A good stew puts the heart at ease, calms down the violence of hunger, and makes you forget about all the bad things that happened during the day and shurpa is a prime example of this. If you’re into hearty stews, you should definitely keep reading. In this post, we’ll introduce you to the traditional Shurpa recipe and teach you everything there is to know about this delicious Central Asian stew.
But first things first…
What Is Shurpa?
Shurpa is a hearty, thick stew that ranks among the most popular main course dishes of Uzbek cuisine. The stew is made of lamb (or sometimes beef) and vegetables and is equally popular in most other Central Asian countries too.
Before we get to the shurpa recipe, please note that this is not a stew you can make of scraps; you need very specific ingredients (lam bones, preferably ribs and fragrant herbs), a lot of time, and also a lot of patience. But don’t worry, if done properly, the end result will be magnificent
Origin & History
Uzbek shurpa derives from the Arabic word “shurbah” meaning gravy. The etymology of the name is also tied to the Persian words “shor”, meaning salty, brackish and bajab, meaning stew. Uzbek shurbah is a variation of the much more famous Turkish chorba which became famous everywhere from Central Asia to the Balkans during the Ottoman era.
According to most historic sources, the first shurpa recipe dates back to the first century BC when people living in this part of Asia started using clay and stone utensils for cooking. Because of the fact that this stew was a perfect fit for nomadic tribes having a sedimentary lifestyle, it became very popular among Arab Nomads in the Middle Ages but the truth is that shurpa is beloved by everyone. It’s also widely accepted that shurpa was the favorite dish of Tamerlane, one of the greatest medieval conquerors, and apparently, even Genghis Khan was a fan.
In Uzbekistan, there are three different variations of the shurpa recipe. The most popular variation is kaynatma shurpa containing meat broth and boiled vegetables. With this stew, the ingredients for the soup are only boiled not fried.
The second most popular kind of shurpa in Uzbekistan is kovurma shurpa and for this stew, the ingredients are fried and therefore the stew is greasier.
Some other not-so-common variations include nukhat shurpa made of boiled chickpeas, asy shurpa made with fish instead of lamb, and kikhta shurpa made with meatballs instead of meat cuts.
Outside of Uzbekistan, you can find this dish under many different names. The most common variations include:
Chorba is popular in the Balkan countries like Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Turkey, and Nort Africa. This stew is popular in Turkish as well as Slavic cuisines and it can be made of any kind of meat, including chicken, beef, or even body parts like tripes.
Ciorba is popular in Romania and Moldova which similarly to chorba is made of different kinds of meat, vegetables, and local herbs.
Shorwa is popular in parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan, with the main difference being the use of beans in the preparation.
Shorba (also known as biryani gravy), popular in parts of India is a dish that doesn’t include any meat in the preparation but includes a lot of Indian spices and herbs.
Lastly, the dish is also popular in different parts of the former Soviet Union. It’s known under different names; in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, people call it shurpa, in Kyrgyzstan shorpo, and in Kazakhstan- sorpa but these are all the same thing.
- The most important piece of advice I can give you is not to over-boil the soup. The heat should remain on medium most of the time because the shurpa needs to simmer and cook slowly to get its rich, dense texture. So, make sure you have enough time on your schedule because the preparation is lengthy.
- Traditionally, the shurpa recipe is prepared in a cauldron on an open fire. If you have the resources for this, then I warmly recommend trying the traditional method. If not, you can replace the cauldron with a pan with thick walls and bottom and the open fire with a regular stove. On some occasions, you can even use a pressure cooker.
- If you want to try the variation that uses chickpeas or beans, keep in mind that you need to soak the beans/chickpeas in water at least 6-7 hours before cooking.
- After the meat has cooked, chill the broth, collect the fat that rises to the top, and save this for later. This will come in handy in the latter steps of the shurpa recipe. The secret to a good shurpa is to cook the ingredients by languishing them in as much juice as possible. This is how your shurpa will get its irresistible texture and pleasant fragrance.
- After the cooking is complete, let the stew stay on low heat under a lid for 10-15 minutes. This really makes a difference texture-wise.
- After the cooking is done, you can take the bones and keep them in the freezer for the next time you’re preparing a broth.
Are you a fan of hearty Uzbek stews? Then you’ll definitely enjoy our dimlama recipe.
After chilled, shurpa is usually served in traditional ceramic bowls known as kosa. Sometimes, it can also be served separately- broth in a bowl and vegetables on a plate. Before serving, you can also sprinkle some chopped fresh herbs and garlic on top of the stew.
Even though we keep referring to it as a stew, keep in mind that shurpa is a main course meal and is usually served alongside Uzbek bread like Tandyr Nan but on some occasions, it can also be served as an appetizer. Shurpa is also served alongside other Uzbek dishes like samsa, dolma, plov, shashlik, laghman, nohat shorak, kashk, etc.
Another great reason why you should try shurpa is its health benefits. Shurpa has always been praised for its medical properties. In this context, it was first mentioned by the famous Arabic scientist Abu Ali Ibn Sina in the 10th century as a dish that can help one quickly recover from illness. The broth is rich in texture and can help one’s body with rheumatism, lung inflammation, reduction of tiredness and fatigue, and it’s one of the first things Uzbek people ask for when they catch a cold.
A Few Things You May Need
- 1.5 lb (700 grams) Lamb Ribs
- 2 liters of Water
- 1 Red Onion, sliced
- 3 White Onions, sliced
- 3 Garlic Cloves, crushed
- 2 Carrots, chopped
- 3 Potatoes, cut into large cubes
- 1 Red Bell Pepper, sliced
- 2 Red Chili Peppers, sliced
- 2 Tomatoes, chopped
- 1 tablespoon of Salt
- 1/2 tablespoon Black Pepper
- 1 tablespoon Coriander Powder
- 1 teaspoon of Cumin
- 1 tablespoon of Dried Basil
- 1/3 cup Cilantro, chopped
- 1/3 cup Fresh Dill, chopped
- 1/3 cup Fresh Parsley, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon Sugar (for the onion marinade)
- 2 tablespoons Lemon Juice
- 1 tablespoon of Oil
- Wash the meat, season it with salt and black pepper, and place it in a cauldron or a large saucepan.
- Pour the water and bring the meat to boil over medium heat.
- Once the water is boiling, pour it away.
- Add 2 fresh liters of water, cover the meat, and bring it to a boil.
- Skim off the foam from the top.
- In a saucepan, saute the onions (2 white+ 1 red), garlic, and carrots with some sunflower oil until the onions turn brown.
- Add the carrots and onions to the stew, cover it, and let it cook for 1.5 hours.
- While the stew is cooking, take the remaining white onion and marinate it with lemon juice in a small bowl.
- Next, take the bone out, separate the meat from the bone, chop it, add it back to the stew, and cook for 30 more minutes.
- Once the meat is nice and tender, add the potatoes and spices to the pot.
- Cook for another 10 minutes before adding the peppers and tomatoes.
- After 10 minutes, add the marinated onion, lower the heat to low, and let the stew simmer.
- Turn off the heat and add the parsley, cilantro, and dill before serving.
- Wait for the stew to cool down, serve it alongside some bread, and enjoy!
Serving Size:1 Bowl
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 480Total Fat: 32gSaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 1.5gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 95mgSodium: 135mgCarbohydrates: 29gNet Carbohydrates: 29gFiber: 7gSugar: 3gSugar Alcohols: 0gProtein: 31g
So, what do you think about shurpa, does it look tasty? Would you like to try it? If you tried to make our shurpa recipe at home, don’t forget to leave us a rating. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments below.
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