This dish is one of my favourite discoveries of the Beirut trip. A number of people told us that we had to have Armenian food while we were there. Armenians have lived in Lebanon for centuries and many now live in the Bourj Hammoud neighbourhood of Beirut.
I did not know what to expect at all as we headed out to Seza, except that the food will be spicier than Lebanese food. It was truly a wonderful meal, the service was delightfully friendly and of course the highlight of the evening was discovering new dishes like Basterma (cured meat), Kibbeh (raw meat), Boerek Maison (cheese pies), Manti (dumplings in yoghurt) and Itch (Bulgur Salad).
The Bulgur Salad was the stand out dish of the evening. A good amount of tomato flavour came through with a bit of spice on the tongue. We were surprised at how much flavour they managed to pack in the dish and I knew that this is a salad that I would want to share.
Armenians prefer to used Bulgur (cracked wheat) in preference to maize and rice. Bulgur also appears in Lebanon’s famous salad Tabbouleh. When researching recipes for the salad as well as for the tabbouleh, I saw that Bulgur comes in 4 grades of courseness but the only packets I have managed to find locally has not had any reference to the grade. The recipe I have used comes from The Gutsy Gourmet and I liked the idea of the bulgur cooking in the tomato sauce instead of letting it cook in boiling water as this way would really intensify the flavour. The recipe called for a quarter cup lemon juice but I find tinned tomatoes quite sour so I suggest tasting the sauce before adding the lemon to see if it needs more acidity.
The salad can be served hot or cold. We had it warm and when I made it at home I loved it warm and refrigerated some to try cold. It was really good cold. So I think you have many options of how and where to serve it. Cold, it will make a superb replacement for a pasta or potato salad at a barbecue. Pack it in for a picnic lunch for a delicious side dish with loads of flavour. And come winter, I will be serving it warm with many stews and slow roasts.
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tbsp hot pepper sauce (can use sriracha or similar)
- 1 tin chopped tomatoes
- 1 cup Bulgur
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ cup Lemon juice (optional, if tomatoes are sour then don’t use)
- 1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
- 3 medium sized spring onions, chopped
- chopped parsley for serving
- Sauté the chopped onion in olive oil on a low heat until it is translucent and soft.
- Add the cumin, tomato paste and pepper sauce and stir well.
- Add the tinned tomatoes and salt, stir and bring to a simmer for about 3 minutes while stirring.
- Check the tomato sauce and add the lemon juice if needed.
- Remove from heat and stir in the bulgur and mix well.
- Cover the pan and let it stand for 30 minutes for the bulgur to cook in the sauce.
- You can add ¼ cup boiling water if the mixture seems too dry.
- Remove the lid and stir in the chopped parsley and spring onions.
- Serve warm or cold garnished with some more chopped parsley.
- Adapted from The Gutsy Gourmet