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I recently had a delicious tabbouleh in Portland, OR at a Lebanese restaurant. It looked like the standard recipe, but it had a unique taste that I am trying to replicate. It was almost savory. Any ideas of what they might have put in to get that umami flavor?

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    1. I'm pleased that you raised the point. Far too often, IMO, Quinoa (and Bulgar) is used for tabbouleh with a restrictive concentration of "just another pasta salad" and it's so much more than that. If the starch is prepared in a chicken or beef stock and a bit of garlic and ginger are added to the other ingredients favored by the particular chef, the resulting flavors can be quite different and most enjoyable.

      1 Reply
      1. re: todao

        Chicken stock-that could have been it. I am actually a vegetarian...so I hope there is another option! Maybe a good veg stock or even mushroom?

        1. Some people toast the bulgur before soaking it, which gives a slightly nutty taste. A pinch of baharat is traditional and the substituting sumac for some of the lemon juice as Antilope suggests would lend a pleasant musky background note.

          1 Reply
          1. re: JungMann

            I was thinking the baharat would give a savory flavor. I use a little when making my tabbouleh

          2. Though definitely not authentic, I add smoky paprika to the soaking water, just a bit.

            1. I have always used Spike to flavor my tabbouleh. It's crazy umami, that stuff. I'm pretty sure that among other things it contains quite a bit of yeast. I learned about this ingredient as a teenager working in a mostly vegetarian deli (think moosewood cookbook). It's a great addition though, and everybody who eats my tabbouleh says it's the best they've ever had. I used to use it in place of salt, but now buy the salt-free version so that I have more control of the seasoning.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Teague

                Just tried to to open that link and my computer went ape--- ding ding ding Trojan Horse ding ding ding. And so on.

                1. re: Teague

                  Oh, man... taking me back to the fall of 1979, having transferred to an out of state university my junior year. I went to the downtown area to explore, stopped for lunch and had a bagel with sliced tomato, onion, jarlsberg cheese, and I sprinkled it with Spike, they had it on the table. There may have been sprouts.
                  Overland Deli.

                2. Can you share the name of the restaurant? I'm close enough to Portland and would love to have a Lebanese place to try the next time I'm in town.

                  1. I can't imagine strong flavors in tabbouleh---to me the delight of tabbouleh is the delicacy of flavor, with fresh lemon juice and fresh mint, just a hint of scallions.......summery and light.

                    1. I do use lots of lemon, and mint besides parsley. I use quinoa, and toast a bit in a dry pan first -- I imagine you could do the same with bulghur, although I myself haven't used that in years so I don't know.

                      When cooking the quinoa, I don't use straight water -- but it occurs to me now that perhaps the OIL the resto uses to mix the tabbouleh is itself infused with something? Roasted garlic, some fancy vinegar, smoked something or other? Or maybe their salt is smoked or pink salt or something? Any of these would lend a note to the finished dish..