Bulgarian tarator soup and a quick Iraqi breakfast

by Sarah on September 11, 2012

tarator yogurt soup, bulgarian

“Don’t argue over taste and scent “, is a Hebrew adage used almost daily in Israel. In other words, a debate revolved around the senses is subjective and each person is entitled to their opinion, even if they’re wrong. In a country where there are three opinions for every two people, as the Jewish joke goes, it’s a good way to extricate oneself out of a tricky conversation.

A while ago I took a family on a tour of Ramle Souk and hoped they would love the open air market as much as I did. By the time we arrived the asphalt was simmering and the air lay damp and heavy.   Under normal circumstances I’d kvetch about the heat but here I was distracted. At the souk I am a six year old at a carnival with the promise of endless possibilities.  For others, it’s a cultural bombardment, too hot, sticky and loud.

ramle market, ramle outdoor market

After exploring the stalls, I bought ayran for the guests. “A refreshing yogurt drink” I offered, but instead of gulping it down, it was met with scrunched noses and hesitant sips. “I don’t know if I would call this refreshing”, one of the tourists mumbled. She could have just said “this stuff is gross”.

sesame paste, date syrup and yogurt , iraqi

This annoyed me. Israelis are vocal with their stance so why did their reaction put me off guard? and I didn’t even like plain yogurt until recently.

I have learnt that food is not simply a matter of taste but an integral part of culture and tradition. A rejection of a dish, be it gefilte fish or tziziki, won’t always be met with easy understanding. It’s a matter of pride, of connection.

Anyone can be a casual tourist but it’s much harder to delve more deeply in a region. One way to do this is eating like the locals. If you don’t like it, well, keep smiling, and if you really have to, spit it out when nobody’s looking.

Two simple yogurt recipes:

 bulgarian yogurt soup, tarator

Tarator-Bulgarian yogurt soup


With crunchy cucumbers, tangy yogurt and abundant herbs this refreshing soup is perfect on a hot summer’s day. I first tried this soup in the Bulgarian vacation village of Bansko where they served it with flat bread and shopska salad.

4 cups cold yogurt

2 cucumbers, cut into small cubes (makes about 1  ½ cup)

½ cup roughly ground walnuts

1 bunch dill, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, crushed

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Mix all the ingredients together and garnish with extra ground walnuts and dill if desired. The soup should not stick to the spoon like pudding. If it does, dilute it with a bit of water. I used Greek yogurt so this is what I did. Keep chilled until ready to serve

sesame paste, date syrup and yogurt

A quick Iraqi breakfast


I found this simple breakfast idea in an Iraqi Hebrew cookbook, Ashtidach, by Shoshi Oran and Loran Ravid. Ashtida translates to bless your hands,  a respectful way to greet cooks in Iraq.

1 cup yogurt

1 tablespoon or to taste raw tahini paste

1 tablespoon or to taste date syrup

Ground almonds or pistachios to garnish

Pour the yogurt in a small bowl and drizzle with tahini paste and date syrup. Garnish with almonds.

For all those celebrating Shana Tova!

Two of my favorite street food blogs



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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Rosa September 11, 2012 at 7:20 am

A wonderful soup! So heakthy and refined in its simplicity.

I’d eat breakfast everyday if I lived in Iraq!




Sarah September 12, 2012 at 3:05 am

Thanks Rosa!


Yael the Finn September 11, 2012 at 7:53 am

Lovely post Sarah.Hmmm, your tourists were very picky….
Love youghurt with silan,but I guess adding tahini there makes it even better!


Sarah September 12, 2012 at 3:07 am

Yael, Thanks! Silan (date syrup) is staple in my house. I use it in so many things from sauces, vinaigrette, ice cream, baked goods..it’s so versatile.


Eha September 11, 2012 at 10:32 pm

Have not made tarator for ages: so looking forward to having this the first hot day [we always have a short heatwave in September, before ‘normal’ spring sets in!] and trying out your recipe! And now i have found out an old Estonian saying has Jewish origins: we say that whenever three Estonians get together one promptly needs two churches, two . . . etc etc methinks v much the same idea :) !


Sarah September 12, 2012 at 3:04 am

Eha, I didn’t know about the Estonian saying…funny. People are the same everywhere. Happy spring to you! We are headed into autumn but it is still so hot.


Faye September 12, 2012 at 2:22 am

Hi Sarah,
I feel like you do in the souk!

Your dishes look lovely. We have enjoyed ayran for some time and really got to like it in Turkey, where we had it all the time.

I love the breakfast idea. I have done tahini with date syrup but not together with yogurt. Just to be sure I’m clear on what you meant–in the last photo it seemed like the yogurt and pistachios were in one bowl, and the tahini drizzled with date syrup in another. Do you serve them in two separate bowls, or was this a stage in the preparation but later they are combined in one bowl?


Sarah September 12, 2012 at 3:02 am

Thanks! I don’t remember why I prepared the yogurt and tehini in two bowls. Probably because one of my kids wanted their yogurt plain. I was introduced to ayran in Bulgaria where vendors sold it in Cola bottles at the souk.


Faye September 12, 2012 at 3:29 am

Thanks, Sarah. Your mention of the cola bottles reminds me that the Persians make a soda version of their doogh (their version of ayran), so it’s basically yogurt soda (not sweet).
I forgot to mention that your post reminded me of Turkey a breakfast item we liked in Turkey: tahini mixed with pekmez (grape molasses), that you dip bread into.


Suzy September 12, 2012 at 4:30 pm

As I type this comment—–I am now an addict of “Date Syrup”

I had seen it in the stores, but I had really not thought about what it would be good with…ashamed to say that. I is so good…my mind is going in all directions on recipes and creative thoughts.

Aunt Jemima is officially fired!


Sarah September 12, 2012 at 8:52 pm

:-) I use date syrup on French toast and pancakes too. I love maple syrup (I’m from New York) but it’s so expensive here.


Nomadic Samuel September 17, 2012 at 7:03 am

This looks delicious! I would absolutely love to try it. Although Korea has delicious cuisine, breakfast is more of an after-thought here.


Sarah September 17, 2012 at 7:42 am

Thanks Nomadic Samuel! Would love to try Korean cuisine one day, kimchi and all.


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