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Tabbouleh – Wheat and Herb Salad

Tabbouleh (Arabic: تبولة‎‎ tabūlah; also tabouleh or tab(b)ouli) is a Levantine vegetarian dish (sometimes considered a salad) traditionally made of tomatoes, finely chopped parsley, mint, bulgur, and onion, and seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. Some variations add garlic or lettuce, or use couscous instead of bulgur.

Tabbouleh is traditionally served as part of a mezze in the Arab world. Variations of it are made by Armenians and Turks, and it has become a popular ethnic food in Western cultures.

History

To the Arabs, edible herbs known as qaḍb formed an essential part of their diet in the Middle Ages, and dishes like tabbouleh attest to their continued popularity in Middle Eastern cuisine today. Originally from the mountains of Syria and Lebanon, tabbouleh has become one of the most popular salads in the Middle East. The wheat variety salamouni cultivated in the region around Mount Lebanon, Beqaa Valley and Baalbek was considered (in the mid-19th century) as particularly well-suited for making bulgur, a basic ingredient of tabbouleh.

Tabbouleh and other vegetable-based mezze dishes popular in Syria were mocked by Baghdadi women and cooks when they were first introduced to them, because they were seen as being a means to scrimp on the use of meat.

Regional Variations

In the Middle East, particularly Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, Jordan, and Iraq, it is usually served as part of a meze. The Lebanese use more parsley than bulgur wheat in their dish. A Turkish variation of the dish is known as kısır, while a similar Armenian dish is known as eetch. In Cyprus, where the dish was introduced by the Lebanese, it is known as tambouli. In the Dominican Republic, a local version introduced by Lebanese immigrants is called Tipile.

Like hummus, baba ghanouj, pita, and other elements of Arab cuisine, tabbouleh has become a popular “ethnic food”.

 

Tabbouleh - Wheat and Herb Salad
Author:
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Recipe type: Salad
Serves: Serves 4
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • 1 bunch fresh, soft flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 handful mint leaves
  • 1 – 2 lemons
  • 2 tablespoons fine burghul
  • 3 – 4 tomatoes, diced
  • 4 spring onions, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • grape leaves to line serving bowl (optional)
Instructions
  1. Place the mint and parsley into a colander and wash thoroughly. Allow to drain and then pat dry with a tea-towel.
  2. Gather the mint and parsley in a tight wad in your hand and finely shred the leaves with a very sharp knife, almost in a shaving action. Tip into a colander. Do the same with the mint. Wash the chopped herbs and drain well.
  3. Juice the lemons and pour over the burghul and set aside to soften for 10 minutes.
  4. Combine the parsley and mint, softened burghul, tomato and spring onion in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper, add olive oil and mix with your hands.
Notes
Tightly bunching the parsley in your hand ready for cutting is crucial, as is using a very sharp knife – both help you to shave the parsley as finely as possible.

Tabbouleh can be prepared a couple of hours ahead, but add the salt, pepper and oil just before serving.

 

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