It’s hard to believe but my great dumpling-making quest began almost three years ago. If you’re new around here, basically I became interested in cooking my way around the world through dumplings since, no joke, there are dozens of dumplings to make (just look at Chinese food if you don’t believe me).
But if you’re keeping tallies where moi, the Red Headed Traveler is concerned, I’ve made dumplings from Sicily, Turkey, Nepal, China, Sweden, Germany, and Ukraine. I’ve previously joked about this but I am semi-serious about one day opening up a cafe that serves nothing but dumplings. Each week would offer three different types of dumplings, preferably from geographically diverse areas in order to get the full experience.
While 2015 and 2016 were good years on the dumpling making front, 2017 was not. However, 2018 is already off to a good start as I’ve now tried out dumplings from two new countries. If you follow my culinary adventures on Facebook and Instagram, you’ll already know which two countries they are. And if you haven’t already googled it, you’ll now know that Shish Barak are Lebanon’s form of dumpling (they are found in other Middle Eastern countries as well and are similar to the Turkish manti). They resemble the Italian ravioli except the filling is typically ground lamb instead of beef or cheese.
Since I’ve entered my 30s, I’ve become significantly more
interested obsessed with wanting to visit the Middle East (okay, I know it’s not technically the Middle East but I am including Turkey in this broad geographical generalization). Although I definitely have my top contenders-Turkey, Morocco, Jordan- Lebanon also intrigues me even though I know very little about it save for a rudimentary background on the horrific Civil War that plagued the country for 15 years during the late 20th century. But I also know from newspaper and magazine articles like the New York Times and Saveur, Lebanon is the place to visit. The food would be superb (no doubt) but I’d also be enchanted by images of French colonial-era buildings against the backdrop of olive groves and palm trees.
Which leads me to the Shish Barak which are basically meat dumplings in a yogurt stew. I’m not sure why it took me so long to make these Lebanese dumplings. I think a small part of it is due to my dislike of yogurt in a savory setting (don’t get me wrong, I often cook with yogurt, but I don’t eat plain/non-sweet yogurt on its own). But I needn’t have worried; the yogurt sauce very much complimented the slightly spicy lamb filling.
These weren’t too hard to make (you really just need time and patience anytime you’re rolling out dough and then cutting out dozens of circles and filling them with minute amounts of filling). My folding skills are nothing to write home about (my shish barak ended up looking more like blobs), but thankfully the yogurt sauce hides any assembly flaws.
Here’s a link to the recipe I used for the shish barak. Taste wise it was great, but I feel the ratio of dough to filling was off. (I had a ton of leftover filling, which thankfully I used when I made my second dumpling of the year a few weeks later.)
Recipe deviations & notes
-I didn’t have any harissa on hand, so I substituted sambal oelek . I think it worked quite well
-I left out the pine nuts due to pure laziness (I didn’t want the hassle of having to toast them). I don’t think my shish barak suffered as a result
-Just remember that if you’ve never cooked with ground lamb before, it doesn’t get AS brown as ground beef. Make sure you still let the dumplings cook in the boiling water for the necessary time in order to fully cook the filling but don’t become too alarmed if you bite into one and the filling looks a tad pink.
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