Bulgur, Babylonian fast food

by Sarah on March 27, 2009

I would like to extol the virtues of bulgur; healthy, tasty, quick to prepare and versatile. Bulgur has been eaten for thousands of years, even before biblical times in ancient Sumeria and Babylonia and is still a staple in many countries of the Middle East. Bulgur is wheat that has been parboiled, dried, debranned and ground to various levels of coarseness. This is the first convenience food, for bulgur needs only to be soaked before eating. As early as five thousand years ago the ancients were busy writing the Epic of Gilgamesh and building civilizations and didn’t always have time to make their dinners from scratch every night.
Bulgur is has been one of the most popular ways of eating wheat not only because it is easy and quick to prepare but it is also high in nutrients and minerals. I am not an advocate of health food and don’t even like brown rice but in this case bulgur is in many ways healthier than whole grains. Many whole grains have antinutrients (phytates) which bind nutrients making them unavailable for the body to use. Foods high in phytates such as whole grains have been correlated to reduced incidences of certain types of cancer but for many these foods cause nutrient deficiencies.
In addition, bulgur, a been shown to have a low glycemic index which means that after eating bulgur the level of glucose in the blood does not rise quickly, but slowly over time and this in turn keeps insulin in check. Continual exposure to insulin (which is triggered by high glucose levels) may cause cell resistance and increases the risk of diabetes. There is a delicate balance between insulin and glucose, and when their levels go out of balance they act like poison in the body. Bulgur is also important in weight control because it leaves you feeling full for a longer period of time.
The flavor of bulgur is nutty without being overpowering and is used in many traditional recipes. So lets bring back a biblical culinary trend, bulgur, after all Abraham lived to 175 and I bet that’s because of his healthy eating habits high in bulgur!
In the Levant the Arabs use it to make mujaddara
Syrians use it to make kubba and tabouleh
Iraqis prepare it with chickpeas and noodles and use it in their kubba

Bulgur with lentils


¼ cup olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 cups bulgur, coarsely ground
1 cup lentils, green or brown
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon pepper
3 cups water or chicken stock

Serving:
¼ cup vegetable oil
3 onions, chopped into rings

Soak the lentils for three hours. This step can be omitted as long as the cooking time in extended. Drain and add to a pot, add enough water to cover them and cook for 20 minutes or until soft but not falling apart. Cool
In a heavy pot heat the oil and fry the onions until they are very golden brown. This is done on low heat and takes time, about 40 minutes. The onions need to be caramelized properly for best flavor. Add the bulgur and salt and pepper. Fry for about two minutes while mixing. Add the lentils and mix.
Add the boiling water and cook for twenty minutes covered, without peeking. Turn off the heat and let sit, covered for twenty more minutes.
For serving heat oil in a pan and fry the onions until they are deep golden brown. This should take at least 40 minutes. Put the bulgur in a serving plate and top with the caramelized onions.

Bulgur on Foodista

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