Kaburga Dolması: Stuffing meat with meat hasn’t been done so delectable before

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Kaburga Dolmasi, or “Stuffed ribs”, is from the southeastern provinces of Turkey. But while eating the ribs of many different animals is to this day quite a delectable culinary getaway, the stuffing of it is not as common.

What is Kaburga Dolması?

It is quite literally the stuffing of the ribs and the connected leg, usually of a lamb or goat – thougha kid is preferred. It is stuffed with rice, more lamb or goat depending on the situation and, depending on the region, additional ingredients.

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The origins

The origins of stuffed ribs can be traced back to the Hittites, so around 1600s BC. Writings from that era outline a very similar dish with the differences being no tomato paste – naturally, as tomatoes are a “new world” fruit. But aside from that, the preparation sounds quite similar. The rib and leg of the lamb is taken, stuffed with chopped meat, onions and some “rooted vegetables” and finally pomegranate. This would then be baked in a tandoor, an oven dug in the ground. As this recipe can be traced back so far, it is considered a nontangible cultural heritage, (1) with many provinces claiming the dish as their own. Elazığ, Mardin and Diyarbakır are only some, sharing the same geography and similar cultural values.

Down the centuries, this dish was naturally mentioned in other literary works as well. One such example would be the “Arabian Nights” penned around 750 AD after being around for at least a century in an oral manner. In “The Tale of Judar and His Brethren” the titular Judar presents his mother with the magical bag, but she only asks for a simple meal. Judar pushes her for something more spectacular, suggesting stuff lamb, Kunafa and stuffed ribs in one breath. (2)

The luxurious aspect of this dish remains to this very day as it is quite labor intensive, making it more a dish of celebration such as the Islamic Feast of Sacrifice or Hıdırellez, a spring festival with religious meanings as well. As much as this dish is known in the southeastern regions of Turkey, it is not widely spread in Turkey. (3) Some even claim that the dish is so luxurious in the region that it is considered to be part of a more upper-class cuisine, compared to the “mumbar”, another stuffed dish but made out of intestines. (4)

But as with many traditional things, the consumption of this dish has changed over the last few decades as well. Tradition had it that this dish, among others, would be consumed in the morning of the Sacrifice Feast or the Feast of Ramadan. In recent years, people preferred to change this heavy morning dish to be consumed at lunch or even dinner. A fact that many elderly people mourn over, with yet another tradition being lost to time. (4)

Etymology

As much as Turkish is talked throughout the region, Kurdish and Arabic play an integral part of the culture. Naturally Kaburga Dolması is also known as Kuburgayê or Sura. The Turkish version consists quite literally of the word “kaburga” meaning “ribs” and “dolma” meaning “to fill”. Kuburgaye serves this same meaning.

Kaburga Dolması: Stuffing meat with meat hasn’t been done so delectable before

If this has whet your appetite and you are up for some sewing, you can try to make this delectable dish at home. This very recipe is based on the traditional way the people in Diyarbakır do it.
Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 1 rib of a lamb with the leg attached to it
  • half a kg small chopped lamb
  • half a kg of rice
  • 200 gr almonds
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 bundle of parsley
  • salt black pepper, allspice
  • clean needle and thread

Instructions

  • Have the butcher, or if you are able to, open up a wide crevice of the leg-rib.
  • Rub all the surfaces with salt and pepper.
  • Sew the meat together until you have only one side open to stuff the filling in.
  • Cook the rice only half-way through, about 10 minutes should suffice.
  • Sear the lamb meat briefly and add it to the rice.
  • Peel the almonds and roast them lightly.
  • Chop the parsley and add it to the rice together with the tomato paste as well.
  • Mix them all together well and stuff the filling into the rib.
  • Sew up the rib and roast it with the butter on all sides until it has changed color and place it in a big enough pot, with the rib part facing down.
  • Fill the pot to about two thirds and let that simmer for about four hours.
  • Check if the meat has cooked through and serve hot.

Notes

Bibliography
(1) Aytekin Kalkan, Eren Gönül, Can “experimental kitchen” be a tool for the survival of cultural heritage? in “The Journal of International Social Research - Volume: 12 Issue: 64”, 2019
(2) Charles Perry, The food of the “Arabian Nights” in “Food in the Arts: Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery” (1998)
(3) Emel Memis Kocaman, Nevin Şanlıer, A special dish from traditional Turkish Cuisine: Stuffed lamb ribs in International Journal of Human Sciences - Volume 12 Issue 2”, 2015
(4) Nazife Gürhan, A sociological overview of Mardin from the perspective of food in “The Journal of International Social Research - Volume: 10 Issue: 54”, 2017
 
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Turkish
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