Shish Barak(meat dumplings in yogurt sauce)

June 27, 2009  •  Category:


My friend Hoda Soueid had graciously offered to show me how to make sheesh barak, the dish I remember most fondly from my grandmother’s. Tiny little dumplings made in a soft and very thin dough smothered in a yoghurt sauce and served over rice. Comfort food Lebanese-style! So good you can’t stop eating them!

We sat on her balcony and sipped Turkish coffee while she reminisced about life in Beirut over the years: when the Israeli tanks rolled on her street in Moussaitbeh, when her building was hit by a missile during the fighting between the Syrians and the Christian militias, when she had three  hours a week  of available water.  Our talk was interrupted by a deafening concert of gunfire and explosions. “Berri got elected” she said matter-of- factly, referring to a prominent politician. We decided to retreat to the kitchen and focus on the work at hand instead of risk  being hit by a stray bullet. (Which turned out to be wise, the bullets and exploding bomblets killed one person and wounded 11 others)

Making sheesh barak can easily be done in stages. Busy Lebanese housewives buy the dumplings frozen in the neighborhood market to save time. I prefer to make my own and freeze the extras. Assembling the dish is easy once the dumplings are ready, because the yoghurt sauce and the rice can be prepared at the last minute.

INGREDIENTS: This quantity will make 600 dumplings, sufficient for 50 servings (12 dumplings per serving)

1 lb of kafta meat (500g. of lean ground beef or lamb, mixed with 1/4 cup of chopped onions and parsley, with salt and pepper, a dash of allspice and cinnamon)

3 cups of all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons of salt

1 cup of lukewarm water (80 to 85F)


  • Sift the flour over a large bowl. Gradually pour the water, mixing with either hands or a wooden spoon.
  • Knead the flour and water mixture until the dough holds together evenly and is smooth and shiny, adding a bit more flour if sticky or a couple tablespoons of water, depending on the air and the humidity level in the room. Cut the dough in four balls and cover with a towel and put in a draft-free place for 30 minutes.
  • On a marble board or a cool surface, sprinkle some flour and roll out one ball of dough at a time until very thin, about 1 mm. in thickness (1/16 inch, if possible). Cut into rounds with a 1 inch cutter or a liqueur glass.
  • Place on each circle of dough 1/2 teaspoon of kafta stuffing. Fold the dumpling into a half circle, pinching the outside edges delicately. Grab the two ends and pinch them shut towards the back of the dumpling. Place the dumpling on a greased cookie sheet.
  • Place the cookie sheet in a moderate oven (325-350F) until the dumplings are slightly toasted and golden, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool. Reserve a portion for immediate consumption and freeze the rest in freezer bags.


To Complete the Sheesh Barak:

  1. Cook the yoghurt. Place the yoghurt in a large saucepan and add one tablespoon of cornstarch per pound and an egg (optional) if desired. Place on low to medium heat and with a wooden spoon stir the yoghurt in the same direction until it starts steaming and a bubble or two escapes. Turn off the heat and keep aside.
  2. Prepare the rice, following package directions. If making rice with vermicelli noodles, which is the traditional way, brown the noodles first and then add the rice and stir on low heat to get all the grains moistened with grease or butter. Add the water and cover the pot. Cook for about 20 minutes until the rice is done.
  3. Make the cilantro pesto. Heat a couple tablespoons of butter or olive oil and fry some mashed garlic cloves and some chopped fresh cilantro leaves. When the fragrance of the mixture starts to rise, turn off the heat and set it aside. It should not take longer than 2 minutes.
  4. Serving time! Heat the yoghurt very slowly and swirl the cilantro pesto and throw the dumplings and cook on low heat for about 10 minutes. Serve over the cooked rice. Expect seconds and thirds! Sahteyn!_mg_4873


31 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Tony says:

    يسلمو دياتك
    I just made sheesh barak, but next time I make it I’m going to try your method – filling it with raw kefta mix and baking them in the oven before cooking in the yogurt sauce.

    • Joumana says:

      Hi Tony
      What is your method? I know most cookbooks I have seen call for frying the meat mixture before filling the dumplings with it, however this is not the way it is done -at least here in West Beirut, where I am from. Shukran for visiting!

    • Georges says:

      Hi ,
      I remember my grandmother originary from Turkey was using instead of the Laban , dried balls of laban , because at her time there were no refrigerators , which will gave an acid taste for the shishbarack …. This is the best … I don’t know if where these dried balls of laban can be foung …

  2. Dana says:

    Hi Joumana,

    I will be attempting your shish barak recipe tomorrow. How much yogurt did you use? I got today the Bulgarian full fat yogurt from whole foods, do you think it would work for this recipe?

    btw, I go usually on Saturdays to Mckinney’s farmers market; didnt go this weekend as kiddo was a little sick but when I go next weekend, I will ask about mulberry — my favorite fruit EVER!! This market has also the best chicken I have ever tasted. It is sold at Rehoboth ranch stand; I believe they also go to Dallas’ farmers market. I highly advice that you try their chicken; it is devine; no hormones, free range, no “zankha” which always seems to be there even in the organic chicken I get from wf.

    Anyway, I digress. Thanks for the recipe and have a good long weekend!

    • Joumana says:

      Hi Dana
      Thanks for the tip on the chicken stand! I can’t wait to try it!
      As far as the yoghurt, I am sure the Bulgarian one is perfect! just add one egg (previously beaten slightly) for each pound of yoghurt (16 oz) and stir in the same direction. I sometimes add some cornstarch to the yoghurt sauce, usually with koossa mehche b’laban, when there is some broth in addition to the yoghurt. In the case of sheesh barak, one egg for a large carton of yoghurt should be sufficient. By the way, the quantity I gave for the dumplings is going to give you a lot of them. You may want to split it in half, or you are going to spend your day in the kitchen!
      I have been doing research on mulberry, too. I got a comment from Leyla who lives in Ontario and said she is growing one in her backyard. I am surprised the US market seems to be completely devoid of mulberry products. Hmm.. opportunity there, huh?

  3. Dana says:

    Hi Joumana,

    Merci!! I have divided the recipe by 3 and have just assembled the shish barak (baby finally fell asleep) and wolved a large serving 😉 I havent had this dish in so long. I used to have it at the school’s cafeteria for lunch. It made me contemplate the sorry state of school cafeterias here in the US.

    On another note, weren’t our ancestors resourceful when so little can make so much? there is a true blessing “barake” in Lebanese cuisine.

    Thank you again!

  4. madelin says:

    Joumana, you have made my day with this recipe. My sister is hosting a “haffle” at her house tonight and I wanted to make this dish, but found the recipe too late, however I will be making it soon. Our grandparents were from Lebanon and this is my favorite dish and you can’t find it here in Miami, Florida. My sister and I were born here but were raised on Lebanese food and our entire family has kept the tradition going to the younger ones, even my daughter who is 5 loves this food. Thank you for sharing the recipe!

  5. Pamela says:

    Hi Joumana,

    I’m actually making this today… I’m very lucky to have a mother from Zgharta, why lucky? Because I believe no one makes a laban (sheesh barak, kousa b laban, etc) dish like those who hail from Zgharta.

    We make it a little differently though, although I know many families (even those from Zgharta) that cook the dumplings in the laban. However, one day you will have to try it my mother’s way, and then you’ll really know the meaning of comfort food Lebanese-style!

    She fries the dumplings separately, and sets them aside (if you can manage to keep your hands off them!).

    Then she slowly brings the laban to a boil, adds the water, mixes them gently with a hand mixer, and adds a handful of rice. Just before you take laban off the stove add the garlic and mint (dry or fresh)… And voila… Easy enough… But believe me the contrast between the crunchy dumplings and the laban is divine!


    • Joumana says:

      Everybody knows the shatara of Zgharta and its citizens! Love that method and I will try it too! By the way, does she add any cornstarch to her laban or an egg? Thanks Pamela so much for sharing your mom’s fantastic recipe!

  6. Pamela says:

    She actually doesn’t add any cornstarch or egg to the laban… If you can find goat yoghurt in your local supermarket, you’ll see that it’s thick enough… Only add as much water as you need, you don’t want to dilute the laban too much…

    I made about 750gm of laban to about 500gm water, and a 1/4 cup of rice…

    The laban should have enough of a zing (7ammod taste) and you’ll know that the water quantity is enough…

    Enjoy this variation! My husband couldn’t keep his hands off the dumplings, they’re so so good!

  7. Pamela says:

    Oh and for the meat stuffing; try meat, onion, dry mint, all spice, and salt. And for the laban; fresh mint, garlic and salt… It’s divine!

  8. Mazen says:


    I’m getting ready to make Shish Barak today for the first time. I’m curious as to why you don’t add any oil to your dough. All other recipes I have seen call for it, and some even add milk (Anahid)!

  9. Roger says:

    Dear Joumana,
    Thank you for all the good things available in your blog, I am Lebanese living abroad trying to prepare some Lebanese food from time to time. I want to prepare the mentioned Shish Barak but I am not eating beef in this time of the year, can you please suggest for me a good vegetarian filling, this will be much appreciated!!

  10. Ani says:

    This seems similar to Monte a dish both my grandmothers and mom make and I make for my American husband who loves it.

  11. Mona says:

    Hi Joumana!

    Making your recipe as we speak! When i was in Lebanon my mother in law was using a template similar to a Ravioli maker! So God Bless Home Goods (the one in Irving) they had one that was small enough! Easy Peasy!

  12. Verjus says:

    Hi Joumana- are you certain about these quantities? This looks like enough to feed 6, not 50. I’m desperate for a shishbarak recipe and I like your blog, but this recipe makes me hesitate… how can one pound of meat yield 600 dumplings?

    • Joumana says:

      @ Verjus: After 150 I stopped counting and I estimated; but look, I made the dumplings real tiny and figured on about 10 dumplings per serving. It is on my list of re-do, so thanks for pointing it out and I will check it again! (my dumplings were about 2 cms in length)

  13. kim says:

    please sne me receipts weekly

    • Joumana says:

      @kim: you can subscribe to the blog through RSS feed or Facebook or Twitter; everytime I post a new recipe it will appear through these channels.

  14. kim says:

    please send me receips weekly, sorry for the misspelling a slip of the finger.

  15. Maha says:

    Hey Joumana
    I love your recipe however I altered it to make it Gluten free and Dairy free 🙂 and it worked!!! Also used chicken instead of meat. Came out yummy.

  16. Salwa naifeh says:

    My sittee used to make this dish all the time so I’ve decided to make it too I didnt pinch the ends for the dumplings but will next time we also use the Same labana roast ,& califlower relish I like my labana very tart very good

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