Bob chorba (боб чорба) is one of the national dishes of Bulgaria and it is the recipe I chose for our fifth stop in the Balkan country this month.
Bob chorba (or bob chorpa) translates to “bean soup” in Bulgarian. This soup is typically prepared with dry beans, onions, tomatoes, carrots, bell peppers and spearmint (dzhodzhen). Regional versions may exclude the carrots or add paprika, potatoes and even some meat.
Bob chorba has always been a very popular recipe in Bulgaria due to the large production of beans as well as their nutritious value. Interestingly enough, Bulgaria is not the largest bean producer in the world, but guess what, Myanmar is, and this will be our destination next month!
A wide variety of beans are available in Bulgaria and peasants have traditionally combined those beans with vegetables to make this simple, yet filling and comforting bean soup.
The most common beans used for the bob chorba recipe are white beans or kidney beans found in Bulgaria (Smilyan beans from the region of Rhodope, Radovene beans from the Vratza region, or sharen beans) but also fava beans and lima beans.
A few recipes also use fresh runner beans and dry beans together to form the vegetable stew. Another variant, called green bop chorba is prepared with runner beans, marrow and courgette with onions, dry beans, carrots, potatoes, and herbs. Pork bop chorba is made by adding a ham bone, or pieces of pork meat to the stock pot as the beans and vegetables are simmering. The bob chorba monastery recipe is a simpler recipe that uses beans simmered in tomato and onion flavored with oregano.
Bob chorba, prepared according to the classic vegetarian recipe, is traditionally served on Christmas Eve together will all the other meatless dishes, but it is also often prepared during the rest of the year, especially during wintertime.
Bob chorba is often served piping hot with grated cheese on top, or just with parsley, as well as a loaf of fresh bread on the side.
The soup is traditionally cooked and served in earthenware. Pottery is actually one of the oldest crafts in Bulgaria. Remnants dating back 3000 years to the Thracians have been found and confirm this ancient craft.
Spearmint (dzhodzhen) and savory (chubritza) are very common herbs in Bulgarian cuisine. The classic recipe of bob chorba calls for dzhodzhen. It is important not to add any chubritza as some recipes call for, as chubritza is what makes the other very popular soup leshta (lentil soup), so unique.
Bean soup and bean sides are definitely a staple, not only in Bulgaria but throughout the Balkan, Mediterranean and North African regions, and we have definitely shared quite a few already. Among them, you will find Greek fasolada, Macedonian tavche gravche, Georgian lobio, Italian minestrone, Algerian chorba, and even African versions such as Nigerian dounguouri soko.
I made bob chorba for a Bulgarian feast last weekend that we enjoyed on our rooftop with our friends Karine, Joe, Maryam and Alan. I served bob chorba along with patatnik, banitsa and we finished our dinner with Bulgarian baked apples. I am not a fan of soups in general, but I have to say this filling soup with the refreshing and unique flavor of spearmint really did it for me. I’ll definitely make it again!
- 1¼ cup dried white beans
- 4 tablespoons oil
- 1 onion , finely chopped
- 1 carrot , finely chopped
- 1 green bell pepper , finely chopped
- Black pepper
- 1½ tablespoon paprika
- 2 teaspoons dried spearmint
- 2 tomatoes , finely chopped
- 1 bunch fresh parsley , chopped
Rince the beans in cold running water. Place them in a large pot and soak them in cold water overnight.
The following morning, discard the soaking water. Add 3 cups of water to the beans in the pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
After 5 minutes, discard the water once again, leaving only the beans in the pan.
Add 2 tablespoons of oil to the beans and fry over medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
Add 4 cups of water to the beans. Then lower the heat and simmer the beans until they start becoming tender, about 45 minutes.
In the meantime, add 2 tablespoons of oil to another pan. Then add the carrots and onion. Sauté for 8 minutes.
Add the bell pepper, tomatoes, paprika, spearmint, salt and pepper and stir well. Continue cooking for 5 minutes.
Add the mixture to the beans and water in the other pot. Keep the soup simmering until the beans are completely cooked but remain whole, about 20 minutes. Do not overcook them.
Serve hot with parsley or grated cheese on top.