Gaziantep’s Celebration Soup (Yuvalama Çorbası)

It’s hard to find words to describe the devastation of last week’s earthquake in Turkey and Syria. It’s a strange feeling… just going about your normal day, knowing so many cannot, but as just an average person, being unable to really do anything about it. Pretty much every time I feel this feeling, I channel my feelings into cooking. This time last year, we were feeling similarly about the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Our Ukrainian dinner didn’t stop the war, just as tonight’s dinner won’t save people from the rubble, but it’s our little way of showing solidarity. Otherwise, essentially the only way to help from halfway around the world is via monetary donations. We donated to groups we regularly support – the International Rescue Committee and World Central Kitchen. Time has a list of groups accepting donations for humanitarian aid work here, as does PBS here.

The earthquake was centered in Gaziantep province in Southeastern Turkey, not far from the city of the same name. Gaziantep is a place I’ve always wanted to visit and is considered a culinary center in Turkey. So, I knew we would make our dinner not just of Turkish food, but of dishes natives to Gaziantep. In my internet sleuthing, I learned that this dish, which I’ve seen as both yuvalama çorbası and yuvarlama çorbası, is traditionally served in Gaziantep at the end of Ramazan (Turkish spelling of Ramadan). The making of the teeny, tiny meatballs is done with friends and family to speed it along. Not gonna lie – my meatballs are not all the size of chickpeas – it’s definitely a challenge! All of of the recipes I found varied, as “traditional recipes” often do. I used several as inspiration of this version, mentally combining them as I went. This sometimes doesn’t end well for me… Luckily, this time I did a decent job!

Gaziantep’s Celebration Soup (Yuvalama Çorbası)

(Combination of multiple recipes: this, this, this, this, & this)
  • 1/2 lb ground lamb (or beef)
  • 1/4 cup rice flour
  • 1 egg
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 tbsp + 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 lb lamb stew meat, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 6 cups beef/lamb stock
  • 1 can (~15oz) chickpeas
  • 2 cups strained yogurt
  • 1 tbsp dried mint
  1. First, prepare the tiny meatballs. In a large bowl, mix together the ground beef, rice flour, egg, 1 tsp salt, & 5-6 turns of fresh ground black pepper. Once the mixture has come together, form tiny meatballs, approximately the same size as the chickpeas. Set them on a parchment/wax paper lined cookie sheet. Refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium to large pot, melt 1 tbsp of butter over medium heat. Add the lamb, seasoned with salt & pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is starting to brown.
  3. Once the meat is browned, add the stock to the pot. Bring to a boil and add the chickpeas and meatballs. Continue at an aggressive simmer until the meatballs float to the top of the pot, about 5 minutes. Lower heat to a light simmer and continue cooking for ~15 minutes.
  4. Now, place the yogurt in a separate bowl and slowly ladle hot stock in with it. Whisk to combine. When the yogurt mixture has thinned and becomes slightly frothy while whisking, stop and slowly pour it back into the pot. Stir well and remove from heat.
  5. Lastly, melt the remaining 4 tbsp of butter in a small pan. Once melted, stir in the dried mint and remove from heat.
  6. Serve the soup with the mint butter drizzled overtop.
Serves 6-8

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