History of Tarhana
Invented by the Central Asian Turks, Tarhana is believed to be the first ever instant soup mix. Prepared in the summer time in anticipation for the cold winter months, this fermented and dried soup mix can last up to 2-3 years.
The name ‘tarhana’ is still heavily debated today, but there’s a popular story that tends to be mentioned… There once was a Sultan traveling the land, and he stopped at a poor peasant’s house, not having much to offer in the ‘dar hane’ (narrow house) she quickly prepared some hot soup from her stash of soup mix for the Sultan. She had called it ‘dar hane’ soup, and over time, I imagine since the story was told over and over, and since the words are close in pronunciation, the soup’s name evolved from ‘dar hane’ to ‘tarhana’. It’s also sometimes referred to as the Sultan’s soup.
What is Tarhana?
During the summer months tomatoes, red peppers and onions are used from the summer harvest. The long, labor-intensive process prepares a fermented and dried soup mixture to be used and gifted over time. Note, there are many variations to the soup since ingredients vary by region, and recipes vary by families. Tarhana soup is a staple of Turkish cuisine, and a common homemade item gifted by mothers, aunts and grandmothers alike.
So, if you’re looking for something to make with your summer harvest I have just the thing, it won’t be easy but it sure will be worth it!
Tarhana Soup / Tarhana Çorbası
Making Tarhana Soup Mix from Scratch
Like any recipe, depending on how much you want to make is how much you put, I’ve added amounts below for you to get an understanding of ratio and where to start. A key factor to note is equal amounts of tomatoes, red pepper and onions.
- 2 onions
- 2 tomatos
- 2 red peppers
- olive oil
- 2 c. thick strained live-yogurt
- 7 g. yeast
- 1 T. dried mint and/or parsley (optional)
- 1 c. chickpeas (optional)
- Coat the bottom of the pot with olive oil and add the onions, tomatoes and red peppers and let cook for about 20 minutes on low heat.
- When the vegetables are fully cooked and softened, remove them from the liquid, leave to cool.
- Combine the vegetables with yogurt, yeast and gradually add the flour to make a stiff dough, your choice if you’d like to add dried mint and parsley. It’s also optional at this time to add boiled chickpeas into the mix to help speed along the fermenting process. Knead the dough until smooth.
- Place the dough in a plastic or glass bowl and cover with wax paper. Allow the dough to ferment at room temperature for about 7-10 days. Be sure to check on it everyday, kneading the dough for 5 minutes each day, you may have to add additional flour into the dough if it becomes too watery or separate the dough into different bowls to make it more manageable. It’s the end of fermentation when the dough no longer puffs up. After 4-5 days the taste will become sour, after 7-10 days it will becomes sweet again, that’s when you’ll know it’s done.
- Break the dough into small pieces and spread on a sheet to place outside under the shade to dry for 1-2 days, occasionally turning them over. It is essential that the mix is completely dried before bringing inside.
- Once dried, crumble the mixture as fine as you can rubbing it between your hands or pressing through a sifter.
- Store in cloth bags or glass jars in a cool place or refrigerator, it can be stored for up to 2-3 years.
Preparing the Soup with Tarhana Soup Mix
Whether you prepared it yourself, or got your hands on some, there are variations on how to prepare it. Note: I’ve seen it sold in the Spice Bazaar and neighborhood markets like the Kadıköy Çarşı, when visiting you can easily purchase it for yourself, or as a gift – it’s a great souvenir idea.
- Olive oil
- 1 T. tomato and/or pepper paste
- 4 T. Tarhana soup mix
- 4 cups water
- 1 T. butter (optional)
- Optional, if you’d like to add garlic, onions and ground beef, sauté the onions and garlic in olive oil first before adding the ground beef.
- Stir tomato and/or pepper paste into the mixture above or with olive oil.
- Add the tarhana soup mix and slowly add water while whisking, the ratio is up to your preferred texture and taste.
- Optional toppings include: dried mint, red pepper flakes and lemon.