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Kibbeh: A Middle Eastern Take on Meatloaf
A popular Middle Eastern appetizer is kibbeh. Explore this malleable meat dish with Groupon’s introduction.
A big platter of meat that’s sometimes served raw might sound like the most primal of foods, but kibbeh is in fact a delicate dish. The lean lamb or beef used for this traditional dish must be ground to an extremely fine consistency, as do the other ingredients, which include bulgur wheat and onion. Even when there’s no cooking involved, making kibbeh is a labor-intensive process. The meat, grain, and onion are incorporated with seasonings such as cinnamon, salt, and pepper through long and thorough kneading. Then, the chef has a choice to make: to cook or not to cook? Cooking means shaping the spiced, savory mixture into balls, patties, or football-shaped croquettes with a center of meat and pinenuts that is then fried or baked.
Raw—in a preparation known as kibbeh nayyeh—the meat mixture is arranged in a mound on a dish garnished with mint leaves (often in the shape of a cross or an herb plant), to be scooped up by pieces of bread. Given that the meat is raw, freshness is crucial to the dish’s safety. Lebanese cooks will have their meat ground to order on just-cleaned blades—never using ground beef off the shelf—and serve it the same day. The time-sensitive nature of the materials means that restaurants that serve raw kibbeh may only do so on Saturdays or Sundays. Should there be any leftovers, they’re ready for transformation into any of kibbeh’s cooked preparations. The versatile dish is such a staple of Levantine cuisine that an old story, as related on NPR, circulates that a Syrian immigrant arriving in New Orleans once sought to identify fellow countrymen by shouting “kibbeh, kibbeh, kibbeh” and seeing who responded.