This is a perfect dish for hot Summer days! Served at room temperature, vegan and lighter on the stomach than heavy stews or red meat kebabs. In Lebanon, it is popular in the South, where locals use lots of fragrant wild edible herbs to spice their kibbeh (called kammouneh). I suspect it is a dish originally from Turkey and specifically Anatolia, and it is a Kurdish chef, Asma, who originally introduced it to me, telling me it is from her hometown of Mardin. I have also had it at Armenian restaurants in Beirut, as it is also part of the Armenian classic cuisine.
Her version though yummy, is a tad too rustic (a bit bland) for my taste, so I have developed my own using Mexican chilies that are widely available and used here in Texas (Texas was a part of Mexico until 1836). If you do not have access to these dried Mexican chilies, you can substitute some jarred red enchilada sauce or a mole, and doctor it up with some fresh local peppers or tomatoes. I have been on a kick upon my return to Texas to flavor my Lebanese food with Mexican flavors, and it has worked really well so far.
Making your own chili sauce is so easy, and it keeps really well in the fridge (about 10 days, more if it is in a sterilized jar); the sauce can be used as a condiment, (just like ketchup), except it is infinitely better, with a richer, more complex taste (depending on the chilies used).
The red lentils cook in water in about 10 minutes, then the bulgur is sprinkled on top and the grains will swell up in a couple of minutes. Then, a stir-fry of onion and spices is added to give this dish a kick of flavor. If the bulgur and lentil pilaf is too dry, add more water or sauce. If it is too wet, add more bulgur.
I went all-out this time, adding tomato and red pepper paste, my own chili sauce, parsley and basil, onions fried, garlic paste, cumin, a dash of saffron, a touch of date molasses (or piloncillo) for a little sweetness, olive and lemon juice, tasting and adjusting along the way.
In Lebanon, (and in Anatolia too, I am assuming), this dish is served with a glass of ayran.
The lentil and bulgur form the canvas to build your own personal kibbeh: Go for it.
Red lentil kibbehJoumana Accad Mediterranean, Middle Eastern July 26, 2022 Mexican fusion, Legumes, Whole Grain/Bulgur/Rice, Main Dish, Mezze/Appetizers, Vegan, lebanesefood, chilies, vegan, mexicanfusion, mezze, appetizers, kibbeh, lentils, legumes and beans, Turkish, mexican, mediterranean food, kurdishfood, armenianfood,
60 kibbeh servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Passive Time: 15 minutes
2 cups red lentils
2 cups fine bulgur #1
5 cups water
1 large onion, chopped
1 Tbsp garlic paste
1 cup salsa (made using ancho, guajillo and California dried chilies)
2 Tbsp red pepper paste
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup olive oil (more as needed)
2 Tbsp vinegar or lemon juice
1 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup chopped basil (can use other herbs, like mint)
3/4 cup chopped green onions
2 Tbsp date syrup or molasses or piloncillo syrup
salt, black pepper, to taste
2 tsp cumin (ground)
- Place the lentils in a sieve and rinse briefly a few seconds under running water. Transfer to a large pot and cover with water (about 5 cups). Bring to a boil and lower the heat to medium for about 8 to 10 minutes or until the lentils have softened. Remove from the heat, and sprinkle the bulgur over the lentils. Cover the pot and let it sit for about 10 minutes (or longer). The bulgur should soften but can use a bit more moisture at this stage.
- In the meantime, fry the onion in olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir-fry for about 15 minutes or until the onion has softened and is golden in color. Add the garlic paste, cumin, tomato paste, red pepper paste, chili sauce, saffron (optional).
- Simmer the mixture gently for about 15 minutes, watching to make sure it does not reduce too much. You want to have enough to cook the bulgur a bit more and imbibe the pilaf later. When the mixture is ready, transfer it to the lentil and bulgur bowl and mix it thoroughly.
- Add the fresh herbs and green onions, mix well. Add a bit of olive oil and lemon or lime juice, if needed. Mix some more.
- Shape into balls or ovals, and plate on lettuce leaves if desired or some grape or fig leaves. Serve with extra lime or lemon slices, and a fresh salsa of diced tomatoes, onions, and parsley or cilantro doused in lemon or lime juice.
To make the chili sauce:
Pick a few dried chilies (I used 3 anchos and 5 guajillos), half an onion, a couple garlic cloves, and toast in a skillet briefly over medium heat until the smokiness wafts through the air, about 5 minutes.
Cover with water and bring to a boil. Boil a few minutes then turn off the heat. Let them soak for a couple of hours or overnight.
Then, transfer them to a blender and puree them; transfer to a large sieve set over a bowl and extract as much of the chilies as possible, discarding the seeds and stems.
Place the sauce over the heat in a saucepan and reduce it while adding some oregano or zaatar if desired, some cumin, salt, and some brown sugar or piloncillo (juice or in chunks) or a couple tablespoons of date or carob molasses. Taste and adjust seasoning.
NOTE: It is also easier to seed and remove the stem prior to submerging the chilies in water. Wearing gloves, seed the chilies and remove the stem as needed.
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