Kıtel raha: Assyrian kibbeh with plenty of meat

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WHAT'S SPECIAL

We have here on Dishes: Origins plenty of köfte, be it the stuffed kind called içli köfte, or others but while there are a slew of kibbeh kinds that share a common history, the kıtel raha needs its own entry. For one because of its significance in the Assyrian church and the different ways it can be made.

What is kıtel raha?

With a shell of thin bulgur and meat the kıtel raha is stuffed with even more meat but unlike many others of its kind, this stuffed delicacy is boiled not fried.

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The origins

The Assyrian people have been living in the Middle East and southeastern parts of Turkey for centuries and have many deep-rooted traditions and celebrations. Their church has many occasions that call for fasting and abstinence, meaning that during those times they avoid animal foods, using for example olive oil in their dishes instead of butter. But once the fasting period is over the first meal consumed by Assyrian priests is kıtel raha. (1)

An alternative name to the dish is “kıtel ikbar”.

As the preparation of the dish is quite time consuming, it is usually made for special occasions, such as the above-mentioned end of fasting or abstinence periods. The preparation is done in a more communal way and depending where it is prepared some add a cross on top of it. Turkey’s southeastern Mardin is one such place. Aside from the religious implications of the cross on the kıtel raha, it is made for prosperity. (2)

Some say that this dish was made without the filling and meat but still cooked in the same manner for the priests of the Assyrian church. It was said that the dish would keep someone satiated for the whole day.

The dish is also referred to as “Süryani İçli Köftesi” meaning “Assyrian içli köfte” and is sometimes written as kıtel rıha as well.

Etymology

The “raha” part of the name might be derived from the Assyrian “rahasu” meaning “to soak” or “to boil in water”.

Kıtel raha: Assyrian kibbeh with plenty of meat

It might need a bit of practice but the making of this dish will definitely be worth it. But eating this from the hands of the Assyrian people themselves is the most authentic way of consuming it.

Ingredients

For the dough

  • 2 kg minced lamb meat
  • 1 kg fine bulgur
  • 1 kg cracked wheat
  • pepper paste salt, coriander, to taste

For the filling

  • 2 kg minced meat
  • 1 bundle of parsley
  • 2-3 onions

Instructions

  • All the ingredients of the dough are put into a bowl and kneaded thoroughly until it can be shaped by hand easily.
  • This might take a while and kneading it a bit too much is better than too little in that regard.
  • For the filling, chop the parsley and onions finely and add it to the meat as well.
  • Carefully roll out a bit of the dough, place a bit of the filling and close it off with another layer of the dough.
  • Seal off the edge thoroughly and when all the kıtel raha have been done, boil them in salt water for about 5-7 minutes.
  • The ones that are done will float to the top.

Notes

Bibliography

(1) Çağla Özer, A monographic research on the Assyrian culinary culture in Turkey in “Journey of Ethnic Foods”, 2019
(2) Lokman Toprak, Mardin ve Yemek Kültürü, 2015
 
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