Nov 292008
 

Kubbeh/קובה למרק/كبّ/Kubeh/Kube/Kubbe

Ranks of Kubbeh

Kubbeh: not to be confused with kibbeh, despite being a variation of the same word for a variation on the same thing. Like kibbeh, these are made from ground meat in a chiefly bulgur shell, but they hail from the northern regions of Iraq rather than Syria, and instead of deep frying, they’re treated to a simmer in broth, making them more dumpling than mezze. In Israel, the word “kubbeh” is applied indiscriminately to both the fried and simmered variety (in Arabic, pronunciation differences between dialects leads to the discrepancy in names for the same thing), but for the sake of clarity, I’m calling these Kurdish-style dumplings “kubbeh” and the fried and raw versions predominant in the Levant “kibbeh.”

Anyway. Kubbeh are a specialty of the Jews of Kurdistan, who once formed large percentages of the population of now-infamous cities like Mosul and Arbil before immigrating to Israel en masse along with the rest of the Iraqi Jewish population in the 1940s and 1950s. My old hood in Jerusalem, centered around the Machane Yehuda market, was heavily Kurdish, home to a Kurdish-Jewish community organization that never seemed open, and dozens of restaurants, social clubs and backgammon parlors that never seemed closed. Several of the restaurants (most notably, Mordoch) specialize in kubbeh-based soups, ranging from the crimson marak kubbeh adom to the sour, green hamousta. So between Jerusalem’s Little Kurdistan and the frozen sections of Israeli supermarkets, kubbeh were never far off. But like edible hummus, Zohar Argov, responsible M16-bearing teenagers and the Divine Presence, we don’t have any here in the far reaches of Exile.

Until now.
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