Mishtah el jreesh is a type of bread specific to Jabal ‘Amel in South Lebanon. The name “mishtah” derives from the Arabic word “ishtah” or “to flatten” and refers to the characteristic flatness of the bread. Flat breads referred to as “mashateeh” originated in Iran, where they were called Barbari bread after the Barbar clans in Afghanistan who traded with Persia. The product reached Lebanon from Persia and across the Arabian Peninsula and was adapted by southern Lebanese who developed many new variations suc as mishtah el jreesh.
Traditionally this bread like all old breads, was baked in a furniyeh, or wood-fired clay oven. Today, gas ovens have replaced furniyeh, but can’t reproduce the distinctive flavour of the original wood burning ovens. Each region of the south prepares mishtah differently, and different spice mixtures are associated with different locales. But all mishtah contain a significant proportion of cracked soft wheat, called jreesh, hence the name of the product. Mishtah is an oval shaped, 1.5 cm thick loaf of bread, yellowish in color due to the spices it contains and to the baking process. The distance between the 2 furthest apexes of the oval measure around 25 centimeters.
Mishtah is till consumed on a daily basis by many families, and is associated with many traditions. Demand is usually highest during the winter season, when it is eaten with tea, as well during the Muslim month of Ramadan when is it eaten as an appetizer with cheese and labneh at the time of the breaking of fast.