Many Turks will be amazed that we managed to live in Turkey for over ten years before we had our first ever taste of what is perhaps Turkey’s most well known soup; Tarhana Çorbası. When we did finally make tarhana soup, I put this on my Facebook profile and on Twitter. “Noooo waaay,” was one reply. People couldn’t believe we’d never tried it before. We couldn’t believe we’d never tried it before. Here we were; two enthusiasts about all that is Turkish food – and we’d never slurped the famous and much-loved tarhana soup.
So we thought about some of the possible reasons. Way back in 2010, we did a list of 6 Turkish soups you’re likely to find in the restaurants and lokantas around Fethiye. Tarhana çorbası doesn’t make that list because you don’t find it in lokantas. That’s one reason…
What Is Tarhana Made Of?
And perhaps another reason is this is a soup that’s made and eaten at home. It’s a comforting, winter family staple. It’s what parents make and send to their kids who are away at uni or working away from home, just so they can be sure their offspring are at least eating one wholesome sensible meal occasionally. Because, before it’s rehydrated tarhana soup starts off looking like this:
Tarhana soup starts off as tarhana dough; a dried food. The preparation of tarhana dough is a process that takes days, and most Turkish households will have the dough tucked away somewhere in a cupboard; tarhana that’s been made by a mum, auntie or grandma before being divided up to be shared amongst family and neighbours. And, on a cold winter’s day, comforting tarhana çorbası can be made.
So, how did this tarhana dough come into our possession? It was a lovely gift, that’s how!
A friend of ours from Istanbul returned to Fethiye and, as lots of mums do, this friend’s mum had packed her off with family homemade tarhana in her luggage. When we went to see her, she produced a bag for us.
“My mum said give this to Barry and Julia. She’s really sorry there’s not more.”
A gift with an apology? No need! Big thank yous from us. Because you can buy tarhana in packet form in the supermarkets these days, but that’s just not the same, is it? The tarhana in our photo above has been made by the hands of our friend’s mum – and she’d thought to send some for us all the way from Istanbul. What better gift than the gift of homemade food? Especially a homemade food where the skill of producing it is passed down through the generations. In Turkey, tarhana is made up of various ingredients that can include:
- bulgur wheat or flour
- Turkish yoghurt
- salça (tomato paste)
…and then it’s dried, sometimes out in the sun, and then, eventually, somehow, the final result is the crumbled dough you see in the photo above. Yes, we think we’ll leave the making of tarhana dough to those who know what they’re doing!
How To Make Tarhana Soup
These days, in good Turkish fashion, our kitchen cupboard is never without tarhana dough. We ate our friend’s mum’s version sometime ago but we restocked with some tarhana we bought at Kadıköy Market in Istanbul. We buy the version containing salça (tomato paste) because we prefer the flavour and the final colour of the soup.
Where possible, whenever we make tarhana çorbası, we like to make our own chicken or meat stock to go with it – well, if someone has gone to the trouble to make tarhana dough, it seems a shame to just throw in a stock cube, doesn’t it?
Before you make tarhana soup, the dough needs to be rehydrated. This is the only bit you’ve got to remember in advance, otherwise you’re gonna be a bit hungry while you’re waiting. We put two heaped dessert spoonfuls into a cup of tepid water and leave it for a couple of hours, giving it a stir occasionally…and you can always make your stock in the meantime, too. Once all that’s done, it’s just a case of heating it through and enjoying winter in a bowl! So, here’s our recipe…
Tarhana Soup Recipe
- 2 dessert spoonfuls hydrated tarhana dough
- 3 mugs hot water or stock
- 2 dessert spoonfuls salça (tomato paste)
- 1 knob butter
- Rehydrate your tarhana dough by placing it in a coffee mug and filling the mug with tepid water. Stir occasionally and leave it to rehydrate for a couple of hours.
- In a large pan, melt a knob of butter on a medium heat.
- Now pour your rehydrated tarhana and add the salça.
- Stir around until the salça has dissolved into the mixture.
- Now ladle your hot water or stock into the tarhana soup, gradually, stirring all the time so that the tarhana doesn't settle and stick to the bottom of the pan.
- Your tarhana soup will keep thickening as it heats.
- Once it's heated through, serve your tarhana soup with chunks of fresh Turkish bread.
Many Turkish people enjoy eating their tarhana soup with white cheese crumbled on top.
Some Turkish people also like their tarhana çorbası with minced meat, too.
And that’s how to make tarhana soup – easy when you’ve got the dough! We make our stock for the soup by boiling the carcass of our takeaway kömürde piliç and just throwing in a bit of onion and herbs. Nothing too taxing but a good, homemade stock makes a difference.
To serve, we sprinkle with chilli flakes and a drizzle of chilli-infused olive oil. And what does Turkey’s famous tarhana çorbası taste like? Well, flavours vary depending on who has made your tarhana dough – but, for us, the first time we had it, we both recognised a flavour from our childhoods…
Heinz oxtail soup.
Most people of our age in Wigan have been brought up as kids on Heinz staff sales – cupboards filled with tins without labels. Oxtail soup always seemed to feature more than the others. So a staple Turkish comfort food also takes us back to our own childhood comfort foods. We love tarhana soup!
Tarhana Çorbası – More Information
- Our recipe made four servings.
- Tarhana soup is traditionally served with beyaz peynir (white cheese) crumbled over the top.
- Some people also add minced beef – we love adding minced beef to our tarhana soup recipe.
- If you’d like to try tarhana soup and are like us and have a bit of an aversion to packet soups, you can buy tarhana from the markets. Just look for the stalls selling dried beans and rice etc. There’s usually a big sack of tarhana in the mix somewhere.
- If you want to know more about the traditional process of making tarhana dough, it’s explained vividly in this great blog post by Olga at Delicious Istanbul.
- Tarhana soup is usually eaten as a warming winter soup…we love it at all times of year!
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