Almost any feast or any joyous occasion that enters any Syrian household does not overlook grilled kibbeh. It is prepared in Syria on religious holidays, whether Christian or Muslim, and when a family member travels, their bag must contain several pieces. When two families get to know each other and on the occasion of engagement or marriage, a large feast is prepared in which the origins of the two families are called and this tabletop has kibbeh of all kinds. Grilled kibbeh has become an important demand for Syrian expatriates, who are looking for its ingredients or somewhere to make it wherever they are.
Grilled kibbeh is a well-known dish in all Syrian regions and every region has worked to add special flavours to it according to the nature of the gourmet of the meal. Fine bulgur is the main ingredient for kibbeh, and it is mixed in different proportions (depending on the financial condition) with raw meat of sheep or calf “habra” (Habra: Lean red meat).
You may presume from the previous two lines that the process is very easy, but in fact the preparation of the luxurious grilled kibbeh is a delicate process and requires team work for excellence and perhaps the preparation and making process creates very beautiful family ties. I remember well that when a few days remain of Eid, my father and mother sit together in the evening and the process of planning this delicious meal begins. My father would ask how many pounds of bulgur they would need (now in the kilogram) and my mother would answers it: “I will make two pounds because I will send to our son in Saudi Arabia and I will give my mother and your mother and keep the rest in the refrigerator”. Then, my dad will ask how many kilos do you need and filling?
I wake up in the morning to find that my mother had loosened and soaked the bulgur; a process that includes washing the fine bulgur several times and clean from impurities such small stones: “In the past you rinsed it and spent the whole day cleaning it. These days, bulgur comes clean, thank God for the development of the food industry.”
She leaves the bulgur for an hour or so more until the water is well absorbed, then comes our turn to mix the ‘kibbeh’. This process is summarised by introducing fine bulgur with meat, onions, salt and spices to the meat grinder and the process is repeated until the bulgur and the meat turns into a delicious dough. I still love to eat it raw and my son prefers it that way, too.
The filling is prepared with art and mastery as well. The meat is cooked well with salt and spices, then the fat is placed on top to melt and it’s left to freeze a little. Then, the line for the grilled kibbeh begins to form: the uniqueness of a large table and its division into several stages, so one section is devoted to forming balls from the dough and another section is devoted to converting balls into tablets, then the process of adding the filling, with art, creativity, and specialisation. Formation of the final tablet (filled disc plate): the final process is received by the lady of the house to calculate the amount of filling needed for each tablet to be equal and sufficient for the total quantity required.
The making table comes with a lot of laughs, jokes, and family discussion of social matters. I enjoy those moments with my brothers and my mother and now with my husband and children
As for the cooking process, my family has specialists, and it requires my mother to learn this important process that includes lighting the charcoal, placing the discs on the grill and turning them to achieve the optimum roasting. The process may last an hour or more depending on the amount and each child brings a small plate to have a hot piece that melts in their little mouths.
It is served on the dining table as a main dish and next to a cup of yogurt with chopped cucumber and garlic or with a salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley, and lemon to be a complete meal with nutrients. The Syrian grilled kibbeh, in my opinion, is not just a food that contains all the important nutrients for our bodies, but rather nourishes the soul, heals the spirit of the family, and strengthens the bonds of love.