Lahmacun – The classic Turkish pizza

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WHAT'S SPECIAL

With a thin dough and a layer of meaty goodness, this pizza is a different take on the one you may be used to. Ana Sortun describes it aptly, comparing it to a good Neapolitan-style pizza, but one that is baked with raw meat that releases its juices into the dough.

What is Lahmacun?

Lahmacun is a thin layer of dough topped with minced meat and a variety of vegetables. Baked to crispy perfection, it is eaten with fresh vegetables or herbs and some lemon juice.

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The origins

Baking dough with meat has been around for millennia in the Middle East, and Turks, especially the Tatars, were known to prepare thin bread with a combination of meat and cheese for their meals.
The exact manner of baking in this dish can be traced back to the 17th century, when Evliya Çelebi visited Damascus and recorded it in his famous travelogue “Seyahatname.” He wrote that he ate a “lahm-ı acînlı börek,” which came to be called the lahmacun we know and love today. Çelebi first gave it the name börek in reference to the thin layer of dough. Close to Damascus are the provinces of Şanlıurfa and Gaziantep, so the dish spread rather quickly simply due to the vicinity.
While the dish remained a staple in region and was not too widely consumed outside the Ottoman empire, the concept was taken to the Americas in the 19th century. South Americans gave it a Latin spin and is now known as “sfiha” in Argentina and Brazil.
Over the years, the dish spread throughout Turkey, and in the 1960s it became so popular long queues could be seen in cities throughout the country, as people flocked to try out this southeastern specialty.
While Armenians claim lahmacun as their own national dish, within Turkey there is another debate between Gaziantep and Şanlıurfa on where this dish originated. The fued has gone so far that regions have applied to the Turkish Patent and Trademark Office for a patent, and both have received one. Şanlıurfa applied first move in 2013 and receiving its patent in 2018, while Gaziantep applied and received one in 2017.

Etymology

Lahmacun comes from the Arabic “lahm” meaning meat and “macun” meaning paste. This “meat paste” refers to the meat that gets finely chopped with the veggies, almost into a paste, and spread onto the dough. Alternative spellings are “lamejun,” “lahmajin” and “lahmajun.”

 

Lahmacun - the classic Turkish pizza

Making this would ideally require a stone oven, but there are ways to make it work at home as well.

Ingredients

For the dough

  • 350 gr flour
  • 1 tsp instant/dry yeast
  • tsp salt
  • 200 ml warm water
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

For the meat paste

  • 350 gr minced meat, preferably beef or lamb
  • 1-2 onions
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic
  • ½ bundle of parsley
  • 1-2 tomatoes
  • 1 pepper
  • 1 tbsp pepper taste
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • salt, black pepper, sweet red pepper, cumin, to taste

Topping

  • lemon juice
  • parsley

Instructions

  • To prepare the dough, add all the ingredients, making sure that the water is warm but not boiling. Knead the dough until it is no longer sticky and leave it to proof a warm place for about an hour.
  • For the meat paste, you’ll want to chop all the ingredients as finely as possible. You can also grate them as well. Add the vegetables to the meat and knead them together with seasonings of your choice. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius on grill mode.
  • After the dough has risen, separate the dough into about six pieces, or more depending if you would like smaller-sized lahmacun. Roll the dough out as thinly as possible and spread some of the meat paste carefully onto the dough making sure not to tear the dough. First cook the lahmacun on a non-stick pan until the dough gets some color, then put in in the oven for 10 minutes or until the crust turns to a golden-brown color.
  • Remove the lahmacun from the oven and fold it in half. Covering it with a cloth and letting resting for a bit before to cool off. The other lahmacun can be stacked on top of each other in the same manner and kept under the cloth. Once all have been baked, enjoy the lahmacun with lemon juice and additional parsley folded inside.

Notes

Tip

Many people like to add many more vegetables to their lahmacun such as lettuce and tomatoes.

Bibliography

(1) Ana Sortun, “Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean”,
(2) Gil Marks, “Encylopedia of Jewish Food”, 2010
(3) Deniz Gürsoy, “Tarihin süzgecinde mutfak kültürümüz”, 2013
(4) Ayfer Bartu, “Rethinking Heritage Politics in a Global Context”, 2001
(5) https://www.ci.gov.tr/cografi-isaretler/detay/38097
Course: Main Course
Keyword: Lahmacun
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