Tarhana – ‘soup of a household of modest means’

My local fruit market carries a range of ingredients from around the world. We are often finding items we have never heard of or eaten before. Bravely we take strange packets and tins home and search the internet for information about them. Very few have not been experiences worth the effort. One day we found a cloth bag marked Tarhana … and a new adventure began.

Tarhana came in a bag with no instructions

Tarhana came in a bag with no instructions

I asked staff at the fruit market, but they didn’t know anything about what this “Turkish soup with Tomatoes and Piment Sweet Art” was or how to prepare it. Sounds like Turkish Cup-a-soup, or could there be more to the story? Adventurous, (and it was a price we could afford to be adventurous with) we took it anyway.

I searched the internet to find how to make the soup and, not only did I find the recipe on how to make it up, but also the Turkish legend about it. Love food with heart, so here we go…

This story is courtesy of Su from “The Gourmet Touch”, who specialises in Turkish food. Su suggests that people who have travelled in Turkey will tell you of the great hospitality they have been treated to.

“The Turks have a saying which translates to something like “the Lord’s guest”. What this means is that if you should stumble upon somebody’s abode, you will be treated as a guest sent by the Almighty. How cool is that? The hosts will feed you and tend to your needs before putting you on the correct vehicle to your next destination. This, of course, is not something that’s done under an Tourism Board edict. It is an act of generosity and compassion which has much to do with Turkish values.”

So, that’s very lovely, but how does it relate to instant soup mix?

“Legend has it that during the reign of the Ottomans, a Sultan is invited into a back street household where he is offered this soup. He likes it very much and asks for its name. These people are barely struggling to put food on the table so what they eat doesn’t necessarily have a name. It is a soup which is made from dry granules of fermented cracked wheat, yoghurt, and vegetables…”

and spices. In the one that I got there was red pepper; onion; salt; tomatoes; dried mint and yeast.

Tarhana - Turkish instant soup

Tarhana – Turkish instant soup

“…she says “dar hane” soup in answer to the Sultan’s question. This basically means ‘soup of a household of modest means’. Throughout the years it becomes the most consumed soup in the country and its name has mutated to “tarhana”.”

Isn’t that a wonderful story? The idea that this soup is made in order to have on hand something nutritious and tasty to serve a surprise visitor made me want to share this with others. At Christmas time, I made up little bags of Tarhana (just enough to make one or two quantities), along with a copy of this story and the following recipe. I hope that the recipients were able to make this soup when they had guests over.

There are recipes for making the soup from scratch, but this recipe is to make up the soup from the dried prepared Tarhana:


Tarhana ready to eat

Tarhana ready to eat

3 tbsp Tarhana
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp butter
3-4 cups chicken broth/water+bouillon
1 tsp salt or to taste
1. Place the Tarhana and 1/2 cup of water in a bowl and leave for an hour, stirring occasionally.
2. In a pot, sauté butter and tomato paste over medium heat.
3. Pour stock into pot and gradually introduce the Tarhana which should now be dissolved.
4. Cook over low-medium heat stirring constantly. Adjust consistency by adding water if you wish.

I hope that one day you see this little white bag (or similar) in a store and think of this story, and the heart that goes into something as simple as ‘instant soup’.


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