Shish barak is a delicious and favorite dish of the Middle Eastern food lover.
Dating back to the 14th century this particular dish is no doubt a mishmash of several different cuisines.
Most likely with its origins in Ancient Persia in pre-Islamic times it is consumed widely throughout the Levant.
The dumpling itself was invented in China during the Han Dynasty.
Lasting 400 years, the Han Dynasty was known for much trade along the Silk Road.
This is the most likely explanation for the introduction of the filled dumpling to Asia Minor.
What is Shish Barak?
Simply put, shish barak consists of meat dumplings cooked in a yogurt stew.
A comfort food for many in the Middle East, it is very similar to tortellini in shape and size.
I like to use ground lamb which is a typical meat eaten in this part of the world, although some will use beef.
The dumplings can be easily frozen at this stage for later use, similar to any other stuffed pasta.
Spicing and fillings of course have been influenced by local cultures and cuisines.
Whereas a lot of pork is used in Chinese dumplings, this practice would have changed as Islam took hold.
Pork being forbidden food to Muslims, lamb took its place as a substitute since that animal was raised locally.
It seems every family has its own way of spicing this recipe, often depending on what region they are from.
In my experience it works best when the subtlety of the spices do not overpower the yogurt sauce.
How to Make Shish Barak
Preparing this dish does take a bit of time, but it is less than you’d think, and definitely worth it.
The filling is prepared using ground beef or lamb, gently spiced and mixed.
Once the dough is made and rolled out flat, it is time to cut the dough.
This is usually done using a cookie or biscuit cutter to get round pieces of dough.
The dumplings are filled and shaped before bringing a pot of water to a boil.
Add the dumplings to the boiling water and cook for about 20 minutes over medium heat.
In a small pan roast pine nuts with a little olive oil until lightly browned.
Mix a little of the boiled water with the yogurt and butter to make the sauce.
Add the cooked and drained shish barak to the sauce and add pepper flakes and the pine nuts.
Tips for Making
- The most important thing is to make sure that your dumplings don’t open up while cooking.
- You can achieve this by not overfilling the bits of dough, and moistening the outer edge of the dough.
- Squeezing the dough edges together well enough to bind them to one another.
- Don’t overcook the dumplings by leaving them in the water too long.
Shish Barak Recipe
- For the filling, mix all ingredients together and set aside in the refrigerator.
For the Dough
- Add the olive oil and water and make into a dough.
- On a floured surface roll out the dough to about a quarter of an inch thick.
- Using a 3-3.5 inch cookie cutter cut several pieces of dough.
- Fill each circle with about a teaspoon of filling.
- Fold over, moistening the edge of the dough, making half moon shapes. Pinch the two ends together making a tortellini shape.
- Bring three quarts of water to a boil, add the dumplings and cook gently for about 20 minutes until dumplings begin to float.
For the Sauce
- Add half a cup of the cooking water to a warmed bowl.
- Add the butter to the water, then add the yogurt. Stir in the dumplings.
- If you want more spice, you can add crushed red pepper.
- Toast the pine nuts until golden brown in a pan using a drop of olive oil. Sprinkle with the pine nuts. Serve immediately.