Yogurt, Tahini or both?


Yogurt in Syria is used in a total different way to that of England. We use yogurt in its unprocessed form. We don't eat it as a desert or a snack and never sweet or mixed with fruits. Yogurt for Syrians is a savory ingredient that is served next to food or used as a base ingredient of many dishes. We use yogurt by the bucket load quite literally! Traditionally Damascenes bought their yogurt from local shops in small plastic buckets. These were reusable. You eat the yogurt, you take them back and get yourself a new one. Of course this way of buying yogurt is almost extinct these days and you now buy it in small plastic pots like the rest of the world.

Tahini is another essential ingredient in the Syrian kitchen. Actually it is one of my all time favourite ingredients. It adds a unique earthy note to food and marries beautifully with lamb and white fish.

Both tahini and yogurt are used to create a variety of sauces served on the side of Syrian dishes. This post aims to explore all the different combinations created from these two ingredients and the different ways to use them.


Tahini Sauce: (theneh طحينة)

This is a classic sauce served next to kebab, lamb shawerma and falafel. it works perfectly well with fried aubergine and fried cauliflowers.

Tahini 4tbsp
Juice of half a lemon
Salt
Water

Add the tahini, lemon juice to a bowl and start mixing with a spoon. The mixture will become stiff and light in colour. Add a little water and mix again. Add the water small amount at a time until the mixture loosens to the consistency you want. It needs to be fairly loose but not water-runny. Add salt to taste.

You can add some crushed garlic if you are serving it with shawerma or similar type recipes.


Yogurt and Tahini sauce: (Laban wa theneh لبن و طحينة)

This combination is mainly used as a base of many Syrian dishes; Mutabal, Ful bi Laban, Fatteh to name a few.

I occasionally use this combination as a side sauce instead of the pure tahini sauce described above. It is easier to eat as yogurt adds a nice tangy flavour that balance the heaviness of the tahini. I always serve this version with Lahmeh bil saniyeh.

Greek style yogurt 300g
Tahini 3tbsp
Lemon
Salt

To make the sauce whisk together the yogurt and tahini. Add salt and lemon to taste. If the sauce is too thick, loosen with some water.


Taratour: (طرطور)


This sauce is the ideal complement to white fish cooked deep fried, grilled or roasted. One of my best childhood food memories was in a sea front restaurant in Tartous with a big plate of fried fish, Arabic bread and a bowel of Taratour, a perfect lunch.

To make taratour all you need is tahini sauce slightly thinner than usual and loads of chopped parsley
.


Yogurt and cucumber:
(Laban wa khiyar لبن و خيار)


Every country of the Levant and all the neighboring territories have their own version of the famous Tzatziki. This is the Syrian one. In its native countries Tzatziki is usually used as an accompaniment unlike the Western interpretation of serving it as a dip.

In Syria we serve Laban wa Khiyar as a side sauce for "dry" rice and Bulgar pilaf. By dry I mean dishes with the grains as the main ingredient without a vegetable stew on the side. Riz bi Bazalia (Peas rice pilaf) Riz bi Ful (Broad bean rice pilf) and Burgul bi Ful (Broad bean Bulgar pilaf) are some delicious examples.

Yogurt 300g
One cucumber
Salt
Lemon
Garlic one clove
Dry mint 1tsp

Peel and finely chop the cucumber. Add the yogurt, dry mint and crushed garlic. Mix well and add salt and lemon to taste. Thin the mixture with some water if required to get the right consistency.


Yogurt: (Laban لبن)

Yogurt can be served in its plain unprocessed form as an alternative to Tzatziki. It goes well with the same type of dishes but it work especially well with Mujadara and Maqluba (literally translated, Upside-down) an upside down rice aubergine and meat pilaf.


Yogurt and garlic sauce: (Laban wa toum لبن و توم)

This one is for the garlic lovers. We Syrians (and Lebanese) are not only used to the taste of raw garlic, we absolutely love it!

This sauce is served next to Mnazaleh bi aswad and couple of similar dishes made with fried minced lamb and pumpkin or courgettes.

Finally, yogurt and garlic can be used to make the classic Syrian pasta with yogurt.

Yogurt 300g
Garlic 2-3 cloves
Salt

Crush the garlic and mix in the yogurt with salt to taste.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

many in the Sham/levant peel and deseed the cucumber for laban ma khiyar..much more refined taste and aesthetic

Julia said...

We eat most of those sides here in Turkey but I've never tried the tahini sauce with the fish. Interesting.

Anonymous said...

thank you dear friend for this fantastic post, yogurt with tahine makes the tahine less bitter, (it is not comon in alepo), i learned to make BATERSH when i was serving in the Rastan city, the Hama cityizens are master in such mixtures, I miss the sheep laban, no other laban can be compeared to that, especially when you want to make KEBELABANIE,

BRASIL

SHAKUEY201 said...

The halabi laban ou kheyar that I know also adds Aleppo Pepper

Maysa said...

Mmmm seeing your tartour sauce makes me feel like frying fish...scales, tail eyes and ALL! i remember when i was little going to some restaurant high up by the sea and eating fried fish but i dont remember where

tasteofbeirut said...

When I cant get the so-called Persian cucumbers in the West, I use diced celery for the yogurt at least it stays crispy longer!

Nisrine said...

Quite an array of delicious sauces! I have a weekness for yogurt sauces but I have yet to try yogurt and tahini mixed together; it sounds like a winning combination.

E89 said...

yummy sauces. I just have a question, what do you serve with Chicken Shawrma because I do not eat red meat :), thank you

Kano said...

@anonymous
To be honest, I never understood the point of de-seeding cucumber. Especially the small variety we use in Syria.

@Julia
Try it and let me know. Works really well.

@Le
You welcome!
You are absolutely right about sheep yogurt. I never managed to make a decent Labanyieh or any yogurt dish here in the UK. It is not the same.

@Shakuey201
You guys add Aleppo peppers to everything ;)

@Maysa
It has been years since I last had fried fish. My mum cooked it and it was yummy but the house smelled of fish for days. That's why I never cook it in my flat.

@Tasteofbeirut
Interesting! I am no fan of celery but I think this one worth a try.

@Nisrine
Do you have tahini in Morocco?

@E89
Welcome to my blog.
For chicken Shawerma and all other grilled chicken dishes we serve garlic sauce called Toum. There are many recipes on the net. I use my own super fast toum recipe:

http://syrianfoodie.blogspot.com/2009/12/30-minutes-bbq.html

Anonymous said...

deseeding improves the texture and taste( unless theey are very small seeds and not bitter)..also makes the dish less watery

Kano said...

Fair enough! I take your point.

Aparna said...

Just discovered your blog. In my south Indian community we cannot think of a meal without yogurt. I make it fresh everyday and you can always find some in my fridge.
We also serve it plain as a savoury accompaniment with rice or pulav (pilaf), as raitas (with vegetables like tzatziki. We even cook with it.

Kano said...

@Aprana

Welcome to my blog.

We do share the use of yogurt between our two cuisines although they couldn't be mor edifferent on all other aspects.

Nisrine said...

Yes we have it in Morocco and it's used in a lot of Middle Eastern inspired savory dishes. It has become popular especially after the satellite TV boom in the last few decades.

Anonymous said...

interesting, i didn't know taratour the way you prepare it. a friend from masyaf used tahini, loads of garlic, lemon juice and a bit of water (eaten with deep fried cauliflower). sarah

Kano said...

@Sarah
Different people call different things Taratour. In Lebanon they even have pinenut taratour.

For Cauliflower I like to add a bit of cumin to the tahini sauce. Check my recipe:

http://syrianfoodie.blogspot.com/2009/12/one-hundred-and-one-mezze-17-fried.html

Anonymous said...

that's a brilliant idea, I do add cumin to cauliflower when doing it rather indian style (fried with potatoes, cumin and curcuma, and yoghurt sauce), but hadn't thought of adding it to the taratour. will definitely give that a try next winter
Sarah

serena said...

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sallamat
serena

bojana said...

You are right about different meanings of taratour :-) Here, in Macedonia, taratour is made with thick yogurt, diced cucumber, garlic, salt and a little oil. No tahini in it.
We have two types of yogurt. One thick, eaten with a spoon, and one thinner, for drinking. We eat both almost every day, most often for breakfast, with gjevrek (like turkish simit), burek, or with sandwiches. I find it interesting how the names of dishes change.

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