Tarator consists of yogurt, cucumbers, garlic, walnuts, dill, oil (often sunflower) and water. It can be served with ice. Some local variations replace the yogurt with water and vinegar and nuts with bread. Other rarer variants replace the cucumbers with lettuce or carrots.
You will also find this soup in the cuisine of other countries including Macedonia, Serbia , Turkey, Greece, Albania, Cyprus and Iran. It is sometimes called “liquid salad” or “tarator salad”, as in Serbia, where they do not put a drop of water.
There is a variant of tarator without yogurt, but vinegar and water instead, that is called “simple tarator”. Tarator where no liquid is added to the yogurt is called “dry tarator”. Dry tarator is also called snezhanka, or “snow white” and it is therefore more a salad than a soup. Also, it is prepared with pickled cucumbers in brine.
There is absolutely no doubt that the original tarator recipe is Bulgarian.
Everyone knows about yogurt! But do you know about its origin? The history of this fermented milk dates back to the Neolithic or 8500 years BC. But what about that famous Bulgarian yogurt that everyone is talking about?
Bulgarian yogurt is known worldwide for its unique taste. It is part of the daily menu of Bulgarians and is always present at their table. Many Bulgarian dishes actually include Bulgarian yogurt in their recipes like banitsa. It is a star ingredient for soups, salads, desserts, sauces, etc.
The secret of Bulgarian yoghurt lies in a small bacteria known by different names, but most commonly called Lactobacillus Bulgaricus. It is this bacteria that causes the milk fermentation and gives this incomparable flavor.
Grigorov was born in 1878 in the village of Studen Izvor in the Tran region, which is now famous for its delicious yogurt. As a child, he impressed his teachers with his great intelligence and his ability to acquire considerable knowledge, which led him to get in the all male secondary school in Sofia, the most prestigious school in Bulgaria at the time. After Sofia, he went to Montpellier, France to study natural sciences. Then, Grigorov moved to Geneva to study medicine, where he had the opportunity to work with renowned bacteriologist, Professor Massol. The latter was so impressed by the young Bulgarian that he offered him a job as his assistant.
Grigorov was very fortunate to have access to the laboratory of Professor Massol, who was one of the best equipped in the world.
And so, it is there that he made his greatest discovery! This discovery allowed Bulgarian yogurt to be manufactured worldwide.
At the same time, the Pasteur Institute of Paris was conducting a survey to determine the number of centenarians in the population of 35 countries. Bulgaria came first with the largest percentage of its population over 100. The Pasteur Institute concluded that the explanation for this longevity was the daily consumption of this famous yogurt. This raised the question of how to produce Bulgarian yogurt outside of Bulgaria.
Professor Massol contacted the Pasteur Institute by mail. In this letter, he made the Pasteur Institute aware that his young Bulgarian assistant had solved the mystery by isolating the bacteria that gives Bulgarian yogurt its distinctive characteristic. The Pasteur Institute subsequently invited Stamen Grigorov in Paris to present his discovery to the larger scientific community. A big hit!
After completing his doctorate, Grigorov returned to Bulgaria and rejected several job offers, including the leadership of the Pasteur Institute in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The young doctor eventually returned to his hometown to become a general practice doctor and the Director of the Tran hospital where he worked on the treatment of tuberculosis and lung diseases.
He died in Bulgaria in 1945. Today, thanks to Dr. Stamen Grigorov, we know the secret of Bulgarian yoghurt. Known around the world for its exquisite taste and dietary benefits, Bulgarian yogurt is the symbol of Bulgarian cuisine. In the native village of Stamen Grigorov, there is even a small museum dedicated to yogurt.
There are a number of similar recipes of cucumber and dairy products around the world. Remember uborka saláta from Hungary, Mike’s wife favorite salad, that he prepared 3 years ago?
In Turkish cuisine, tarator is a sauce that usually accompanies fish, squid or mussels.
It was eighty five degrees in the French capital on the day I prepared this tarator! Needless to say that we did add ice to our recipe and we just loved it!
- 1½ lb Bulgarian yogurt
- 1 cucumber (about 1 lb), peeled and deseeded
- 3 oz. walnuts , chopped and lightly toasted
- 3 tablespoons sunflower oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 small bunch dill , finely chopped
Beat the yogurt until it is smooth.
In a blender, add the yoghurt, oil, garlic, cucumber, half of the walnuts, half of the dill.
Blend until reaching a smooth consistency. Add salt and pepper.
Serve chilled or top with ice cubes and sprinkle the remaining walnuts and dill.