Ekşili dolma: Stuffed veggies but sour!


In our entry of dolma, we had a look at the beautiful possibilities that stuffed vegetables and leaves have to offer. In this entry, we look at a version of a dish that has kept the older tastes of Anatolia alive.

What is Ekşili dolma?

Quite literally it is dolma that is “ekşi”, meaning sour. Usually, eggplants or zucchinis are stuffed but the possibilities don’t end there.

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The origins and etymology

The word “dolmak” comes from the Turkish word for “filling” and the very first examples of that dish were eggplants stuffed with meat. (1) The eggplant came from India via Arabia to Anatolia and spread in popularity immensely, so much so that the Ottomans had an almost proverbial 51 ways of serving them. The zucchini used in the stuffed dishes has been around for quite a while before that. (2)

The interaction with Arabic cuisine was prevalent causing the dolma to be taken over by them but in recent years they have gone to great lengths to get rid of the Turkish origins of the dish. The “Turkish dolma” became “dolma Bağdadi” then transforming to “mahshi Bağdadi” – still meaning the same but denying its history. (3) One part that the Turks took over and held dear for several years were the sour tastes that the Arabic cuisine had to offer. The addition of sumac in the dishes were one such aspect. In the 15th and 16th century, the Ottomans were all about that sweet-sour taste and used it in meat dishes aplenty – a trend that got lost over time. (4) Well, almost.

The people of the southeastern regions of Anatolia have kept many centuries-old food trends alive. To this day sumac is actively used in their dishes, partially as a substitute for lemon, and they even make a drink “sumak şerbeti” out of it. (5) And with the love for meat, especially lamb, which is still the proverbial bread and butter of many dishes in Diyarbakır and the surrounding provinces, you get yourself a piece of culinary history: ekşili dolma.

Ekşili dolma: Stuffed veggies but sour!

While there are many different ekşili dolmas in the region - some even vegan! - we’ll have a look at the Diyarbakır version with meat, giving it that certain Ottoman taste.
Servings 6
Prep Time 2 hrs


  • 1 kg roughly minced lamb
  • 450 gr rice
  • 2 onions
  • 1 bundle of parsley
  • 230 gr sumac
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 kg eggplants
  • 1 kg zucchini
  • 500 gr bell peppers
  • 2 to tomatoes
  • 3-4 hot peppers
  • Salt
  • Basil
  • Red pepper
  • Mint
  • Black pepper
  • Clarified butter


  • Let the sumac rest in hot water to infuse.
  • Cut the eggplants and zucchinis in two and hollow them out.
  • Let the eggplants rest in salty water to draw out the bitterness.
  • Cut out the stem of the bell peppers and clear out the seeds.
  • Chop the onions and sauté them with the seasonings.
  • Chop the hot peppers finely and add them to the onions together with the tomato paste, meat, chopped parsley and rice.
  • Add a bit of the sumac water and cook them together for a few minutes. Stuff the vegetables with the rice mixture and have them stand in a pot.
  • Once the bottom of the pot is covered, pour the sumac water into it, adding hot water until all the dolma are just about covered in water.
  • Close the lid and bring it to a boil.
  • Turn down the heat and let it simmer for about 50 minutes.
  • Leaving the lid slightly askew to let out a bit of the steam can be useful.
  • Once everything is cooked through pour the water into a separate bowl and serve the dolma with a small bowl of its water on the side as a sauce.



(1) Habeeb Salloum, “Arabian Nights Cookbook: From Lamb Kebabs to Baba Ghanouj, Delicious Homestyle Arabian Cooking”, 2012
(2) Deniz Gürsoy, “Tarihin süzgecinde mutfak kültürümüz”, 2013
(3) Ziyat Akkoyunlu, “Türk Mutfağından Kaybolan Kerkük Yemekleri” in “Motif Akademi Halkbilimi Dergisi”, 2, 2012
(4) Sibel Ayyıldız, Meyvelerden Yapilan Yemeklerin Sürdürülebilir Gastronomi Kapsaminda Değerlendirilmesi; Osmanli Mutfak Kültürü Örneği In “International Gastronomy Tourism Studies Congress- Kocaeli University”, 2018
(5) Neslihan Şimşek, Göktuğ Soylu, Durlu Özkaya, The Culinary Interactions Of The Anatolian And Arabian Peninsula From The Ottoman Empire in “Seyahat Ve Otel İşletmeciliği Dergisi”, 2020
Course: Ana Yemek