should be removed.
It is recommended to use a type of tomato with firm flesh, sweet and containing little water. The Roma tomato is perfect for this recipe.
As for the cucumber, although all varieties of cucumbers are allowed, salata baladi is absolutely delicious with either Persian cucumbers or mini cucumbers.
The expression al-baladi is a short and useful expression, very popular in Egypt, literally meaning “of the country”.
There is duck al-baladi, chicken al-baladi, pigeon al-baladi, bread al-baladi, which means the Egyptians sign and emphasize the authenticity of their recipes.
However, salata baladi can also be translated as “countryside salad” and baladi is also translated as “my country”, “my nation”, “my region” or “my village”. Salata baladi therefore means “the salad of my country”.
The different variants of the salata baladi
In the Arab world, salata baladi is commonly called the Arab salad (salata arbya or سلطة عربية).
In Morocco, it is also called chlada. It is made with a particular variety of cucumber from Armenia called feggous or feqqous by Moroccans. This cucumber is slightly sweet and very crunchy, with a taste so unique and fragrant that it is self-sufficient and hardly needs to be seasoned.
In Algeria, the Arab salad is called salata jaza’iriya (Algerian salad) but there is also another Arab salad based on black olives and oranges called salatat zaytoon (olive salad).
In Tunisia, it is called salata machwiya, salata méchouia (grilled salad) or slata tounsia (Tunisian salad) and it is made with pepper, tomato, garlic and onion, all of them grilled.
It is often served with olives and tuna on top. This same recipe is also prepared in Algeria where it is called hmiss.
In Syria and Lebanon, in addition to the salatet banadoura (tomato salad) virtually identical to salata baladi, there are two other Arab salads: salatat khurshoof (artichoke salad) and salatat shamandar (beet salad).
Arab salads include the Iranian shirazi salad, the Turkish çoban salatası and the Israeli salad or yerakot salad (vegetable salad).
What is the origin of salad?
The word salad comes from the Italian insalata meaning “salty food”. The word “salad” in English comes from the French word salade, which has the same meaning, itself an abbreviated form from the vulgar ancient Latin herba salata (salty vegetables), from the Latin salata (salty), sal (salt).
In English, the word appeared for the first time as salad or sallet in the 14th century. Salt is associated with salad because vegetables in Roman times were seasoned with brine (a solution of salt and water) or salty vinaigrettes with oil and vinegar.
Several centuries ago, while men devoted themselves to hunting and fishing, women selected and cultivated vegetables in rudimentary gardens built around their villages.
In reality, the first vegetables appeared on the food table a little more than 5000 years ago, that is to say in the Neolithic, which marks the transition from a nomadic economy to a permanent economy, based around the handling of wild plants and around the collection and conservation of products from the earth, in protected places.
The inhabitants of Mesopotamia were the first to experiment with cooking vegetables, ignoring the loss of the typical elements of vegetables such as enzymes, vitamins and minerals which, when cooked at 140 F (60˚C), are lost in the cooking water.
Even produce from the vegetable gardens of the Nile valleys, found in tombs, demonstrate the presence of vegetables in the diet at the time.
However, it was in fact the Greeks who domesticated nature to reap the benefits of agriculture which represented a large part of their daily caloric intake.
Father of classic dietetics, Hippocrates demonstrated the beneficial effects of carrots, celery and many other vegetables.
The Romans ate different types of vegetables: turnips, beets, carrots, radishes, bulbs, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, mushrooms, cabbage, lettuce, chicory or endives, artichokes, cucumbers, beans, lentils, peas.
How have salads changed throughout history?
Nowadays, we go from sad salad leaves that accompany sandwiches to chef salads, rich and colorful in ingredients and seasonings.
The 17th century was the century of large colorful salads, made up of a real kaleidoscope of ingredients. Many cookbooks explained how to prepare salads. Robert May’s The Accomplisht Cook (1660) already explained how to prepare a salad with at least 18 ingredients including figs and potatoes.
The discourse on salads also continued in the 19th century, with the publication of several manuals dedicated to good food and to the taste of time, such as The physiology of taste (1825) by the brilliant gastronome and magistrate, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin.
At that time, in France, only the greatest chefs prepared salads.
From the 20th century onwards, especially in England, salads were considered a dish for the wealthy and had to be seasoned with great care when serving them.
Today, salads are among the cheapest dishes.
Very few calories, a lot of well-being and a perfectly satisfying delicacy for this delicious and yet so simple salata baladi which has accompanied falafels, shawarma, and shish kebab with very hot pita.
- 3 firm Roma tomatoes , diced
- 2 mini cucumbers , diced
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
- 1 bell pepper , diced
- 1 small red onion , peeled and diced
- 1 freshly squeezed lemon
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- ½ teaspoon fleur de sel
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- In a bowl, mix all the ingredients.
- Serve fresh.