Meze or mezze (Arabic, مَزة, Greek mezé (μεζέ), Bulgarian: мезé/mezé, Turkish meze, ultimately from Persian maze (مزه) "taste, snack" ) in eastern Mediterranean is a selection of appetizers or small dishes often served with beverage, like anise-flavored liqueurs as the arak, ouzo, raki or different wines, similar to the tapas of Spain or finger food.
In Levantine cuisines and in the Caucasus region (especially in Armenia and Georgia), these dishes are served as appetizers, as a part of any large-scale meal. When not accompanied by alcohol, meze are known in the Middle East as muqabbilat (Arabic: starters).
In Greece and Cyprus, meze, mezes, or mezethes are small dishes, hot or cold, spicy or savory, often salty (and/or a small portion of a main dish). Often seafood dishes are served as meze, such as "little fish" or grilled octopus, small salads, kalamata olives, fava beans, fried vegetables, melitzanosalata (eggplant salad),
taramosalata (salted and cured carp or cod roe mixed with bread crumbs or mashed potato, lemon juice, vinegar and olive oil), nuts and dried fruits, fried or grilled cheeses called saganaki, and various fresh Greek sheep, goat or cow cheeses (such as feta, kasseri, kefalotyri, graviera, anthotyros, manouri, metsovone and mizithra). Other small dishes are bekri meze (a Greek meat stew), and meatballs like keftedes and soutzoukakia smyrneika. Meze is served in restaurants called mezedopoulion, served to complement beverage, and in similar establishments known as tsipouradiko or ouzeri (a type of café that serves beverage, like ouzo or tsipouro). A Taverna or Estiatorio also offer a meze as an orektiko (appetiser). Hosts commonly serve mezethes to entertain their guests at small get-togethers. Krasomezethes (literally "winemeze") is a meze that goes well with wines. Ouzomezethes are meze that goes with ouzo.
In Lebanon and Cyprus, meze is often a meal in its own right. There are vegetarian, meat or fish mezes. Groups of dishes arrive at the table about 4 or 5 at a time (usually between five and ten different groups). There is a set pattern to the dishes, typically olives, tahini, salad and yoghurt will be followed by dishes with vegetables and eggs, then small meat or fish dishes alongside special accompaniments, and finally more substantial dishes such as whole fish or meat stews and grills. Different establishments will offer different dishes, their own specialities, but the pattern remains the same. Naturally the dishes served will reflect the seasons, for example in late autumn, snails will feature in a meat meze. As so much food is offered, it is not expected that every dish should be finished. People eat it tougether, serving each other etc. Eating a Cypriot meze is a social event.
In Serbia, meze can include cheese, kajmak (clotted cream), salami, smoked ham, kulen (flavoured sausage), various brad types, while in Bosnia and Herzegovina, meze normally includes hard and creamy cheeses, smetana sour cream, (locally known as kajmak or pavlaka), suho meso (dried salted, smoked beef), pickles and sudžuk (dry, spicy sausage)
Popular mezes in Bulgaria: