I have been making Lebanese tabouleh for years. However, today I am making Turkish grilled fish and I got to thinking; Do Turks make this classic salad differently? The answer is yes.
There are four major differences. The first is the use of tomato paste, which gives the bulgur a reddish color. Kisir also uses less parsley then the Lebanese dish. Also, they add pomegranate molasses instead of lemon juice. And finally, Turkish kisir uses chili paste to make a much spacer dish.
Looking at various recipes on-line led me to think that there was no agreement on where you go from there. The amounts of tomato paste varied from one teaspoon to half a cup. Chili paste is all over the map from none to several tablespoons. Some recipes hydrate the bulgur in all of the liquid ingredients and then squeeze it out, while other recipes only add the tomato paste during the hydration step.
I looked at the pictures for each recipe. Those with one teaspoon of tomato paste looked too washed out, but those with half a cup looked like soup. I decided that 2 tablespoons would be about the right amount.
For my tabouleh I prefer the bulgur and parsley to be balanced. I have had Lebanese taboulehs that were almost all parsley with a little bulgur. However, it should not be bulgur with a little parsley either.
After I mixed the dressing with just the pomegranate molasses as the souring agent, it seemed too oily. I added lemon juice and it seemed like a better balance. The taste was also closer to what I think tabouleh should taste like.
I did not have Turkish chili paste. I used Chinese chili garlic sauce instead. I decided that a little would be good, but not too much, I did not want to make a fiery dish.
Karl’s Kisir (Turkish Tabouleh)
½ cup #2 bulgur
2 Tbs. tomato paste
½ cup green onions
1½ cups flat leaf parsley
½ cup mint
1/3 cup olive oil
3 Tbs. lemon juice
3 Tbs. Pomegranate Molasses
1 tsp. chili paste
1 clove garlic, mashed
½ tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. Flor de Sal
Pinch of dry yellow mustard
1 cucumber (English, Persian or Armenian)
½ cup red bell pepper
6-10 leaves Boston lettuce
1. At least 6 hours before the dinner, dissolve tomato paste in 1½ cups of warm water. Put the bulgur in a bowl and add the tomato water. Let the grain sit for an hour. If necessary, drain it through a sieve and press as much water out as you can.
Tip: Kasir is best made the day before, so that the flavors may meld.
2. Spread the bulgur out onto lipped baking sheet and let it dry for at least one hour.
Tip: Cover the bulgur with a clean dry towel
3. Scrape the bulgur back into the dried bowl.
4. Wash and dry the parsley, green onions and mint.
5. Chop the green onions very fine and add them to the bowl. Use your hands, or the back of a wooden spoon, to squeeze the mixture so that the bulgur absorbs the onion flavor.
6. Chop the parsley and mint very fine and mix it into the bowl.
7. Place the olive oil, lemon juice, chili paste, pepper, salt and mustard into a small lidded jar and shake well.
8. Add ¼ cup of the dressing to the salad and mix well. Let the salad meld, stirring occasionally. If you make it the day before, refrigerate until an hour before serving.
9. An hour before serving, peel, seed, and dice the cucumbers and tomatoes. Add them to the salad and mix them in.
Note: I am using an Armenian cucumber and tomatoes from our garden.
10. Serve the lettuce leaves and the rest of the dressing on the side. Diners make a bed of lettuce and top it with the kasir and extra dressing if they wish.