Kisir is a classic mezze of Turkish and Kurdish cuisines. This bulgur salad with tomato and parsley, both fresh and hearty, can be enjoyed as a main dish, as a snack or as an accompaniment.
What is kisir?
Kısır, or kisir, is a traditional Turkish salad made from bulgur and tomato purée, flavored with parsley, spices and biber salçası, a pepper paste. To the salad are also added disced cucumber, scallions, fresh tomato as well as nar eksisi, pomegranate molasses.
This latter ingredient, relatively easy to find in Turkey, is a little less so in Western supermarkets. It is however possible to make it at home by slowly reducing pomegranate juice over the heat with a little sugar. Nar eksisi gives a particular flavor to kisir, both fruity and slightly bitter.
Kisir is commonly called the “Turkish tabbouleh“, due to its resemblance to the famous Lebanese dish.
If Turks love to serve it to accompany grilled meat on the barbecue, the most common way to consume kisir is as a mezze.
The mezze, very typical of Levantine and Mediterranean cuisine, is an assortment of several small dishes that can be shared with family or friends, often during large parties. The dishes are placed on a table in small bowls or ramekins, and all the guests serve themselves.
Another typical Turkish way to eat kisir is to place a spoonful of salad inside a leaf of lettuce, and eat it all together.
What is the origin of kisir?
Kisir is a specialty from the southeast of Turkey, and in particular from the province of Hatay, a region close to the Syrian border.
Residents of the city of Antioch (Antakya), the capital of Hatay, are known for their love of kisir. It is also a very popular dish in Gaziantep, a town further east, in the province of the same name.
Kisir in Turkish cuisine
This dish is particularly representative of two very important staples of Turkish cuisine: bulgur, and salads.
Bulgur, the flagship ingredient of the recipe, holds a central place in the country’s culinary traditions. This is explained by the fact that the first crops of wheat appeared in the Middle East, on Mesopotamian lands which today correspond to Iraq, Syria, and southeast of Turkey. For centuries, bulgur and other cereals derived from wheat have therefore formed the basis of Turkish food.
As examples, bulgur pilavi is another bulgur dish with tomato sauce and spices that is enjoyed hot. There is also kibbeh, which are deep-fried bulgur-wrapped meatballs.
Salads, on the other hand, also form a large part of the local culinary heritage. This type of dish is thus very appreciated during the heat of the Turkish summer and very simple to eat in mezze.
Among the best-known Turkish salads is çoban salatası, “the shepherd’s salad” which consists of tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers and aromatic herbs. There is also the piyaz salad with white beans and the ezme, with tomatoes.
What are the variants of kisir?
Kisir is therefore the Turkish variant of tabbouleh, a mezze of Lebanese and Syrian origin, very famous in Levantine cuisine. Unlike kisir, bulgur is only present in very small quantities in tabbouleh. Here, the main ingredient is parsley, which is mixed with fresh mint, onion and lemon juice.
In Armenia, eech is a typical dish of bulgur with tomato in every respect similar to kisir. The only notable difference is the absence of pomegranate molasses and the use of lemon juice instead.
- 3½ cup fine bulgur
- 1½ cup boiling water
- 1 onion , thinly sliced
- ½ cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoons tomato purée
- 1 tablespoon biber salçası (fresh pepper paste)
- 1 mini cucumber , diced
- 1 small bunch flat parsley , chopped
- 10 leaves lettuce cut into thin strips
- 1 large tomato , peeled, seeded and diced
- 5 small scallions , thinly sliced
- 2 small lemons , freshly squeezed
- 3 tablespoons nar ekşisi (pomegranate molasses)
- ½ teaspoon pul biber (chili pepper flakes)
- In a large bowl, add the fine bulgur then pour the boiling water over it, and mix with a spoon.
- Cover the bowl and let the bulgur swell, while preparing the rest of the recipe.
- In a skillet, heat the olive oil and add the chopped onion.
- Fry over medium heat for 3 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon then add the tomato purée and the salçası biber (fresh pepper paste).
- Mix everything well, cover and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.
- Stir the bulgur with a fork.
- Pour the sauce over the bulgur and mix so that the bulgur is well impregnated with the sauce.
- Let cool for 1 hour at room temperature.
- Add the cucumber, tomato, parsley, lettuce, and scallions to the bulgur. Also add the lemon juice and pomegranate molasses.
- Season with salt and add the chili pepper flakes.
- Serve chilled, in a large dish or in small individual portions.