Tabbouli Syndrome

Tropical Tabbouli
Tropical Tabbouli

I’ve seen it all:

Tropical tabbouli…Shoot me!

Curry tabbouli…Bury me alive!

Tabbouli tikka masala…Now seriously kiss my ass!

In my first visit to Sydney, my eyes fell on pineapple pieces on top of a dying tabbouli. It seemed more like a forced marriage between the two, where tabbouli decided to commit suicide…well, I would do the same if I was a tabbouli!

Our Lady of Zahle carrying Jesus and grapes
Our Lady of Zahle carrying Jesus and grapes

Tabbouli is the dish that ties Lebanon together! regardless of your gender, your marital and financial status, and whether you were Christian or Muslim, politician or voter…like Julia Child’s best saying “It’s fun to get together & have something good to eat at least once a day. That’s what human life is all about – enjoying things” And nothing does it better than a bowl of fresh tabbouli prepared by your mother and a glass of arak crafted by your father, enjoyed anywhere in Lebanon, let alone under the vine leaves of Zahle!

The statue of Erato, the Muse of love poetry, holding grapes at the entrance of Zahle
The statue of Erato, the Muse of love poetry, holding grapes at the entrance of Zahle

I grew up in a house that always respected tabbouli and arak. My grandfather “Moussa” (may he rest in peace) loved his arak! He was a very reserved man and wasn’t too much into kids, but he had his little cute way to teach me how to enjoy a tabbouli.

Kids normally grow up liking to sip the tabbouli’s lemony dressing rather than eating it, and my grandfather tricked me though filling cos lettuces with tabbouli fillings and convinced me that this is a tabbouli boat! I loved the idea of eating a boat and after eating a few; tabbouli literally owned me.

I desired so much to make my own, I’d stand next to my mom and watch her picking the parsley and dicing the tomatoes with utter perfection…until I finally got the opportunity of a lifetime, when my mom resigned for couple of minutes to answer the phone, I took over the kitchen bench and tried the tabbouli…”mmm, it needs more water!” “mmm…one more cup and it will be perfect!”
we ate a soaking wet Tabbouli that night! I was exiled to my room and banned from entering the kitchen, unless handcuffed and blindfolded.

20 years later I started making my own (without water).
To make a perfect tabbouli, you need fresh local ingredients.
Forget about pineapples, you can mess with Italians if you like and add it to their pizza..

Authentic Tabbouli, free of nasties
Authentic Tabbouli, free of nasties

A bunch of parsley is enough to make a Tabbouli for 2, and for each head you need 1 medium tomatoes. The recipe below can cater for 4:

Gather 2 bunches of parsley in a tight wad in your hand and finely shred the leaves with a very sharp knife, almost in a shaving action. Do the same with the a handful of mint and few leaves of a cos lettuce. Wash the chopped herbs,  drain well and add to a large bowl.

Dice 3-4 tomatoes, and finely chop 1 spring onion , throw in the bowl. Juice 1 lemons and pour over 2 tbsp. of fine bulgur and set aside to soften for 10 minutes. Combine everything  and season with ½ tsps. of salt and sumac, add drizzles to your liking of extra virgin olive oil and mix with your hands.

My father and my brother
My father and my brother

If you are lucky enough to have a father like mine, he handcrafts his own arak from grapes he raised with care. With the addition of other Lebanese mezze plates of your choice; like Hommous, Baba Ghannouj and Kibbeh; you can enjoy a lazy afternoon with your beloved ones, under the leafy trees of my beautiful Zahle;  unzip your pants to give your full belly the freedom of a big lunch and screw the world.

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7 Comments Add yours

  1. Nelly Sater says:

    In every recipe I see my childhood! Love the details, the way to describe it in a transparent way..I love reading it..

    It is more than a recipe it is anentire childhood♥

    Thank you and continue!

    1. Tina says:

      Hayeteh Nelly! You and your family were a BIG part of my childhood!

  2. sana says:

    Sooo funny!!! This entire article is written like a true zahlewye :))))

    1. Tina says:

      Mmmm i am a true one! So are u!!!!

  3. funny and so true there must be respect for tabbouli. it’s dangerous in the wrong hands LOL

  4. HishamAD says:

    I share your anger at those wannabe tabbouleh
    I hate how foreign chefs get so excited about the salad they make and they dare to call it tabbouleh.

    My first tabbouleh i make from start to finish was last month in sri lanka (check some of the pics here http://wp.me/p3Oz5A-cp) and i was surprised to find parsley and burghul, but it was frizzy parsley and breakfast cracked wheat.
    I was able though to make a sri lankan, indians, and a Kiwi taste some authentic tabbouleh miles away from home.

    The Sri Lankan chef suggested adding dried fish and fish sauce to it.
    I wonder how it would taste, I’m guessing they’re not used to the intense parsley taste

    1. Tina says:

      That would be a Sri Lankan Tabbouli…I’ll stick to pinepples in this case 😄

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