Last Updated on April 18, 2022
Shish Barak is a traditional Lebanese stew, perhaps of Turkish/Ottoman origins (hence the name), which is basically made of tiny meat dumplings cooked in a plain yogurt stew. Shish Barak belongs to the “Tabeekh” traditional Lebanese category, ie, home stews, and is not usually served by main stream Lebanese restaurants. However if you frequent Afghan restaurants you’ll be surprised to find that the “Mantu” dish is a cousin of Shish Barak.
Shish Barak packs an intriguing taste stemming from the intense flavor of cooked yogurt, and then crowned with subtle aromas from the mint, cilantro and garlic. Spring is usually the time when local goat milk becomes plenty in Lebanon, and preparing this dish in goat plain yogurt yields a much richer and intense flavor than if cooked with regular cow plain yogurt. And both are lovely.
How to Prepare Shish Barak
The process of cooking Shish Barak involves the following steps: 1) preparing the meat stuffing, 2) rolling the dumplings and 3) cooking the dumplings in the yogurt sauce. The parts that are most time consuming are steps 1 and 2. For that reason, mama uses the opportunity to prepare several meals of dumplings in one sitting. She then splits and packs them in ziplog bags and stores them in the freezer for a few months. That way anytime we feel like Shish Barak she pulls a pack of dumplings from the freezer and within half an hour the meal is ready.
Rolling the Shish Barak Dumplings
After the meat stuffing has been cooked with 7-spices and pine nuts, flatten a plain dough to a thickness of about 2 dimes (1/8th of an inch), and that’s very thin. Then with the lid of an oil bottle (or any equivalent mini-cookie cutter) cut the dough into small disks. Then place about 1/3 to 1/2 of a teaspoon of meat on each piece of dough, fold the sides and close the dough on the fillings, then pull the edges around, and clamp them together to form what mom calls “a hat” which resembles ravioli. The diameter of the dumpling should be small, and not exceed that of a quarter.
Freezing Extra Dumplings
Dust a tray with some flour, then place the freshly made dumplings on it and freeze for a couple of hours. Once frozen, pack each 7-8 oz of dumplings together in small ziplog bags, close tightly while squeezing as much air out as possible, mark them with the date and put back in freezer for future use. They can last a few months, if the bag is tightly sealed, and each one of those bags is enough for a meal of 4 servings.
Cooking the Shish Barak
Traditionally, Shish Barak is cooked with plain yogurt (Greek yogurt). Yogurt is added to a cooking pot with a bit of water, then slowly brought to a boil on very low heat, and while constantly stirring (very important so it doesn’t break apart). Once it boils, then salt, dried mint powder, crushed garlic, and cilantro leaves are added along with the Shish Barak dumplings and it’s then simmered with occasional stirring for about 20 minutes or so, or until the dumplings are well cooked.
Alternatively, you can also cook Shish Barak with “Labneh” which is strained yogurt, and this is our favorite method. It yields a more intense taste than regular plain yogurt. If using Labneh, stirr 1 lb of Labneh with water until it’s all homogeneous and then bring to a boil slowly following the same steps as in the method using yogurt.
And now to the recipe, we hope you enjoy it and we’d love to hear your feedback.
Shish Barak – Lebanese Meat Dumplings in Yogurt Stew
Shish Barak Dough
- 5 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2.25 cups water
- 1/4 teaspoon yeast
- 1/2 cup water warm
- 1/8 teaspoon sugar
- 1 lb ground beef lean
- 1 teaspoon Lebanese 7 spices
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 red onions small, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil
Shish Barak Stew
- 2 lb Labneh or strained yogurt
- 12 cups water
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- 1 tablespoon mint powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cilantro leaves dried
- 1 lemon juiced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Note: If using Greek yogurt instead of Labneh, then substitute with 10 cups of yogurt and 2 cups of water.
Meat Stuffing Preparation
- Finely chop then sauté the onions with a bit of olive oil until they start turning translucent
- Add the ground beef, 7-spices, salt, mix well and then sauté on medium heat for 5 minutes or until the beef is cooked
- A couple of minutes before the meat is cooked, mix in the pine nuts and cook for a couple more minutes then let rest and cool down.
- Mix the yeast in half a cup of warm water with a bit of sugar. Let rest for a few minutes.
- Mix and knead the dough ingredients along with the yeast liquid in a bowl, cover and let rest for 30 minutes.
- Place dough on a kitchen counter dusted with flour, and flatten with a dough roller into a large sheet the thickness of 2 coins (1/8th of an inch).
- Using a water bottle lid (or small cookie cutter), cut the dough into disks the size of a quarter (3/4th of an inch in diameter)
Making the Dumplings
- Holding a dough disk flat with one hand, add 1/2 teaspoon of stuffing in the center.
- Fold and close dough sides over the stuffing into a half moon shape. Then pull edges around and flatten the circumference to make it all look like a “hat”.
- The idea here is to lock the stuffing properly and well inside of the dough. If you know of other methods or have some ravioli making tools, be creative.
- Line up all the dumplings on a flour dusted plate
Shish Barak Cooking Method 1: With a Labneh Base
- Pour 12 cups of water and 2 lb of labneh (strained yogurt) in a cooking pot, mix well until all Labneh is dissolved, then place on stove over medium-low heat and keep on stirring gently until it reaches a boil, at which time you turn the heat to low.
- Mix in 2 crushed cloves of garlic.
- Mix in the dried mint powder and dried cilantro leaves.
- Add 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon of salt (to taste).
- Add juice from 1 freshly squeezed lemon. If you’re using goat yogurt you can skip this step.
- Gently add the Shish Barak dumplings, bring the stew to a boil again, and then let simmer for 15-20 minutes on low heat while gently but constantly stirring.
- Serve hot as a soup
Cooking Method 2: With Greek Yogurt
- Repeat the above steps but using 10 cups of plain yogurt with 2 cups of water instead of using Labneh. Be mindful that if using yogurt you need to stir very well for proper assimilation.