Derived from the word tatbil, meaning “to season,” the recipe for tabbouleh revolves around its main and most important ingredient, parsley. What is key is how fine the parsley is chopped and how balanced the seasoning and ingredients are.
The most common recipe for tabbouleh includes parsley, tomatoes, mint, onions and fine bulgur wheat mixed and tossed with a seasoning made from lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Pomegranate juice and sour grape juice are also often used to give an acidic flavor to the tangy salad.
However, tabbouleh differs considerably from one region to another, from a simple change in seasoning to a totally different set of ingredients.
Hermel – Hermel District
Fine bulgur wheat and spices are stir-fried with olive oil and ghee until the bulgur wheat soaks all the fat. The mixture is then set aside while dried walnuts are stir-fried with a generous amount of ghee. The parsley and other vegetables (less than the usual quantity) are then mixed with the bulgur wheat. Both lemon oil and pomegranate molasses are used in the seasoning. The salad is eaten with either tender, raw vine leaves or fresh cabbage leaves.
To try safsouf, contact Khadijeh Chahine (71 579547).
Al Barouk – Shouf District
Eryngo or qorsaaneh is a wild edible plant, which grows abundantly in our mountains in early spring. Qorsaaneh is a substitute for the parsley in this recipe, making it a wonderful seasonal and healthy option.
To try qorsaaneh tabbouleh, contact Adel Hakim at Al Aqed Guesthouse and Restaurant in March and April (71 172270).
Mtein – Metn District
This is yet another seasonal variation, which includes little or no parsley. It is made of bulgur wheat soaked in lukewarm water, cooked chickpeas, awarma (preserved meat in sheep fat) and seasoned with lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper. This tabbouleh is often enjoyed with boiled cabbage leaves.
To try winter tabbouleh, contact Ghada Al Qontar at Mtein Guesthouse (03 659198).
TABBOULEH KEZZEBEH (MTASHASH)
Andqet – Akkar District
This is a fusion between tabbouleh and the Armenian dish itch. Coarse bulgur wheat is used in the preparation of this salad, the quantity of which is greater than the amount of vegetables. Tomato paste is also incorporated into the mix, along with the seasoning of traditional tabbouleh.
To try tabbouleh kezzebeh, contact Rose Bitar (70 010390).
TABBOULEH WITH GREEN FAVA BEANS
Jdaidet Marjayoun – Marjayoun District
This delicious tabbouleh is most commonly made in spring when green fava beans are in season. The beans replace the tomatoes that have not yet been planted and harvested.
To try this dish, contact Majed Makhoul in April (03 903060/ 07 830913).
TABBOULEH WITH SPLIT LENTILS
Mristi – Shouf District
A high-protein version of the traditional tabbouleh, this recipe incorporates split red lentils that have been soaked overnight. Less bulgur wheat is used here than in other recipes.
To try this variation, contact Bassima Zeidan (71 383649/05 330181).
71 731437, food-heritage.org
Photos: The Recipe Hunters