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Feb 3, 2013 07:41 AM

Cabbage: Used in North African, Middle Eastern and Central Asian Cookery?

Seems cabbage is well nigh universal. It's big throughout the Americas, Europe, and east and southeast Asia, but I'm unaware of it being part of the cuisines mentioned in the thread title. Am I just ignernt on this one?

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  1. Probably <VBG> and you know I love you.............

    Having spent much time in Israel over the last 50 years, cabbage is an omnipresent vegetable. It grows and lasts better in the hot climate than lettuce, and a green salad often has cabbage leaves as it's base. The street vendor's Falafel will be topped with a salad made of cabbage or at my favorite stand in Tel Aviv, pickled cabbage similar to German Sauerkraut.
    The leaves are stuffed and served as a meal, but often with vegetables and nuts and/or grains as opposed to the heavy meat fillings used in Eastern Europe.

    I have been served stuffed cabbage meals in Morocco and in Tashkent. But as for Tashkent, I don't know if it was traditional Central Asian cookery or food that traveled from European Russia with the Red or Imperial armies.

    1 Reply
    1. re: bagelman01

      Thank you, mon ami. Morocco to Israel to Tashkent covers a large swathe.

    2. Both red and green cabbage is quite popular throughout the Levant as both a pickled condiment and a leaf to stuff (malfouf) - either in a similar style to Eastern Europe with meet or served cold and vegetarian. Think more lamb/cumin/cinamon flavors though.

      The pickled variety of cabbage can either be done in a style closer to sauerkraut as mentioned by bagelman, or primarily pickled with lemon juice. There are some vendors in Jerusalem (both Palestinian and Jewish) who will sell the entire head of cabbage pickled.

      In Israel, the cultural mix between traditional Levantine food and Ashkenazi/Eastern European food as also generated cabbage salads with mayo which can be found in Jewish Israel as well as Palestinian mezze tables.

      4 Replies
      1. re: cresyd

        The more I think about this--and bagelman's mention of the possible diffusion of cabbage into the Stans via tsarist and Soviet salients--the more I wonder if Levantine cabbage likewise is the result of the creation of modern Israel. In other words, was there a Levantine tradition of eating cabbage prior to 1948?

        Also what about the Maghreb outside of Morocco? Does cabbage figure in Algerian, Libyan, Tunisian and Egyptian cookery?

        1. re: Perilagu Khan

          Levantine cabbage eating is largely pre-Israeli - there's cabbage served in Lebanese food as there is in Palestinian food (which largely has the same background but one has the Jewish Eastern European influence). However, certain cabbage and mayo slaws that now appear in many Palestinian restaurant mezze - Ashkenazi influence would not surprise me. But I could be wrong.

          1. re: Perilagu Khan

            Stuffed cabbage falls squarely into a culinary tradition of stuffed leaves and vegetables that predates the creation of Israel. But other than marshoosheh, a cabbage saute with bulgur wheat, I can't think of any other cabbage dishes that are definitively native to the region.

            1. re: JungMann

              Malfouf (similar in appearance to the Eastern Europe stuffed cabbage roll) is native to the region as are various pickled preparations and salads somewhat "cured" with lemon juice.

              In general talking about the evolution of Israeli cuisine as its own thing has the opportunity to be frought, so I will try to approach this carefully. Speaking specifically of mayo or sour cream based cabbage making its way into Palestinian mezze - should that be a cross cultural influence and not native - I would say that has to do with the widespread presence of prepared mezze/salads by Israeli companies. A huge quantity of food consumed by Palestinians (within Israel as well as the West Bank/Gaza) are foods prepared by Israeli companies. And so the introduction of such cabbage preparation would not necessarily involve much of a cultural exchange between people.

              If you were to look at a non-Levantine dish introduced by Tunisian/North African immigrants post 1948 - shakshuka has become a significant componant of Israeli cuisine. To try Shakshuka though, really requires eating it in someone's home or a cafe (not sold prepared in stores). In a city like Haifa that has some of the highest integration, it would not be odd to see shakshuka on a cafe menu that is Palestinian owned. However, in Jerusalem that is highly segregated (both in regards to the 1948 neighborhoods, and particularly East Jerusalem) shakshuka would be a rare/odd sight to see on a Palestinian owned cafe menu.

        2. Cabbage is abundant here in the Gulf region; it seems like the Arabs tend to buy the enormous green cabbages, while guest workers of various stripes buy everything from bok choy to red cabbage to insanely priced savoy.