Sunday, November 7, 2010
Making Yaprak Sarma with Rukiye
Yaprak sarma is one of my favorite Turkish foods. It's grape leaves wrapped around a rice mixture topped with yogurt and maybe tomato sauce depending on the region of Turkey you're in. I regularly crave it, and have narrowed down a few restaurants in Ankara that serve the best sarma.
My Turkish friend, Rukiye, had me over one rainy Saturday to teach me the Izmir way of making it. Izmir is a city on the Aegean Coast where she is from. I can't tell you exactly how to make it, because it seems more of a kinesthetic, pass-it-on-in-person kind of tradition, but I can tell you what's in Rukiye's mixture: rice, onion, fresh parsley, fresh mint, and tomato pulp. I've also tried making the stuffing with currants, pine nuts, and cinnamon. And I've had it with ground meat as well.
Rukiye had planned for us to roll about 100 of these little guys, a tedious process, but like an Turkish tradition, there were lots of breaks to drink tea, eat sweets, and chat.
Rukiye is a Turkish Literature teacher, and her English is about as good as my Turkish. If anyone were to watch us spend time together, they would have to laugh, because I speak in Turkish and she speaks in English so we can both practice. We're never speaking the same language at the same time, and we're each speaking at a 4-year-old's level in the language that the other person teaches IB literature in!! At one point, when Rukiye noticed I was tiring of rolling the yaprak sarma, she suggested I read aloud to her a child's picture book called "The Polar Bear," because she is working on reading it, and wanted to listen to it in English. I started to read it earnestly, and then we both suddenly caught the giggles at the ridiculousness of two grown woman sitting across from each other at the kitchen table, the Turkish woman rolling yaprak sarma while the American woman reads aloud a children's picture book.