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Tarhana: some kind of magick!

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Probably anybody who  lived in Turkey for a period long enough to taste at least the basic Turkish foods has already heard of Tarhana..

Yes, that powder, with a sweet soft orange tone, having a unique aroma..

This  aroma is so unique that, you cannot confuse it with another food; if something smells like tarhana, yes, it is tarhana, yet, there is no standard way of preparing tarhana!! The only two standard ingredients are flour and yoghurt; to this material, you can add anything you like from a long list of vegetables, herbs, legumes, even fruits; you can add them raw and grinded, or boiled or fried,..but the result is always tarhana..

The tradition of preparing tarhana does not differ from one region to another, as you may expect, but it can be different even from one village to another, neighbouring village..

So what's the magick? It is fermentation.. The bacteria in yoghurt work on the flour; the dough made of these two and other ingredients  is spread on a cloth in the open air, wait for a special period, from a few days to ten, depending on the local humidity and temperature, and fermentation takes place..then it gets dry, and grined by hand..

If you buy some tarhana form your local vegetable market, but you think that its taste is not rich enough, don't worry, add onion, pepper, tomato or paste of them, any spice you like, your soup will welcome all..

But if you live in a coastal region, or upper/higher/colder areas of them, the chances are small for a plain tarhana to emerge on the market. The rich flora of those regions will make tarhana something special: you can even smell  fenugreek (boy otu/çemen otu) , the herb that is used for preparing 'pastırma', but this is another story! 


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I encounter a spice like this whenever I order a chicken kebap. It's an orange powder they always seem to put on it. It has a tangy taste. I also see it served in dishes with other spices sometimes. And I see it a lot, everywhere. Is that Tarhana?

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No, tarhana is never used as a spice. The powder is used to make a tarhana soup, with additon of water and oil or butter. 

The restaurants trying to look attractive for tourists use different things like curry..

Turkish food culture has no familiarity with curry, but now you can see it served with chicken. It is a soft orange powder, and tangy. 

Sumak or rhus has a red or dark red colour. It has a sour taste, and is used together with or instead of lemmon in some salads. When you order kebap, and if it is served with sliced onions, those tiny red particles on the onion slices are sumak..

Considering only its color, maybe kimyon (cumin) is a candidate, but Turks never use it with chicken..it is for red meat and some legumes like lentil.


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Maybe I should talk about the tarhana soup, too. Like milk powder, it is a condensed material and becomes consumable with addition of water and some butter. The quantity of water needed depends on two things, the tarhana, itself, and your choice..

As I wrote, tarhana is not something standard..

So the best way to follow is to try..

If not the first, your second attempt will yield the result you want..

But I can give a rough measure: for one liter of water a tea cup of tarhana would be a safe beginning. I use a little more than this, as I love the soup when thick.

Butter or oil should be added, too. But as it already contains yoghurt, it is not totally fat-free. You may put a small amount and add more later, if you like. 

Tarhana gives you a chance to use your creativity in the kitchen..

You can add many things, to create your own version of tarhana!! Do you like garlic? ok, just try..are you worrying about the remaining beans? what about a bean-tarhana soup? The list is long..

Tarhana is actually a kind of fast food. Put the material and water in  a casserole, stir it continiuosly -this is important-and wait till it gets boiled:ready! If you like a warm, hot soup in a cold winter night, don't forget to decorate your soup with a long, red, hot pepper floating on your soup!!:P

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Hi Ken, I think you are talking about Sumak here. Is it like small flakes of red pepper?

I think that is it. I hate to admit it, but I have never asked what it was!



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