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Dolmades

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I feel all alone! :'( I've attempted to get three people (two family members, one significant other) to try dolmades unsuccessfully. One took one bite and rejected the poor little dolma, citing "textural issues". The other two wouldn't even try them! Granted, these were store bought, prepared dolmades, but I can attest to their goodness. I guess what I'm asking is, is this a common occurence? Do people (I mean ya'll and the people ya'll associate with) generally dislike dolmades?

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  1. As a big lover of dolmades, I have to say that I do not believe that all are created equal. Some can be soaked in enough olive oil to have a very smooth almost slimey texture, whereas others if the rice or grape leaf is very dry can have an awkward almost crunch to it. I think that personal preference on what is or is not a good version can vary, and personally ones with lots of olive oil turn me off.

    As far as another reason for taste aversion - if there is a dislike to olives and other pickled foods, I could see that taste turning off someone.

    1. I like well made dolmades. I dont not like mass produced supermarket dolmades.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Harters

        This.

        1. re: sunshine842

          What Harters and sunshine842 said.

        2. re: Harters

          Unfortunately, I find dolmades to be one of the least reliable items to buy from "quality" markets or restaurants that specialize in Arabic food.

          1. re: Harters

            +1

            And where I come from, all the store bought ones are made wrong. They are vegetarian and only have rice, and are very slushy and taste like they have some kind of corn syrupy vinegar dressing on it like you'd find in some nasty deli salad.

            True dolmades in my family have MEAT in them, are a hearty and sturdy food with a nice lemony bite, not a squishy, mushy, vinegary mess, which is all I have found commercially.

            1. re: Harters

              +2. I grew up eating Middle Eastern grape leaves, so I would never eat dolmades unless they had lamb. My first plain, gritty rice dolma was an unpleasant surprise. Over time I've learned to appreciate good, well-seasoned vegetarian dolmades, but I still won't eat them if the rice isn't cooked properly or they are too greasy or poorly flavored.

            2. The person who introduced me to dolmades told me it would take me three tries to like them. The first time, I wouldn't know what to expect. The second time, I'd know what I was in for, so it wouldn't be so bad. By the third time, I would be craving more.
              She was right. But then, I like pickled foods, don't have 'textural' hangups, and am generally open-minded about new foods.
              Just think, if they won't eat them, it means more for you!

              1 Reply
              1. re: tacosandbeer

                Woah that's interesting! And yes I love not sharing, but I was beginning to wonder if I was cuckoo for liking dolmades.

              2. Almost every where gets their stuffed grapeleaves in a huge can. YUCK!! Slimy and lemony!! They do not have meat. I believe this is the norm for Greek cuisine.
                True Arabic (Syrian and Lebanese) stuffed grapeleaves (usually called "Wara Anib) are prepared with lamb and are fabulous and are served hot. I have never seen them canned.
                There are several NYC middle Eastern restaurants that make their own and they are fabulous. If you are in the area I will give you suggestions.\

                20 Replies
                1. re: Motosport

                  I don't feel like dolmades need to have meat in them to be "true". There is also a Greek main dish made of *warm* dolmades, which very often include meat, served over rice (kinda weird, I know) with a nice lemon cream sauce.

                  I was never a fan of dolma until I met my man, who makes the best dolma in the world. Armenian recipe, no meat. They're a PITA to make, but so, so worth it!

                  1. re: linguafood

                    I don't believe Greeks consider themselves Arabs since they are part of Europe. I've never found stuffed grapeleaves in a Greek restaurant that were served hot and had lamb.
                    Actually, I've never been in a Greek restaurant that made their own stuffed grapeleaves. They all seem to use those awful canned ones. there must be some places that roll their own but I have not found them. I've asked in several Greek place if they make their own. Most say "yes" but in a few places I've seen the big cans in the trash. Go figure?

                    1. re: Motosport

                      aren't dolmades (or whatever the applicable local word might be) pretty much made across a pretty wide swath of the world? If so (and I believe it is) -- then dolma made in Greece (or Turkey or Armenia or wherever) are no more or less "authentic" than dolma made anywhere else...and one person might make them differently than their neighbor -- so whose is more "right"?

                      I'm guessing that linguafood is referring to dolma that she had in a Greek restaurant...in Greece, because that's how she rolls.

                      1. re: sunshine842

                        "True Arabic (Syrian and Lebanese) stuffed grapeleaves (usually called "Wara Anib) are prepared with lamb and are fabulous and are served hot." I never used the word "authentic".
                        Just as Greek, Turkish and Syrian "pita" bread are different so is the way the people of each country prepare their stuffed grapeleaves. Handmade and homemade are very good compared to the canned/preserved offerings. Yuck!

                        1. re: sunshine842

                          Yes, sunshine would be right -- not only have I had warm (Greeks aren't really into the whole "piping hot thing", it seems) dolmades with meat filling at Greek restaurants in Greece, but I also know Greek home cooks who make both version.

                          The warm ones tend to be slightly larger and always include meat (lamb or beef), the cold ones served as appetizers are generally vegetarian, yes.

                        2. re: Motosport

                          "I've never found stuffed grapeleaves in a Greek restaurant that were served hot and had lamb"

                          Try some more places. Cold as an appetizer, hot for main course with ground lamb at the Athens Cafe, where I ate for maybe 30 years

                          1. re: FrankJBN

                            Is that in NYC?

                          2. re: Motosport

                            I don't know where you live, but I go to about 10 different huge Greek festivals a year here in Ohio, and they are all served hot and with meat, usually ground beef but sometimes ground lamb. No self-respecting Greek would serve canned dolmathes. there are a lot of nasty, cheap Greek diners and I'm sure they cut all kinds of corners, but in a real Greek's home, you get the warm, meat kind. At least in my area of the country you do.

                            1. re: rockandroller1

                              Or the homemade, meat-free, cold appetizer version :-)

                              1. re: rockandroller1

                                In Jerusalem Armenian and Palestinian restaurants, the hot grape leaves stuffed with meat are far more likely to be made fresh than the cold grape leaves stuffed with rice. In general, whether it's in a restaurant, store, boutique deli - there is an unfortunate range of awesome to dreadful.

                                I wonder if this is also the case in Greece where the range between purchased homemade ones and sold canned ones fits a range (both of price and quality). That being said, the worst grape leaves I've ever had were (what appeared to be) freshly made warm meat filled ones. That is one Armenian restaurant I am never going back to.

                                1. re: rockandroller1

                                  Ohio!!!! The swing state!!! Maybe I should move from Manhattan.
                                  If I remember correctly there is a large Lebanese/Syrian population in the Toledo area.

                                  1. re: Motosport

                                    We have a LOT of Lebanese all across NE Ohio. And thus great Lebanese food, which is awesome.

                                    1. re: rockandroller1

                                      Very lucky!!

                              2. re: linguafood

                                I took a Greek cooking class from a Greek couple a few years ago and dolmades were amongst the creations. The version I make contains lamb (my personal preference) but as you say, making them is very worthwhile. My batches are large as they make wonderful leftovers. Sounds like a great project for next weekend.

                              3. re: Motosport

                                I found a lot of economical/moderate Greek restos and Greek diners in NYC serve the cold, usually slimy, canned vegetarian dolmades, but canned dolmades are not the norm for Greek cuisine in Greek American and Greek Canadian homes, as far as I know. Most Greek restaurants and Greek clubs in Toronto and Montreal serve restaurant-made cold and hot versions. I've always had the non-slimy, non-canned restaurant-made cold or hot versions at Greek restaurants in the Bay Area and in LA, as well.

                                The cold home-made version tends to be vegetarian, and the warm/hot home-made version tends to be meat & rice-filled, and topped with warm avgolemono (egg lemon) sauce. Typically, the cold vegetarian version is served as a starter or meze at the beginning of the meal, whereas the warm meat and rice version is often more of main dish, in my experience, which sounds like it's similar to linguafood's experience.

                                There are a lot of regional variations on the fillings. I like the pine-nut/raisin/dill/cumin/meat/rice version that tends to be more common in the Aegean islands.

                                Some Cretan versions use bulgur insted of rice.

                                Motosport, if you'd like to try the warm, avgolemono-sauced, meat (veal) and rice version, Pylos has them on its menu: http://www.pylosrestaurant.com/PYL_Di... Most meat-filled dolmades I've seen in North America have been made with beef or veal, rather than lamb.

                                1. re: prima

                                  I am putting Pylos on my list. Veal and raisins rings my bell!!!
                                  My go to Middle Eastern restaurants are Byblos and Al Bustan. In Brooklyn, Tripoli!!

                                  1. re: Motosport

                                    Good to know, hope to try Byblos and Al Bustan on another visit to NYC... and maybe even Tripoli!

                                2. re: Motosport

                                  This is not true -- Lebanese stuffed grape leaves can be vegetarian (and are excellent).

                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                    Most good things can also be meatless but why?

                                    1. re: Motosport

                                      Because it's a traditional Lebanese dish? For thousands of years, meat was a special occasion food item throughout most of the Middle East, so many everyday recipes are vegetarian.

                                3. As an Armenian whose father was raised in Istanbul, my only exposure is to how my two sides of the family prepared these, and how they were served. Dolma was always hot, and always with meat. Yalanchi was always cold and vegetarian. I cannot speak as to how other countries in the area prepare grape leaves, but this was my exposure.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: andieb

                                    My only experience with them is Armenian friends who prepare and serve them just as your two sides of the family.

                                    1. re: andieb

                                      It's the same in Greece.
                                      Dolmades (or more commonly dolmadakia, meaning little dolma) are always hot and contain meat.
                                      The meatless version (dolmadakia yalantzi) is eaten as a main course during Lent, but when used as an appetiser, it is always cold.

                                    2. I love dolmades! Hot or cold, meat or no meat, fresh, canned, or somewhere in between, they are always awesome. I made them myself once, just about four years ago, but my heavy Pyrex dish exploded in the oven, and I never even got to taste them. I've never bothered to make them again.

                                      I recently found a brand of prepared vegetarian dolmades at Costco that I love: Frankly Fresh. The package is two pounds and costs $10.59. They are in the refrigerated case where they keep the meatballs, sausages, pulled pork in containers, etc. They are DELICIOUS -- better than any canned dolmades and many restaurants' versions! All natural ingredients (rice, onion, tomatoes, parsley, red bell pepper, tomato paste, grape leaves, canola oil, water, cilantro, EVOO, salt, lemon juice, garlic powder, citric acid, dill, mint, black pepper), and a serving is only 60 calories, 25 calories from fat. Of course, according to the package, a serving is one piece, and they're just too good to stop there.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

                                        that may make me join costco, right there.

                                      2. Everyone I know loves home-made dolmades. I order them whenever I see them on a Greek menu.

                                        I haven't found a store-bought version I like. The texture in store-bought, and especially the canned dolmades, tend to be very mushy and water-logged compared to a good home-made or restaurant-made version.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: prima

                                          +1

                                          My favorite dolmades are from a little hole in the wall lebanese deli owned by 2 brothers. Their 80 year old mother makes the dolamades herself every day. Those, with some of her garlicky, homemade hummus and some pita is one of my favorite meals!

                                          I've tried buying numerous canned dolmades, but the canned versions always come in this thick, oily lemony stuff which I don't find appealing.

                                          1. re: boogiebaby

                                            I used to live in a town with a pretty big population of Greek diaspora - the Greek Orthodox church there would have a Greek festival every year - three days of food, music, etc.

                                            I used to sneak down on my lunch hour and load up on dolma made by a kitchen full of grandmothers. The. Best.

                                            of course, I wasn't very effective at work, trying to work through an overstuffed haze of spanakopita, dolma, moussaka, and all the other goodies....but it sure was good.

                                        2. Flash from the past:

                                          Heritage Day festival in Trenton NJ. A couple of ZGreek churches represented, one of which is selling cold dolmades at...6 for a dollar! (15-20 years ago).

                                          1. I am a dolma/wara' ainab snob. I don't enjoy them to their fullest unless they are made with un-brined leaves. Fresh leaves are best, but people in the Middle East pick fresh leaves an store them in vacuum sealed bottles. The taste and texture of brined leaves doesn't compare with un-brined. I am not particular with what variety of dolma/wara' ainab I am eating beyond that. I have had them in the homes of Libyans, Iraqis, Lebanese, Syrians, Jordanians, and more. The regional seasonings vary, and there is the difference between hot (with meat) or cold (vegetarian). People in some regions are gonna season with dill, others fresh flat leaf parsely, some put a bit of tomato paste, others a dash of chile flakes. I am open to variety. But it's the leaves that make the difference.

                                            In addition to my fresh leaf snobbery, whether using fresh or brined, great dolma cooks somehow get the raw rice wrapped in the leaf to cook perfectly. I have had too many dolma filled with mushy rice. It's actually an accomplishment to get the rice perfectly done.

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: luckyfatima

                                              I confess to being a yeb'r't (Syrian) snob. My Jiddu (grandfather) had a grocery store on Atlantic Ave in Brooklyn in the 40's-50's. Whenever we saw grapevines we had to pick the tender leaves that were not exposed to the sun for our next feast.
                                              Is it possible to get unbrined leaves? I remember buying leaves that were packed with salt in barrels on Atlantic Ave. Now we get them in jars.
                                              Fortunately my Jidda (grandmother) taught my lovely WASP wife the proper technique for rolling the leaves so they would not burst when the rice expanded or fall apart because they were not wrapped tight enough.
                                              This Summer we had a house full of guests and lovely wife and the other women had a grapeleave wrapping party. They made several platters and we had a feast for dinner. Everyone went home with leftovers.
                                              They will even freeze well once cooked.
                                              My most favorite food ever!!!!

                                              1. re: Motosport

                                                I know some enthusiast grow vines at home for this purpose.

                                                1. re: luckyfatima

                                                  have you started growing your own? you've got a good climate for grapes.

                                                  how about other fresh greens to wrap the little parcels? chard? napa? they don't have the same "bite" in terms of the grape leaf texture, do they? i don't know if i've ever had dolmades with "fresh" grape leaves.

                                                  1. re: alkapal

                                                    We would also use cabbage leaves with the same lamb, rice and spices filling as grapeleaves but add some tomatoes to the pot when we steam them.

                                            2. Interesting view points! I bought mine at the local Wegman's Mediterranean food bar. They taste, I'd say, like 75% as good as the dolmades I've had at restaurants! So that's not bad haha! These were the meatless version, I don't eat meat other than fish. And yes I consider the outside to be more on the slimy side rather than dry or crunchy. I've never had canned dolmades! I'd give them a shot though.

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: Meowzerz

                                                Wegmans serves the canned dolmades.

                                                1. re: sr44

                                                  They're not that bad. Even my man will eat them, since we don't have time to sit around and roll 'em up ourselves every time he gets a craving....

                                                  1. re: sr44

                                                    Any stuffed grapeleaves from a super market are going to be from a can. Hand rolling the grapeleaves is so time intensive that they would be too expensive @ a supermarket.
                                                    A restaurant would charge more for an order of 6 or 8 and be worthwhile for them to make at the restaurant.

                                                    1. re: Motosport

                                                      Oh .... I can be so naive. In that case, I guess I've been forcing them to eat the canned variety haha. Yes, the restaurant ones I've had are better, but I'll continue to buy a couple Wegmans ones as a snack now and then!

                                                2. This post is really intriguing me, because the first time I had dolmades, I tried to just take a bite, found it to be very tough on the outside and mushy inside. Thus, I assumed that the grape leaves were not meant to be eaten, so I unrolled the rest and tried just the inside. I then deemed it to be a waste of effort. Sooo..... I should try again?

                                                  For the record, this was tried off the Wegman's olive and other Mediterranean sundries bar.... so not a terrible source, but obviously not hand/house/home made.

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: kubasd

                                                    I think Wegman's dolmades are yucky. They are just briny mush. I would recommend trying out Arab, Greek, or Turkish restaurant versions and then drawing conclusions. Restaurants are going to be using brined leaves, but hopefully you will be getting something that is fresher, better seasoned and better prepared.

                                                    1. re: luckyfatima

                                                      lucky fatima, where are you going in nova for this food? or are you having to make it yourself?

                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                        I haven't had a lot of dolma in NoVa. I have had them when catered at some Muslim community events, usually from Lebanese restaurants, but I don't know where from exactly---they were so-so but incomparably better than Wegman's. They are always better in homes, though.

                                                        However, I had them about a month ago at a Greek resto called OPA! Mezze Grill in Ashburn. This thread made me crave them. They were really, really good. They were brined leaves stuffed with beef and rice. I had never had them with beef before. The stuffing was well seasoned and the rice was perfectly cooked. The rice's firmness was made me suspicious that someone assembled the dolma to order and just rolled them up but didn't really stuff them and cook them in a pot, but the way the leaves were folded snugly reassured me that they were cooked in the traditional way. I was shocked that I hit the jackpot on good dolma by just randomly choosing a place that I knew would have them and ordering there. I checked them out on Yelp and they have 4.5 stars out of 68 reviews, so I realized I just got lucky with a food find.

                                                        I would like to grow a grape vine in my yard. I will ask around if any of my Arab friends have them and see if I can get a clipping. If so, I'll get you one, too if you are interested. I think also fresh or vacuum sealed preserved fresh leaves are available from Arab-Mediterranean grocers.

                                                        Edit: Sent husband to go and pick up some more stuffed grape leaves from OPA! again just now. So good. I forgot to say that I got them without sauce above, but they do offer them with the avgelo... sauce, I just wanted to have them without it. Rice is a bit less firm than last time but still not mushy and unbroken.They taste homemade. Just great! Mmmmh, having one right now, chomp chomp nom nom!

                                                        1. re: luckyfatima

                                                          we'll have to check out OPA!

                                                          if you get a grape vine, you're gonna be on the hook for making lots of dolma! ;-).

                                                  2. Oh, you bring back fond memories of my 7th grade self at a new friends house after school. His Mom brought a plate of dolmades, which was their normal after-school snack. I had never seen such a thing, and it was probably my first foray into food from another culture. I agreed to try them, but only ate one. She made it up to me later with completely hand-made baklava! Mom actually saw me as a prospective wife, and wanted to teach me to make baklava when we were in high-school. These many years later, I wish I would have been interested in cooking when I was younger, and could have learned the secrets to middle-eastern food! Now I would never turn down homemade dolmades.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: arashall

                                                      zomg -- I'd pretend to not like dolmades if it scored me a piece of hand-made baklava.

                                                      I have my priorities straight!

                                                      1. re: arashall

                                                        When I was young in my Irish/German neighborhood none of my friends would ever eat at our home if my mom was cooking Syrian that night. With my dad being Italian she made lots of Italian meals too. She was a great cook.
                                                        But, grapeleaves, hummus, babaganough, pita, tabouleh and leban were too "weird" for my meat and potato" friends.
                                                        Now I hear them say: "I found a great Middle Eastern restaurant in our town!"

                                                        1. re: Motosport

                                                          haha. irony is sweet, ain't it?

                                                      2. My half-Armenian ex introduced me to dolmas when we were all fresh and new, and she was introducing me to dishes she'd learned (very well!) from her grandma. They were lamb and rice, with onion and tomato, and I adored them. Several years later a friend made some for a Greek dinner he fed us, rice and mint, and I didn't care for them at all. But now there's a Lebanese/Armenian market near me that packages trays of their own dolmades, about five dollars for ten of them, and they're addictive. So when we want party food we'll stop in there and get those and some marinated string cheese to set out with the usual cheese board and crackers.

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: Will Owen

                                                          Sounds like a tasty mezze!!

                                                          1. re: Will Owen

                                                            will, do you have a recipe for the ones with lamb?

                                                            1. re: alkapal

                                                              I don't have one in my computer files, but I'll ask the ex if she's got it handy. That was one of those things like tuna casserole for me - she just got the stuff together and cooked it - so she might not even have it written down. Ground lamb, raw rice, bottled grape leaves, and a tomato sauce with onion was the list of essentials, and there may have been some lemon juice too. All cooked in a big enough pot to lay a plate over the top of the dolmas to hold them under the liquid. So it was a lot like cabbage rolls. I'll see if I can get particulars; that should really be posted on Home Cooking, so keep an eye over there.

                                                              1. re: Will Owen

                                                                many thanks, will owen!

                                                          2. I love them. I bastardize them with a bit to tzaziki. I will eat them any way made by anyone. I love them so much that I am not picky. Most people I know don't really like them though.