This month, being Ramadan, for the MENA Cooking Challenge, we were given a free reign. We were asked to choose any recipe that is normally cooked during this holy month in the MENA region. The first thing that came into my mind was salad – and of course, what better than Tabbouleh!
One good thing about this region is the incorporation of a routine of soup and salad into their daily eating habits. You will see that before every meal, even in restaurants, a small serving of soup and salad is always provided. It is a mandatory part of their eating habit, unlike our Indian style of mostly having only onions as salad and never any soup! I have tried hard this Ramadan to introduce a soup and salad routine, but barring from a day or two, I wasn’t really successful, thanks to the heat in the kitchen making it uncomfortable to stay there for long. 😕
Tabbouleh is one of the easiest salad that you can find in this region. I am not sure of the origin but you can find it being eaten in almost all of the Middle Eastern countries. A little bit of digging in tells me that this salad originated from Syria and Lebanon, and then spread on to the other nearby countries, in fact even Turkey, Cyrpus, Armenia and Dominican Republic have their own version of this salad, but in different names!
The main ingredient of this salad, and the star you can say is parsley, in fact lots and lots of parsley! Another major ingredient are the tomatoes. I used to never like this salad, especially from restaurants where they serve it really tangy. However, after eating it from various places asking them to reduce on the tanginess, this salad has grown on me. Now this is definitely one of my favorite salad. It is really easy to make, with so little effort. Sometimes, onions are also added, but I am not really fond of raw onion for obvious reasons, so I try to avoid it in my salads.
Normally, a small quantity of burgul (crushed wheat) is added to this salad for a bite. Burgul cooks so fast, all that it needs is soaking in hot water till it absorbs it all! However, you can find new versions of tabbouleh with quinoa in it. Personally, I still prefer the burgul, for authenticity sake! This is my delicious entry for this month’s challenge… hope you enjoy the recipe and try it too!
If you are keen on trying other salads, then here are some apt for the month:
Chickpeas Pomegranate Salad – a family favorite!
Mango Avocado Salsa – the best time to make it since mangoes are in season!
- 1 bunch parsley leaves
- 10-15 large mint leaves
- 1 small tomato, chopped
- 1 tbsp bulgur, soaked in ¼ cup hot water
- A squeeze of lime juice
- 1 tsp olive oil
- Salt to taste
- Chop the parsley and mint till nicely minced. Put into a bowl.
- Add the tomato and mix.
- Drain the bulgur if it has not absorbed the water. The bulgur will have a bite, which is what is needed for the salad. Add in to the salad.
- Add the remaining ingredients and toss well to coat.
- Serve immediately.