You Say 'Kubbeh,' I Say 'Kibbeh.' Let's Eat 'Em All Right Now : The Salt Regardless of what you call them — kibbeh, kubbe, kobeba — bulgur-and-wheat dumplings are a beloved staple across the Levant. And as with hummus, there are local varieties from Iraq to Egypt. In Jerusalem, kids at a cooking camp learn to make the lemony kubbeh hamusta from Kurdistan.
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You Say 'Kubbeh,' I Say 'Kibbeh.' Let's Eat 'Em All Right Now

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You Say 'Kubbeh,' I Say 'Kibbeh.' Let's Eat 'Em All Right Now

You Say 'Kubbeh,' I Say 'Kibbeh.' Let's Eat 'Em All Right Now

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All right, time for another stop on our world tour of dumplings this week. Today, NPR's Emily Harris takes us to Jerusalem for a food that has perhaps as many variations as there are cultures in that city. Some call it kubbeh. In Egypt, you might hear kobeba. Others say kibbeh. My wife's Lebanese family prefers a version of this that is raw lamb, and I can tell you, it is delicious.

But often, kubbeh is in the form of a meat dumpling, which, in the region Emily Harris covers, is just as popular as hummus.

EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: One popular version of kubbeh is meat wrapped in bulgur, then deep fried.


HARRIS: Dip one in tahini for a crunchy snack. But at the Te'amim, or Tastes cooking camp in Jerusalem, Chef Udi Shlomi prefers to teach kids to make kubbeh hamusta.

UDI SHLOMI: Hamusta, it means hamuts. Hamuts, it means vinegary, like lemony - very lemony kind of a taste. And the hamusta, it's one of the famous kubbeh. It came from Kurdistan.

HARRIS: In his recipe, the dumplings are made of semolina, plus a little bulgur. The filling is seasoned ground beef. The kubbeh are cooked in a sour soup.

SHLOMI: (Foreign language spoken)


HARRIS: Shlomi gets the kids' attention, and assigns dishes for the day. Thirteen-year-old Aviv Raz is thrilled to make kubbeh.

AVIV RAZ: My grandma make kubbeh every Friday. And all the family, they come and they eat kubbeh, all the cousins. It's great.

HARRIS: Kubbeh is one of those dishes, like hummus, well-loved with local varieties from Iraq to Egypt. To start making kubbeh, the kids sharpen big knives.


HARRIS: They chop onions for the meat.


HARRIS: Garlic and celery, too.

RAZ: Now we cook the meat.

HARRIS: Aviv and her friends set the beef to brown in a heavy skillet.


HARRIS: Then they chop more celery, chard and zucchini for the soup. While the soup steams and the meat browns, they mix the dough for the dumplings. This is the hardest part to get right, because of the semolina, coarsely ground from hard durum wheat.

Chef Shlomi.

SHLOMI: The semolina, it reacts differently from wheat flour, or from rice flour. That's why it's more like thick than the dumplings, the Asian dumplings that we know. It's soft, but you want to feel it, you know, the textures in your mouth.

HARRIS: He shows the kids how to first oil their fingers, then roll a bit of dough into a ball, flatten it, put a little meat in the middle, then pinch it shut. Aviv pats away happily.


HARRIS: So, tell me what you're doing. You take the dough...

RAZ: I take the dough and pat it on my hands, yes. And I put meat, a little meat. I close it up. I close it, and I put on the - then - and then, we put all these and put it on the soup.

SHLOMI: (Foreign language spoken)

HARRIS: Chef Shlomi tastes the broth and calls for more lemon. Aviv and her friends slide the dumplings in gently. Finally, the kubbeh and other comfort foods cooked at camp on this day are set out for lunch. Chef Shlomi tries a dumpling.

SHLOMI: The texture of the dough, really, really good, soft like it's supposed to be, maybe a little salt in the filling, and a bit more vinegar, lemon.

HARRIS: Aviv rates her work as tasty, but nothing compared to her grandma's kubbeh.

Emily Harris, NPR News, Jerusalem.


GREENE: And we're eager to know what kind of dumplings you like to make. We're collecting photos and stories. Send them to MORNING EDITION at, or share them on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #NPRDumplingWeek.

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