The Dish of Aleppo: Kabab Bil Karaz – Cherry Kabab

The people of Aleppo have a shared passion. Not only do they pride themselves in food that is steeped in culinary traditions and guard their recipes close to heart, they undeniably affirm their cuisine as the best in the Middle East.

Aleppo Citadelle

As one of the world’s oldest inhabited cities, Aleppo’s cuisine takes inspiration from the mosaic of cultures that have inhabited Syria over the millennia, as well as more recent influences of the Ottomans and Armenians.

Aleppo Citadelle

Talk to Aleppians about food and they’ll sing a litany of delicacies culminating in one dish unique to their city. Kabab Bil Karaz is a cherry kabab made with minced lamb and wishna, a small and sour black cherry that grows on the outskirts of the city.

From the first taste I had in Aleppo, I was completely taken with the perfect balance of sweet and sour flavours, the unique presentation on triangular pieces of bread decorated with pine nuts and parsley.

Later, I was privileged to be instructed in the making of the dish that unites this culinary city. Getting the right balance of sweet and sour is the key element to perfecting this dish. And this is where their expertise comes into play.

Sour cherries and meat balls - Kabab Bil Karaz

Kabab Bil Karaz Recipe

(Serves 4)

½ kilo minced lamb
½ kilo sour cherries
1½ teaspoons of Bharat (a middle-eastern spice mixture of black pepper, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, pimento and nutmeg)
125g pine nuts, toasted
3 tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon citric acid powder
2 rounds of flat Arabic bread
1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley
Salt and pepper

Sour cherries - Kabab Bil Karaz Bharat - Kabab Bil Karaz Toasted pine nuts - Kabab Bil Karaz
Soaked cherries - Kabab Bil Karaz Lamb meatballs - Kabab Bil Karaz Sauteeing meatballs - Kabab Bil Karaz
Cooking - Kabab Bil Karaz Triangular bread pieces - Kabab Bil Karaz Kabab Bil Karaz

Soak the cherries overnight with enough water to cover. The following day, pit the cherries and put them in a large pot with their liquid. Add the citric acid and sugar. Taste the sauce, adding sugar or citric acid powder as required to get the right balance of sweet and sour. Bring to the boil then simmer for 15 minutes or until the liquid has reduced and thickened a little.

Mix the meat with the spices, season with salt and pepper then roll into marble-sized balls. In a shallow pan, sauté in butter over medium heat until evenly browned.

Add the meatballs to the cherry mixture and cook over low heat for 15 minutes until they take on the cherry colour.

To assemble, cut the Arabic bread into small triangles and arrange in a circular pattern on a plate, with the pointy end facing out and the light side up. Spoon the kakab and drizzle some of the thickened sauce on top. Add a sprinkling of toasted pine nuts and decorate with parsley leaves.

Kabab Bil Karaz

Like many Middle-Eastern dishes, Kabab Bil Karaz can be eaten by hand, scooped with the pieces of bread that have absorbed the tangy sauce.

The city of Aleppo gave me a combination of balanced flavours that I committed to memory. Its people made me an offering that was more than just their signature dish on a plate.

Kabab Bil Karaz

This post has been entered into the Grantourismo and HomeAway Holiday-Rentals travel blogging competition.

For more information about Aleppo’s food, don’t miss our food and drink guide: What to Eat in Aleppo Syria

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The Dish of Aleppo: Kabab Bil Karaz – Cherry Kabab was last modified: December 20th, 2015 by Corinne Mossati

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Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is the Founder/Editor of popular online magazine Gourmantic and Cocktails & Bars, a website dedicated to cocktail culture and the discerning drinker. She is named in Australian Bartender Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential List, is a member of The Academy responsible for judging the World’s 50 Best Bars. She has also judged the inaugural Australasian Whisky Awards and various national cocktail competitions.

43 Comments:

  1. RT gourmantic:
    @gran_tourismo @HomeAwayUK My #grantourismocomp entry: The Dish of Aleppo: Kabab Bil Karaz – Cherry Kabab http://bit.ly/dyJEcT

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  2. RT gourmantic:
    @gran_tourismo @HomeAwayUK My #grantourismocomp entry: The Dish of Aleppo: Kabab Bil Karaz – Cherry Kabab http://bit.ly/dyJEcT

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  3. Appetising dish and great presentation! All the best for the competition :-)

    One might say the people of Aleppo are the original foodies…

  4. RT @gourmantic: [New on G] The Dish of Aleppo: Kabab Bil Karaz – Cherry Kabab http://bit.ly/dyJEcT #grantourismoComp entry & first ever recipe!

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  5. Nice post. We always check to see whether they’re in season when we go.

    • Thank you! A dried version of the cherry can also be substituted, if they’re not in season or if one can’t get them. That means they need to be well rehydrated and the balance of flavours becomes a little more tricky. We were lucky that it was available when we visited and got to taste the real thing!

  6. Fascinating! Loved learning about this dish and catching a little dip into Syria.

  7. RT gourmantic: A delicious post on G! Cherry Kabab – The Dish of #Aleppo: Kabab Bil Karaz http://bit.ly/dyJEcT #grantourismoComp #syria #food

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  8. RT @gran_tourismo: Mouthwatering food blog contest entries by @foodloverkathy @gourmantic @LisaTBergren @mvmaithai: http://grantourismotravels.com/2010/09/03/grantourismo-travel-blogging-competition-september/

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  9. RT @gourmantic: A delicious post on G! Cherry Kabab -The Dish of #Aleppo: Kabab Bil Karaz http://bit.ly/dyJEcT #grantourismoComp #syria #food

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  10. I love sweet and sour dishes. Must try this one. Gook luck with the competition.

    • It’s very different to the sweet and sour flavours of Asian style cuisine, therefore something new to try! Thanks Kathy :)

  11. RT @gourmantic: A delicious post on G! Cherry Kabab – The Dish of #Aleppo: Kabab Bil Karaz http://bit.ly/dyJEcT #grantourismoComp #food

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  12. It’s so delicious :D
    Thanks for talking about Aleppo and hope you like more dishes here you know Aleppo is famous for its food in the region
    p.s try kebeh , ebewat , yabra and so many others (that’s if you still in Aleppo xD )

    • Thanks Saed and welcome! :)

      It was my pleasure to write about Aleppo, and will be devoting future articles to the food and the sights as well as other parts of Syria. I have tried kebeh (even the raw kind and loved it) and yabra but I’m not familiar with ebewat. Is that a main dish or a dessert? I’ll have to add it to my list of food to eat next time I visit!

      • Ebewat (or in some regions call it sendmanat ) can be main dish but usually make it with a another dish like frekeh and rice or even kbab bil karaz :)
        it’s made from the small intestine of sheep they clean it first and leave it in water for about a day then they put rice and some fresh homos in it and every about 5 cm they tight it with a tiny robe so it can be parts then in the end they cook it so rice will be good and later they fried it :D
        it have a good taste and found now after searching that it have so many names in different areas and different ways of making in Jordan and Egypt.

        • Ah, yes. I’ve had sendmanat, the thick sausage that’s boiled then fried. It has a very unusual texture with the whole chickpeas inside it. Now I’ve learnt another name for it, thanks!

          Frekeh is something that I tried once and immediately loved it! I still remember seeing it at the Aleppo souk in large bags and wishing I could bring some home!

  13. I’m always weary of meat dishes with a sweet taste but will certainly try this when I’m in Syria next month.

    • That’s great! And don’t be concerned with the sweetness. It’s not overpowering and the flavour of cherries is quite prevalent.

  14. Cooking, eat, and enjoy cherry kebab in Aleppo, Syria with @Gourmantic http://su.pr/2lqQuU

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  15. RT @foxnomad: Cooking, eat, and enjoy cherry kebab in Aleppo, Syria with @Gourmantic http://su.pr/2lqQuU

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  16. Wow, this looks delicious!

    Thanks so much for entering our competition!

    Best of luck!

  17. yummy #TravelTuesday RT @foodloverkathy RT @gourmantic Delicious Cherry Kabab – The Dish of #Aleppo http://bit.ly/dyJEcT #food

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  18. This looks SO divine!! I love the combo of cherries with the meat. Mmm, mmm, good! :-)

  19. An entry into our contest: http://bit.ly/cKqzv0 -> RT @foxnomad cooking cherry kebab from Aleppo, Syria with @Gourmantic http://su.pr/2lqQuU

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  20. I’ve never heard of kabab bil karaz but I love Middle Eastern food. The presentation is beautiful. It’s now on my list of foods I want to eat!

  21. RT @pro_vence: yummy #TravelTuesday RT @foodloverkathy RT @gourmantic Delicious Cherry Kabab -The Dish of #Aleppo http://www.gourmantic.com/2010/09/27/the-dish-of-aleppo-kabab-bil-karaz-cherry-kabab/ #food

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  22. Pingback: What to Eat in Aleppo Syria: A Food and Drink Guide | Gourmantic

  23. Hi Michael-Ann. Really you are so unique person and your taste is great cause I love (kabab bil karaz) soooooo much, when you cook this meal please inform me and have a picture for . Hope you may visit Aleppo once again and offer you some delicious food like kebbeh(you remeber our kebeh in our house?

    • Hi Bushra – I think you might have us confused with someone else but thank you for the comment. We loved Kebbeh, especially Kebbeh Nayyeh!

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