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Middle Eastern Lentil Soup ... what is that I am tasting?

Ms.chef Jan 25, 2010 07:01 AM

Went to a new Middle Eastern restaurant (Alibaba's) and ordered a lentil soup. It was fantastic! Best lentil soup I ever had ... but different than I have ever had.

I want to make it at home - but I can't seem to find a recipe. I mean, there are several recipes online, but it seems the only seasonings listed are salt, pepper and cumin (sometimes turmeric)

There is got to be more than that in this soup. It tastes "flowery" and I can't place it. Saffron? Cinnamon? I am sure there is cumin in it and probably turmeric too. (as the take out styrofoam cup is stained with that yellow color distinctive of turmeric ... or saffron I guess.)

Good grief! I might just have to ask them.

Any ideas?

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  1. h
    Harters RE: Ms.chef Jan 25, 2010 01:26 PM

    Could be almost anything - cinnamon, cardomom, cloves (possibly other things beginning with "c" :-) ). Could have ras-el-hanout in it - the spice mix often has berries and /or flower buds.

    1. mcf RE: Ms.chef Jan 25, 2010 02:44 PM

      Could it be zaatar or hyssop? Has a kind of brightness, maybe floral quality.


      1. mcsheridan RE: Ms.chef Jan 25, 2010 03:50 PM

        Possibly it's Orange Blossom Water.

        1 Reply
        1. re: mcsheridan
          pikawicca RE: mcsheridan Jan 26, 2010 04:03 PM

          In soup? I don't think so.

        2. luckyfatima RE: Ms.chef Jan 25, 2010 07:33 PM

          Typical red-lentil soup, or shorba adas, has no 'exotic' ingredients like za'atar or orange blossom water, sorry to disappoint. It is just red lentils cooked in chicken stock (the "red" lentils are orange in color before cooking and turn yellow when cooked). For flavor a little bit of garlic and such is added, the chicken stock gives depth. The zing comes from a squeeze of lemon juice added at the end.

          here is a typical looking recipe


          2 Replies
          1. re: luckyfatima
            jayt90 RE: luckyfatima Jan 25, 2010 08:14 PM

            Agreed. A rich stock is the key ingredient. Could be chicken or beef, even pork, but made with intensity, i.e. a lot of bones and vegs to a little amount of water.

            1. re: luckyfatima
              scubadoo97 RE: luckyfatima Jan 26, 2010 12:35 PM

              Yes but usually has a good dose of cumin and a lot of garlic

            2. s
              Steve RE: Ms.chef Jan 26, 2010 03:27 PM

              Why don't you just ask them?

              In addition, you should ask them where they're from. not all 'Middle Eastern' food is the same. In fact, I don't like the term because I find people will lump everything from Moroccan and Lebanese to Persian and Pakistani together, as if it all comes from the same culinary tradition.

              I've made a very good vegetarian lentil recipe with clove. If I find it, I'll post it.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Steve
                Ms.chef RE: Steve Feb 9, 2010 07:10 PM

                Well, I wouldn't consider Moroccan "middle eastern" since it is in Africa! ;-) (I don't like the fact that you just assume that I am ignorant)

                Sorry everyone. I have had the flu. Haven't had a chance to ask yet.

                I will soon.

                1. re: Ms.chef
                  Steve RE: Ms.chef Feb 9, 2010 08:45 PM

                  Sorry, I didn't mean to say that you don't know. But I have seen the mistake on Chowhound before.

                  Since you asked for help identifying a spice or flavor, you could ask the restaurant not only what the flavor is, but from which country they're from.

              2. pikawicca RE: Ms.chef Jan 26, 2010 04:06 PM

                There are so many spices that could be at play here: cardamom, coriander, grains of paradise, cinnamon... I would try grinding a few of these into your soup.

                1. operagirl RE: Ms.chef Jan 26, 2010 04:08 PM

                  Sumac, maybe? Adds a lemony bite and I've seen it used in lentil soups before.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: operagirl
                    pikawicca RE: operagirl Feb 10, 2010 04:36 AM

                    Second the sumac idea.

                  2. s
                    sueatmo RE: Ms.chef Jan 26, 2010 04:47 PM

                    Oh please, ask! Then let us know what it is. We want to know.

                    1. decolady RE: Ms.chef Feb 11, 2010 10:58 PM

                      Ms.chef, have you had a chance to ask yet? I'm curious to know what they say.

                      1. coll RE: Ms.chef Feb 12, 2010 01:42 AM

                        I like to add mint to my "Middle Eastern" dishes, especially lentil/bean things.

                        1. plum RE: Ms.chef Feb 12, 2010 08:34 AM

                          Could it have been coriander? That has a beautiful warm citrusy smell. The smaller darker coriander seed used in Middle Eastern coriander power is particularly fragrant - it smells a little more like orange than then larger, slightly paler Indian variety.

                          Here is a link to the classic Claudia Roden recipe for shorbat adas, seasoned with garlic, cumin, coriander and a little red chili - always hits the spot:

                          1. r
                            Rapenburg RE: Ms.chef Feb 6, 2011 06:19 PM

                            Two Algerian sisters taught me how to cook lentil soup (shorbat adas), and their version uses ground anise seed.

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