Kibbeh tartare (Kibbeh nayyeh)

I was invited to a (fancy, classy) wedding  and lo and behold I see this lady sitting in the buffet line, making kibbeh the traditional way, in the jurn. That is what this huge stone mortar is called. She was pounding away to produce the silky smooth kibbeh that is eaten raw with fresh onions rings and mint leaves in a piece of flatbread called markouk. 

Now my friend Alain was taunting me:” Joumana, you are Lebanese, yes or no?”; “OK, then open your mouth!”. In went a morsel with fresh mint leaves and some onion. I had to admit: “Yeah, this is really good. “Only kibbeh made this way is good”,  Alain was saying:  “Forget about your moulinex and other food processors! They don’t do the kibbeh justice!”. 

That, and freshly slaughtered meat, preferably goat. Not lamb, not beef (unless it is veal). Goat is the best meat for kibbeh nayyeh, because it is extra lean. 

We did have one of these in our small kitchen growing up; nowadays the only homes that have them are in rural areas. Everybody uses a food processor to pound the kibbeh, and all the experts unanimously agree that it does not do the job properly; here is why. When meat is pounded by hand it will eventually release some white nerve or ligaments that are removed as they appear; this ensures that the meat is perfectly smooth and lean. A machine cannot do that. 

INGREDIENTS: 6 servings

  • 1 pound of goat meat (freshly slaughtered and raised on pastures)
  • 1/2 pound of fine unbleached bulgur (#1)
  • 2 large onion, one chopped and the other sliced into rings
  • 4 ice cubes, as needed
  • a few pieces of basil or marjoram or a good pinch of white pepper to taste
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 bunch of fresh mint
  • several markouk breads (can substitute lavash bread, except needs to be whole-wheat)

METHOD:

  1. Chop one of the onions into a bowl; rinse the bulgur, drain and add to the onion in the bowl and mix lightly for the bulgur to absorb some of the onion’s water; sprinkle salt on the mixture, toss and set aside. 
  2. Now either pound the kibbeh in the jurn or in a food processor for several minutes; after the meat has become pasty, remove it from the machine and smooth it out to manually remove any ligaments, veins or pieces of fat; place in back in the food processor and process it again, adding finally the onion and bulgur and herbs and one or more ice cube as needed to tenderize the meat and make is smooth and shiny.  The kibbeh should be smooth as silk, moist and tender. Transfer to a plate, form indentions with the back of a spoon and drizzle some extra-virgin olive oil on the kibbeh; place fresh mint leaves and onion slices next to the kibbeh and provide pieces of bread to scoop the kibbeh with ; a bottle of arak is a classic drink to serve with kibbeh nayyeh.
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22 Comments

  1. Posted July 30, 2012 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    I guess the only thing that remotely resembles kibbeh in the states is steak tartar? Fascinating pictures of the process!

  2. Posted July 30, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    Brings me back to when I was young and my grandmother would make Kheyma (pretty much the same thing). I can’t even imagine eating raw meat nowadays. I know it can still be done safely, but I probably still couldn’t bring myself to do that anymore. I’ll have to settle for Tabbouleh and lentil kufte. ;)

    I think we always had it with beef by the way. I’m sure before that, she was using lamb. I’m a big wuss, so I don’t think I’ll ever be trying goat, but I do hear a lot of good things about it.

  3. Posted July 30, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    I appreciate these stories and photos of the old ways, so much, Joumana. I cherish the opportunity to meet someone that makes their own cultural food in the old traditional fashion. Tasting it is a greater honor!
    :)
    Valerie

  4. Posted July 30, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    Wow! How cool to have that at a wedding!

  5. Posted July 30, 2012 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    One of these days I’m going to visit Lebanon and seek out this dish made in the most authentic way possible.

  6. Posted July 30, 2012 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

    Pour avoir testé ce tartare libanais chez mon ami Monique Moussali, je confirme que c’est un délice.

  7. Posted July 31, 2012 at 1:42 am | Permalink

    Interesting recipe, I see there is a lot of goat in the shops here just recently and it is not that cheap! Have a good week. Diane

  8. Ed Habib
    Posted July 31, 2012 at 5:29 am | Permalink

    Oh do i love kibbee neyeh. This reminds me of my Aunt Sofia at Easter. She hand pounded the most giantic plate of Kibbee Neyeh I think I have ever seen. I have never had it with goat though, only lamb. Is the leg best on the goa?. I am pretty lucky that in Western Ma (about a 40 minute drive from me) there is a USDA certified slaughter house that has a retail market(all local meat no hormones) . If I want a whole goat I just need to order two weeks ahead. I think I will see what I can get

  9. Posted July 31, 2012 at 6:12 am | Permalink

    This is fascinating and we are all glad you got photos. These arts are dying out and that is sad. I agree with Val that it is always such an honor to meet people who still prepare traditional foods in the traditional way. Thank you, Joumana, for sharing these with us.

  10. Posted July 31, 2012 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    I saw this at a wedding in Lebanon recently! It wasn’t the Hayek wedding by any chance, was it? ;-)

  11. Joumana
    Posted July 31, 2012 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    @Chrissy: No it was not! :) I am happy traditions are back in vogue even in the over-the-top Lebanese weddings!

    @Ed: sounds great! goat is supposed to be all-over better for one’s health anyway!

    @Kathleen: I give a suggestion in the recipe which consists in removing the meat from the processor and checking it by hand for any veins or ligaments.

    @Tom: People are squeamish here also and only order the meat from a butcher they trust; got to remember, Lebanon was a country where most of the food was made in rural homes with the few goats or sheep per home or community; this recipe goes back to those days. I still remember every Sunday in the mountains for a picnic seeing the goat being slaughtered, that was a routine sight (to my extreme squeamishness!).

    @Devaki: I did not know the jurn was used in India! How interesting! What is it used for? to pound meat as well? for what dishes?

  12. Posted July 31, 2012 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    Wow Joumana, that’s a new type of kibbeh for me. You’d be hard pressed (so to speak) to have such a wonderful tradition available to the public in the states. City Health Departments are squeamish over anything that isn’t cooked to death. I think the last time I got a rare burger was 1999, let alone raw kibbeh. In fact now that I think of it I haven’t seen steak tartare or carpaccio on any restaurant menus for years.

  13. Posted July 31, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    Back in Brazil this dish is very popular…although I have to admit that I never tried it. I enjoy all the pictures of the process.
    Thanks and hope you are having a fabulous week Joumana :)

  14. Kathleen
    Posted July 31, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    I love kibbeh nayeh. You’re right, it’s not the same. But what are you gonna do?

  15. Posted July 31, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Great photos of the whole process. I guess using the ancient tools and method definitely preserves the quality of ingredients. Modern equipment’s such as food processor has a motor that burns out so much of natural flavors, all while whirring!

  16. Posted August 1, 2012 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    That granite stone sure bought back memories because we use one just like it in India. In fact my mother has turned my old bedroom into her flour + grinding room! Wonderful way to prepare goat. Such a great post Joumana and so nice to be part of such an elegant wedding.

    chow:) Devaki@ weavethousandflavors

  17. Huda
    Posted August 2, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Hello Jumamna, I love your cooking and recipes, they are very authentic. I have a question regarding the Kibbi, after mashing the meat in the “jurn” do you mash the burghul with the meat or do you knead it with the meat?

  18. Posted August 3, 2012 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    Great photos, Joumana, and interesting comments on the man v. machine nature of making kibbeh. Wish I had a mortar and pestle like this woman has!

  19. Posted August 3, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    I am so thankful so be able to experience these cultural foods and traditions here otherwise I would have no idea! Talk about freshly made – this is it.

  20. Jimmy
    Posted March 10, 2013 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    I happen to have a jurn that belonged to my great-grandmother… and I will soon be 62, so you know it’s old ;) I even have the wooden masher that goes with it. Can anyone assist me in finding the right avenue to perhaps auction them to the highest bidder? They are an heirloom from “Khurby” Lebanon.

  21. Joumana
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 12:07 am | Permalink

    @Jimmy: Where do you live? that relic carries quite a weight and it remains to be seen whether someone who lives far from you would be willing to take on the shipping charges.

  22. Jimmy
    Posted August 27, 2013 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    Sorry for such a long delay on your comment Joumana, life got in the way :)
    .. I live in Medina OH. And yes quite a weight nearly 80 lbs I would guess.

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