Çiriş Pilavı: Herby bulgur dish to fill you up

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WHAT'S SPECIAL

Many a plant inhabits the plains of the Mediterranean and aren’t exactly the edible type. When you see, or rather feel, nettles you don’t think you could eat them but for example those are sought after in the Black Sea region of Turkey where they make the basis for a variety of dishes. Another such plant is the asphodel. It doesn’t look like much but combined with bulgur, it makes for an eastern Anatolian delicacy.

What is Çiriş Pilavı?

The combination of asphodel and bulgur. The simplicity is what makes this dish so delectable, though some people choose to include onions.

Jump to Recipe

The origin

In ancient Greece, people have settled and enjoyed their barley and other grains. But not every season was plentiful and when they came down to hard times, they’d resort to the food of the nomads, one of them being the asphodel. (1) Considering that the word has spread from nomads, usually referring to the nomadic Turks coming from Asia Minor, that have been consuming the plant in a variety of manners, hints to the centuries-old tradition of it.
Like many recipes that are simplistic, such as Kavut, there are not many written recipes attached to them. Historians have noted that people that eventually settled in Eastern Anatolia were consuming red meat, butter, and herbs. Aside from the variety of tastes that herbs give to any given dish, the people believed that these plants had medicinal properties. This is the reason they included it even in a simple bulgur pilav. (2)
Once spring rolls around, the people of Van in eastern Turkey go up to the mountains to harvest the asphodels, which resemble leeks. But like many things in the eastern regions, the asphodel can be referred to by many different names. Çiriş, çiviş and kiriş are close enough when pronounced but the resemblance to leek gave it the names of “wild leek” (yabani pırasa) and “mountain leek” (dağ pırasası) as well. As the plant is also included in the family of lilies, it is also called “yellow lily” (sari zambak) as well.
The simplistic dish can most likely be traced back to the Seljuk era where written accounts tell of simple dishes, very unlike the Ottoman era style, where the newly settled Turks would consume whatever they had to hand and the bountiful Anatolian flora had to offer. Bulgur pilavs were a common dish and mentioned several times by Mevlana as well. (3)

Etymology

The word çiriş itself can be traced to the Persian “siriş” (سريش) describing the plant itself and the glue that is made out of it. The word pilav comes from the Persian “pilaw” (پلاو) describing it as a dish made out of rice. The Persian version comes from the Sanskrit “pulaka” (पुलाक) meaning rice bowl.

Çiriş Pilavı: Herby bulgur dish to fill you up

If you ever get your hands on some asphodel, maybe even on a hike depending on what kind of climate you live in, you can give this one a shot. Asphodel is not commonly sold in all bazaars around Turkey even. It is more confined to the eastern Anatolian region, precisely Van, but exceptions break the rule of course.

Ingredients

  • 1 kg asphodel
  • 1-2 onions optional
  • 300 gr bulgur
  • some vegetable oil
  • salt
  • hot water

Instructions

  • If you decide to use onions, start by chopping them and saute them until they start to soften. Clean the asphodel and cut them into small pieces and add them into the softened onions together with the bulgur. Roast them all together for several minutes and pour hot water over the whole mixture until it is all submerged in water by about 1 cm. Let it simmer until the bulgur has cooked through and serve hot.

Notes

Bibliography
(1) Rachel Laudan, Cuisine and Empire, 2013
(2) Gülşen Bayat, Traditional Dishes Consumed in The Eastern Anatolian Region Of Turkey, 2020
(3) Ali Batu, Heysem S. Batu, Historical background of Turkish gastronomy from ancient times until today, 2018
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