24 The NaTioNal CuliNary review • JaNuary 2018
ethnic cuisine the kurdish embrace
THE FRIENDLIEST OF CUISINES
So, with all this tragedy and dislocation, what kind
of food do Kurds eat and cook? “Kurdish food centers
on rice, greens and legumes,” Duguid says, pointing
to Kurdish lentil soup with purslane, a succulent that
thickens the dish. “This soup is simple. Like all good
food, it’s more than the sum of its parts.” Her book
features Kurdish black rice, red rice and golden rice,
plus eggplant and tomato stew (bainjan shley) fried in
turmeric and cumin.
“My favorite is rice,” says Hasan, who also loves
his wife’s grape-leaf dolma filled with rice, chopped
tomato, eggplant, onion, curry powder, coriander and
turmeric. When he bought House of Kabob, Hasan kept
its Persian menu, adding a few Kurdish offerings down
the line, including dolma and lentil soup. “Kurdish
food is different, but when it comes to grilling, it’s all the same,” he says. He notes that
Kurdish kabobs are a little shorter than Persian kabobs. “But we all use the same meats,
onions, spices, salt and pepper, and paprika. Some people use parsley, but we don’t.”
At Azadi International Food Market and Bakery in Nashville, Kurdish morning
pizza (kulera ba quima) topped with ground lamb and cheese is a specialty. Kurds also
eat samoon, a curiously shaped bread that blows up in the middle and is pinched at both
ends. Duguid found Kurds from Iraq baking bulgur bread with ground cumin, nigella,
fenugreek, minced onion and sea salt in Sulaymaniyah. Kurdish kalana, half-moon
hand pies with greens stuffed into nane-tire, are among her discoveries.
Zebari’s cookbook is filled with hearty, simple soups, meat and vegetable stews, and
lots of rice dishes, including tahdig, the highly prized crusty rice found at the bottom
of the pan. For sheikh mahshi, she ties a long piece of fresh parsley around half an
eggplant stuffed with ground meat, dried mint, chopped parsley and browned onions,
placing the other half on top to keep the halves together as they bake. There are Kurdish pickled
vegetables, torshi, and disk-shaped, rice-stuffed kibbeh, kubba halab honoring Halab, the ancient
city of Aleppo. She also features an Iranian friend’s fesingin, a chicken stew with pomegranate
syrup and ground-up walnuts, a Persian specialty.
Though Jewish Kurds have lived in Israeli territory for centuries, most came there after Israel
became a country. In Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda Market, Oren Sasson offers versions of his Syrian-born Kurdish grandmother’s eye-shaped shamburak at Ishtabach, his restaurant. Traditionally made
with fried wheat bread stuffed with slowly cooked beef (siske), spices and herbs, his grandmother
aBove toP: semolina and bulgur wheat dough filled with slow-cooked beef and served in a beet soup at Kubeh.
aBove Bottom: half-moon bread pie. [excerpted from Taste of Persia by naomi duguid (artisan Books). copyright© 2016.
Photographs by gentl & hyers]
oPPosite: house of Kabob Kurdish lamb shank with green rice with dill and lima beans.