I would like to start by clarifying a few things: Tabbouleh is not made with couscous, does not contain cucumbers, radishes or pistachios and its main ingredient is not cracked wheat, it’s flat leaf parsley.
Tabbouleh is defined as a Middle Eastern vegetarian dish, sometimes considered a salad, traditionally made of tomatoes, finely chopped parsley, mint, bulgur and onion, and seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice and salt. Some variations add garlic or lettuce, or use couscous instead of bulgur.
It’s hard to really know where Tabbouleh originated from. We, Lebanese, claim Tabbouleh is Lebanese. And Tabbouleh for us is like Pizza for Italians. We take so much pride in it and we all swear that our mom makes the best Tabbouleh in the whole world, we sometimes argue about it (like we do most times about anything)!
You cannot say you’ve had a traditional Lebanese meal if you haven’t had Tabbouleh. Sundays are not Sundays without Tabbouleh at lunchtime!
Many Lebanese have a different take on Tabbouleh, depending on which area of Lebanon they grew up in. Some use pomegranate molasses in the seasoning, recent trends include quinoa instead of bulgur.
In Lebanon, bulgur is called bourghoul, it’s cracked wheat, so for those of you with celiac disease or following a GF diet, avoid it, the salad won’t taste the same, but it will still taste awesome.
Now of course, my mom makes the best Tabbouleh in the whole world! Although I make a pretty good one, but what I lacked were fresh ingredients. Back home, you can get fresh parsley, fresh mint, fresh juicy tomatoes and fresh lemons… Obviously your salad is going to taste fresh and awesome! I learnt to make it when I was still in Dubai, and unfortunately, most fruits and vegetables are imported there, so by the time they reach your supermarket, and then your house, you might as well order it online from Beirut right? So yes my mom takes the credit for this one!
In the UK, you find fresher ingredients than in Dubai, at least they’re grown here and the minority is imported. So when I first got here, I started looking for the familiar. And I couldn’t find flat leaf parsley, to make tabbouleh.
And to my surprise, I couldn’t find big bunches of fresh parsley.
Here you have curly parsley, and it’s not the same! You can find flat leaf ones but they come in such small expensive bags! People probably use parsley here for garnish! So my mission was to find proper parsley!
Until I discovered a shop that sold Middle Eastern and Asian foods. I actually went there to check whether they had Lebanese bread (this is a completely different story!) and to my surprise… there it was
We had a great Tabbouleh that day!
I also found the seeds and I’m growing them in my kitchen now, but it’s not enough to make a salad for 3, but it’s this tiny rewarding feeling I have everyday when I water it, a small dose of happiness never hurt anyone.
If you ever get a chance to visit Lebanon or a Lebanese restaurant anywhere in the world, you should try Tabbouleh!
You can eat it as it is, or with bread, or fill some lettuce leaves with it, some like it with fresh cabbage leaves or better yet when in season fresh vine leaves!
Click on the food section to check out the recipe!