Tangier Tabbouleh

So I’ve been meaning to blog my tabbouleh recipe for many months now, but never had the presence of mind to take the accompanying photographs each time I prepared it. Tabbouleh was one of those things that I always had as a kid, not because my parents are of Middle-Eastern descent, but because it is delicious and healthy. In fact, I was often shocked that my friends at school had never heard of tabbouleh, quinoa, falafel, and other such delights. Like most kids view mac & cheese as a culinary staple, I assumed that pesto, whole-wheat pancakes, and wild rice were consumed by happy children nationwide.

Upon moving to Morocco, I thought, “Aha! Tabbouleh here will be the best I’ve ever had! Beautiful farmer’s market parsley, fresh cucumbers, glowing tomatoes… I’m all set!” Well, almost. I soon discovered that bulgur wheat, one of the main ingredients, is nearly impossible to find here.1 I looked through shop after shop, consulted friends, and even sent my Lebanese student home to question his mother. After months of searching, the bottom line seemed to be that bulgur wheat, like Thai curry and bagels, could not be found in Morocco for love or money.2

Several weeks ago, in desperation, I summoned a crack team of one3 to scour the city one final time. He returned with about four different types of wheat and grains but no bulgur, explaining that the Syrian grocery store was indefinitely out of stock for bulgur, but the shopkeeper had offered the others as oft-used substitutions. Nearly driven mad by my tabbouleh cravings,4 I caved and chose the likeliest-looking wheat, a type of wild barley. So here, without further ado, is my habit-forming tabbouleh recipe. If you live in the good ol’ USA, you should have no trouble heading out to your local grocery or organic market and purchasing quantities of bulgur that I’m sure would make me livid with jealousy. If you prefer to pretend that you live in a country where bulgur is a thing of legend, try out my recipe with barley, as I did.5 Recipe adapted from this one.

Tangier Tabbouleh

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup bulgur6
  • 3 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 2 cucumbers, chopped7
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped fresh parsley8
  • 1/3 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice9
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Place the bulgur (or barley) in a bowl and cover with two cups of boiling water. Soak it for 30 minutes. Use this time to chop your vegetables and put them in a large bowl. Mix the salt, lemon juice, and olive oil together in a cup.

Drain the bulgur. Stir it in with the vegetables. Pour the salt/lemon/oil mixture into the bowl and mix well.

Chill for at least 30 minutes in the fridge. The longer you leave it, the more flavorful it becomes. Several hours or even overnight is ideal. Don’t forget to give it a little stir before serving! If you want to get fancy, garnish with mint.

Feeds eight, or one of me at lunch every day for a week. Can be served with bread, but I tend to eat it unaccompanied out of a bowl.

  1. The mediocre local Lebanese restaurant makes a bastardized version of it without bulgur and nearly acidic enough to destroy your taste buds. []
  2. I actually haven’t tried trading love for bagels, though–for a good sesame bagel–it seems reasonable. []
  3. Thanks, Neil! []
  4. Fun fact: the largest dish of tabbouleh ever made weighed 4,324 kg (9,532 lb 12 oz). Fairly sure that would be enough to satisfy my craving. []
  5. Other possible variations: quinoa, wild rice, couscous. Not for purists. []
  6. Or in my case, barley. []
  7. I don’t peel my cucumbers, because I love the added texture of the cucumber skin. []
  8. Really important that you chop right before mixing! Nothing worse than chopped, wilted parsley. And don’t even think about using a food processor to chop the parsley. Chopping by hand releases the flavor much better. []
  9. I squeezed my own- also recommended! []

2 Responses

  • Well, a woman who searches for bulgur around
    A city where bulgur is surely not found
    Is convinced that substitute wild barley will do
    Is a woman rewarded with some food anew…

    Tabarley Tabarley Tabarley.

  • TANGIER TANGENT

    To replace the angelic Miss Meyer
    From our town’s church choir
    With a tone-deaf woman
    Was, to put it kindly, rather
    Dire.
    And to call a dish taboulleh
    With a substitute for bulgar
    Is most obscene
    Or at the very least,
    Vulgar.

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