Kırmızı mercimek çorbası is a traditional soup made from red lentils. Lentil soups are known for their nutritional value and for being an excellent source of protein, fiber, iron and potassium. Flavored with dried mint, kırmızı mercimek çorbası is delicious, simple and quick to make.
What is kırmızı mercimek çorbası?
Kırmızı mercimek çorbası is a traditional Turkish soup that looks like a velouté. It is prepared from red lentils. Long cooking of the lentils guarantees this velvety texture. Also, a hand blender can be used to shorten the cooking time and get that unique velvety texture.
The kirmizi mercimek çorbasi is on the menu of several Turkish restaurants called lokanta. These are restaurants that serve traditional dishes to be eaten quickly or on the spot. They are very popular in Istanbul and have become favorite places for tourists. They flock around the markets where vegetables and fresh products are sold.
In Turkey, locals enjoy lentil soup in any season and at any time of the day. Although it may seem absurd in the Western world, it is customary among Turks to eat soup for breakfast. The kirmizi mercimek çorbasi is particularly appreciated during the month of Ramadan and especially during the closing meal of the fast called iftar.
Red and green lentils are foods found in traditional Turkish cuisine and regional cuisine around the Baltic Sea. In addition, soups in Turkey are much more substantial than in the Western world. They are eaten hot or cold. Also, kirmizi mercimek çorbasi is considered the queen of soups in Turkey.
Some variants of kirmizi mercimek çorbasi use cilantro in addition to dried mint. The inclusion of potatoes in the recipe is missing in some recipes. On the other hand, all the red lentil soups commonly called kirmizi mercimek çorbasi use a traditional preparation made with dried peppers called biber salçası.
What is biber salçası?
Biber salçası literally means “pepper paste” in the Turkish language. It is also known as kırmızı biber salçası. Biber salçası is a kind of condiment.
Biber salçası comes in the form of a thick paste of bright red color. It is prepared from hot peppers or even sweet red peppers, and salt.
The preparation of biber salçası is long and requires several days. Also, it is imperative to remove the seeds from the peppers before drying them in the sun for six to seven days. Indeed, it is the seeds of the peppers (more precisely the capsaicin which they contain) which give the biber salçası its spicy side.
Also, there are two main varieties of biber salçası. On one hand, the spicy version which is called acı biber salçası. On the other hand, the milder variety called tatlı biber salçası.
In Turkey and the Anatolian Peninsula, it is common to use biber salçası to accompany certain dishes, as a garnish in a pita bread or as an accompaniment to börek.
Other varieties of lentil soups in the world
There are several varieties of lentil soup in Turkey, and there is another variety of red lentil soup very similar to kirmizi mercimek çorbasi, called ezo gelin corbasi.
This soup is named after a famous character in Turkish folklore: the bride Ezo of Gaziantep. However, ezo gelin corbasi differs from kirmizi mercimek çorbasi in that it is much thicker. Indeed, the recipe contains bulgur or rice which are responsible for this richer consistency.
In India and Nepal, there is a lentil dish called dal (dahl, dhal or daal). But it is the masoor dal, which is closest to the Turkish lentil soup kirmizi mercimek çorbasi. The Indian lentil soup looks more like a thick, grainy mash than a velouté. Indeed, the preparation of the dal does not involve a hand blender.
- 2½ cups red lentils , rinsed and well drained
- 1 potato , diced
- 1 carrot , grated
- 2 cloves garlic , chopped
- 1 onion , chopped
- 4 cups vegetable broth (boiling)
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon tomato purée
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1 teaspoon biber salçası (fresh paprika or pepper paste)
- 1 teaspoon dried mint
- Freshly ground pepper
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice (for serving)
- Dutch oven
- Hand blender
- In a Dutch oven or heavy bottom pot, heat the olive oil and sauté the onion and garlic for 3 minutes over low heat.
- Add the carrot and potato and sauté over medium heat for 2 minutes.
- Add the lentils, tomato purée, turmeric and cumin and mix everything well.
- Pour the vegetable broth over it, cover and cook for 40 minutes over medium heat.
- Mix using a hand blender.
- Melt the butter in a small pan and add the flour, the biber salçası (pepper paste) and the dried mint.
- Mix everything well and just before serving, pour this mixture into the boiling kırmızı mercimek çorbası without stirring and cook for 3 minutes over medium heat.
- Serve the kırmızı mercimek çorbası very hot with a few drops of lemon juice.