The Salt
1:33 am
Wed August 28, 2013

You Say 'Kubbeh,' I Say 'Kibbeh,' Let's Eat 'Em All Right Now

Originally published on Wed August 28, 2013 10:33 am

People across the Levant love their dumplings, even if they can't agree on a name. Some say kubbeh; others say kibbeh. In Egypt, you might hear kobeba.

In Jerusalem, there are perhaps as many variations of the kubbeh as there are cultures in the city.

One popular version consists of meat wrapped in bulgur, then deep fried. Dip one in tahini for a crunchy snack.

But at the Te'amim — or Tastes — cooking camp in Jerusalem, chef Udi Shlomi prefers to teach kids to make kubbeh hamusta.

"Hamusta, it means hamuts, vinegary ... very lemony kind of a taste," Shlomi says. "The hamusta, it's one of the famous kubbeh that came from Kurdistan."

In his recipe, the dumplings are made of semolina plus a little bulgur. The filling is seasoned ground beef. The kubbeh are cooked in a sour soup.

Camp participant Aviv Raz, 13, is thrilled to make kubbeh.

"My grandma makes kubbeh every Friday," she says. "And all the family, they come, they eat kubbeh, all the cousins. It's great."

Like hummus, kubbeh is one of those dishes that is well loved, with local varieties from Iraq to Egypt.

The kids start by sharpening big knives. They chop onions, garlic and celery for the meat filling.

Raz and her friends brown the beef in a heavy skillet,

Then they chop more celery, chard and zucchini for the soup. While the soup steams and the meat browns, they mix the dough for the dumplings. This is the hardest part to get right because of the semolina, a coarse flour ground from hard durum wheat.

"The semolina ... reacts differently from wheat flour or from rice flour," Shlomi, the chef, explains. "That's why it's more thick than the Asian dumplings that we know. It's soft, but you want to feel it, you know, the texture in your mouth."

He shows the kids how to first, grease their fingers, then roll a bit of dough into a ball, flatten it, put a little meat in the middle then pinch it shut. Raz pats away happily.

Chef Shlomi tastes the broth and calls for more lemon. Raz and her friends gently slide the dumplings into the soup. Finally, the kubbeh and other comfort foods cooked at camp on this day are set out for lunch. Chef Shlomi tries a dumpling.

His verdict?

"The texture of the dough [is] really, really good, soft, like it's supposed to be," he says. "Maybe a little salt in the filling, and a bit more vinegar, lemon."

Raz rates her work tasty, but nothing compared to her grandma's kubbeh.


Recipe: Kubbeh Hamusta

This recipe for the traditional Iraqi dumpling is from the Te'amim cooking camp at the Jerusalem Culinary Center.

Dough

3 cups of semolina flour

1 cup fine bulgur

water as needed

a generous amount of salt

Filling

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 medium sized onions, finely chopped

1 pound ground beef

salt to taste

pepper to taste

4 celery stalks, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, pressed

Soup

5 celery stalks, including leaves, coarsely chopped

5 Swiss chard leaves, green part only (not stems)

4 summer squash, coarsely chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

6 cups chicken or vegetable stock

salt, pepper to taste

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

juice of two lemons

Cooking

In a heavy skillet, lightly brown onions, celery and garlic in vegetable oil.

Add meat. Cook on high for 10 minutes, stirring periodically. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Lower heat. Cook until meat is browned. Remove from heat.

Put semolina and bulgur in a bowl. Add water until soft and easy to work with (not sticky). Oil hands. Pinch off pieces of dough and roll by hand into medium sized balls. Use thumb to make a dent in the middle, then put a spoonful of meat filling. Close dough around the meat and flatten the kubbeh. Make all in advance, put on a platter.

Place oil in soup pot. Heat, add all vegetables and lightly saute. Add stock, lemon, salt, pepper. Bring to boil, then turn heat to low and cook for about 40 minutes. Return to high heat, slide (don't drop) kubbeh into pot. Stir gently from time to time. Correct seasoning as needed. Cook on medium heat for 10 minutes, until kubbeh have firmed up.

Serve as a soup with extra broth or remove vegetables and kubbeh from soup to serve.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

All right, time for another stop on our world tour of dumplings this week. Today, NPR's Emily Harris takes us to Jerusalem for a food that has perhaps as many variations as there are cultures in that city. Some call it kubbeh. In Egypt, you might hear kobeba. Others say kibbeh. My wife's Lebanese family prefers a version of this that is raw lamb, and I can tell you, it is delicious.

But often, kubbeh is in the form of a meat dumpling, which, in the region Emily Harris covers, is just as popular as hummus.

EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: One popular version of kubbeh is meat wrapped in bulgur, then deep fried.

(SOUNDBITE OF SIZZLING)

HARRIS: Dip one in tahini for a crunchy snack. But at the Te'amim, or Tastes cooking camp in Jerusalem, Chef Udi Shlomi prefers to teach kids to make kubbeh hamusta.

UDI SHLOMI: Hamusta, it means hamuts. Hamuts, it means vinegary, like lemony - very lemony kind of a taste. And the hamusta, it's one of the famous kubbeh. It came from Kurdistan.

HARRIS: In his recipe, the dumplings are made of semolina, plus a little bulgur. The filling is seasoned ground beef. The kubbeh are cooked in a sour soup.

SHLOMI: (Foreign language spoken)

(SOUNDBITE OF CLAPPING)

HARRIS: Shlomi gets the kids' attention, and assigns dishes for the day. Thirteen-year-old Aviv Raz is thrilled to make kubbeh.

AVIV RAZ: My grandma make kubbeh every Friday. And all the family, they come and they eat kubbeh, all the cousins. It's great.

HARRIS: Kubbeh is one of those dishes, like hummus, well-loved with local varieties from Iraq to Egypt. To start making kubbeh, the kids sharpen big knives.

(SOUNDBITE OF SHARPENING KNIVES)

HARRIS: They chop onions for the meat.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHOPPING)

HARRIS: Garlic and celery, too.

RAZ: Now we cook the meat.

HARRIS: Aviv and her friends set the beef to brown in a heavy skillet.

(SOUNDBITE OF SIZZLING)

HARRIS: Then they chop more celery, chard and zucchini for the soup. While the soup steams and the meat browns, they mix the dough for the dumplings. This is the hardest part to get right, because of the semolina, coarsely ground from hard durum wheat.

Chef Shlomi.

SHLOMI: The semolina, it reacts differently from wheat flour, or from rice flour. That's why it's more like thick than the dumplings, the Asian dumplings that we know. It's soft, but you want to feel it, you know, the textures in your mouth.

HARRIS: He shows the kids how to first oil their fingers, then roll a bit of dough into a ball, flatten it, put a little meat in the middle, then pinch it shut. Aviv pats away happily.

(SOUNDBITE OF PATTING)

HARRIS: So, tell me what you're doing. You take the dough...

RAZ: I take the dough and pat it on my hands, yes. And I put meat, a little meat. I close it up. I close it, and I put on the - then - and then, we put all these and put it on the soup.

SHLOMI: (Foreign language spoken)

HARRIS: Chef Shlomi tastes the broth and calls for more lemon. Aviv and her friends slide the dumplings in gently. Finally, the kubbeh and other comfort foods cooked at camp on this day are set out for lunch. Chef Shlomi tries a dumpling.

SHLOMI: The texture of the dough, really, really good, soft like it's supposed to be, maybe a little salt in the filling, and a bit more vinegar, lemon.

HARRIS: Aviv rates her work as tasty, but nothing compared to her grandma's kubbeh.

Emily Harris, NPR News, Jerusalem.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GREENE: And we're eager to know what kind of dumplings you like to make. We're collecting photos and stories. Send them to MORNING EDITION at npr.org, or share them on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #NPRDumplingWeek. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.