One Hundred and One Mezze: 10. Kibbeh Nayyeh

In the small world of foodies, food writers and food bloggers restaurants come into fashion very quickly and some times they disappear as fast. On occasions this "sudden" popularity is a result of a well organised PR drive, just check the story of L'Anima and linguine alle vongole to understand what I mean.

On other occasions the popularity is (I hope) of the more benign genuine variety. Yalla Yalla is the restaurant in vogue these days. For those who haven't heard about it yet, it is a small Lebanese restaurant/cafe in Soho. The place is every where. The late London Paper called it "the best street food in London", it received glorious reviews in Metro and Time Out and fellow food bloggers World Foodie Guide and The London Foodie gave it equally excellent reviews.

In these reviews, I loved the fact people were adventurous enough to try kibbeh nayyeh. This is raw kibbeh made with raw lamb and bulger wheat, something like Levantine lamb tartare.

I always thought kibbeh nayyeh (nayyeh in Arabic means raw) was a step too far for the Western palate and only the most hardcore of gourmet would dare to attempt it. From the look of things I was wrong and more people are welling to give it a go than I expected, so here is a recipe for it!

Kibbeh Nayeh is the queen of any mezze spread and a must on any Levantine restaurant's menu. When well made Kibbeh Nayeh taste fresh and delicious. You need a good quality, fresh as a daisy, lamb meat. Any self respecting restaurant well not serve you the dish if they are not one hundred percent happy with the lamb, so don't be surprised if you get turned down when you order it.

Like all mezze, everybody have their own recipe. The most authentic uses meat and bulger with few flavouring ingredients apart from salt and pepper. On the other hand, upper end restaurants in Damascus add finely chopped onions, green peppers and spring onions to make the dish less shocking for their many tourist costumers. My recipe is somewhere in between.

For this recipe I use fine bulgar wheat. In Syria bulgar come in two varieties fine and coarse and you can pick these from any Middle Eastern shop, the main stream supermarkets' version is some where in between, this will work but leave it a bit longer in the food processor.

If you are a starter on kibbeh nayyeh use a 1:1 ratio between bulgar and lamb. The more hardcore you get the more meat you can use. This ratio is about volume rather than dry weight.

Another ingredient I would love to use but is not available in London is sun-dried red pepper paste. Instead I use preserved chopped chilli, Tesco have this within their Ingredients range and Bart have a similar product.

Here is my recipe:
Enough for four people as you need a very small portion

Ground lamb 150g
Fine bulgar wheat 50g
Onion one quarter
Tomato one half
Chilli paste 1 tsp
Olive oil

Soak the bulgar in cold water for an hour. It should double in size and be of equal volume to the meat. Drain and squeeze the extra water.

Start a food processor on the highest speed then drop the onion while the machine is running. Stop the machine and scrape the sides then run again till the onion is very finely chopped. Add the tomato in the same way. Run the processor for a minute or so.

Add one third of the meat, one third of the bulgar and the chilli paste and process for few minutes till you get a smooth paste consistency.

Now add the rest of the meat and bulgar and process in short bursts so it is all mixed but you keep the texture of the bulgar. Move to a bowl and mix by hand. Season to taste.

Form into small patties. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts and drizzle with olive oil.


Sasa said...

What do you think of Yalla Yalla? Have you tried it yet? I hadn't even heard about it!

مترجم سوري said...

wanna laugh? i'm not quite sure that u'll get the picture , but anyhow here it is:
it never- and i mean NEVER- occured to me for the 24 years i spent in damascus that am actually having raw meat in my stomach when i eat kebbeh neih,don't ask me how , i have no idea ,maybe due to the thick head i have..
when i moved to work in the gulf area, once we were chatting about the most famous dishes in the arabs region with another egyptain when i mentioned that my all- time's favourite is kibben neih. the girl jumped off her chair and she went like "YES i heard about this , do u really people eat raw meat ?? i can never imagine how you can eat "lahmeh neih"...

i was like "huh?what raw meat.. oh gosh yes we are eating raw meat.."

next time i was at home, and we had kibbeh neih , i looked at it as if i was having this dish for the first time in my life, and mumbled to myself , gosh how can we people eat raw meat and enjoy it!!

Kano said...

No I haven't. I was planning to go sometime this week depend on my time. The reviews are truly excellent.

Kano said...

What did you think "Nayyeh" refer to then? ;p

It is funny how food is not only about taste preconception plays a major role of how we enjoy it. It is very difficult to have a completely open mind when trying new dish, especially as "exotic" as kibbeh nayyeh.

Luiz Hara said...

Hi Kano,

Thank you for the acknowledgment of my blog and review here. I have not yet had the time to make your chicken liver in pomegranate molasses, and now this delicious kibbe recipe! I can't wait to try them all.


Anonymous said...

Hi since you are from the Middle East do you know where I can buy quince from London? (Safarjal)

Kano said...

Welcome to my blog. To be honest with you I never bought quince here in London but if someone is going to stock it it will be Damas gate in Shepherd's Bush or green valley in edgware road.

Helen @ World Foodie Guide said...

Hello! Thanks for linking to my post on Yalla Yalla. They didn't have kibbeh nayyeh on the day I went, but I've had it in Beirut (back in 1991) and loved it very much!

Unknown said...

Hi Kano,

before, kebbeh nayeh was my best mezze, as u know, but once here in Dubai i tried something called Habra in a Lebanese restaurant, and it was yummiiii

now i prefer it more than Kebbeh Nayeh, but for the people who have trouble to eat the raw meat in Kebbeh nayeh, its for sure better for them not even try Habra

its almost just a raw meet, as i expect, with some species, served with some Olive oil and some fresh onion over it

its really yummiii

Kano said...

My pleasure, I am a big fan of your blog. Really well written.
If 1991 was the last time you went to Beirut, it is a time for a new trip. Syria and Lebanon this time.

Kano said...

I haven't tried habra nayyeh. Loads of restaurants have it on their menu's here in London, but when you order it they don't have it as getting very fresh lamb is a bit more difficult here compared to Syria or UAE.

What do you think of the new layout of the blog?

Anonymous said...

Kebbe naye, i remember my mother making me a little sandwich of kebbe naye in syrian bread, yummmmm
my parents are originally from Aleppo

Kano said...

Welcome to my blog. I am glad reading this post brought nice memories back!

Anonymous said...

With all respect, the food from the rest of Syria, and the rest of the Arab world, and the rest of the world to a great extent, cannot compete with the original, traditional ones in Aleppo.
Live Long Aleppo, the republic of royal food.

Anonymous said...

No one gets angry with me. I just said the truth.

Kano said...


No one will get angry with you. It is a democracy in here.

Kano said...

Thank you very much for reading and commenting. Sorry to remove your comment but I have strict policy of not allowing any commercial links in the comments. Sorry again

tabmg said...

Do you know where I can find fried kibbeh?

Kano said...


Thank you for your comment and apologies for late reply. I hardly check the blog or the email account these days.

Where are you based?

Frozen Fried Kibbeh is widley available in larger Arabic supermarket in London.

If you want to buy ready to eat kibbeh you can try Green Valley supermarket on Edgware road or Damas Gate in sheperds bush.

Of course any Syrian or Lebanese restaurant will serve it.

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