Iraqi Kubba’t Hallab
Hallab is the Arabic name for the Syrian city Aleppo, and traditionally this city makes the absolute best kubba. This Iraqi kubba, being the mother of all kubba, well known throughout Iraq, was named in homage to the masters of Aleppo.
Kubba is a type of dish usually made of a bulgur or potato dough, or in this case long-grain white rice dough, that is stuffed with a ground meat mixture, often hand-shaped like an egg, sometimes flattened like a croquette, then either boiled or baked or deep fried. Some people shape them into balls, but the far superior kubba maker will shape them like eggs. The
shape changes the texture and ratio of each bite.
You can also bake your kubba into a casserole and call it a tabsi or kubba bil firin (literally “kubba in the oven”), layering the same ingredients the way you would a shepard’s pie , with the grain or potato dough forming the top and bottom layers, and the ground meat in the middle. This is also very, very good.
This is my mother’s recipe, altered to her liking of course; mixing flavors from both Baghdadi and Turkmani style Kubba’t Hallab. Traditionally Kubba’t Hallab has saffron or turmeric in the rice dough and raisins in the stuffing, but not my mother’s recipe. The ground meat mixture here is a simple queema, with finely chopped onion and parsley. And the kubba is
fried longer than traditional recipes call for, making it crispier, so that it turns golden without added spices. In my family, we don’t want to hide the natural flavors with too many spices; we want to emphasize good quality ingredients.
Enjoy this dish wish mezze or as a snack. And if you’re like me, with some thick, creamy labneh, za’atar, and olive oil!
Mama’s Kubba’t Hallab
Makes about 25-30
2 cups long-grain white rice (don’t listen to anyone else, use only this rice!) 2 lbs ground meat (beef or lamb, Mama says only 1x ground!)
1 bunch parsley
1 large onion
1 egg salt/pepper oil for frying
Rice Dough for the Shell:
1. Soak rice in cold water for an hour.
2. Wash the rice with your hands, like laundry, to get the starch out of it.
3. Then rinse it to clean.
4. Put in a pot on the stove. Cover it with water, about 3⁄4 inch. Add salt. Medium/high heat. You don’t want a rapid boil. You want to cook it slow and absorb the water. Don’t shake the rice. No oil. It’s not like cooking regular rice.
5. When it starts simmering, takes about 10 min, put it on medium heat for about 15-20 min or until it looks absorbed.
6. Don’t shake the rice ever, don’t mix it, it needs to stay leveled. But you need to dig little holes for the remaining water at the bottom to steam up. My mom uses the handle end of her wooden spoon to carefully make about 5 holes at the bottom. Wait another 15 minutes on low after making holes. So it’ll be very soft.
7. Once done, turn off, leave covered, let cool. All the steps of the rice are covered! This way it’s a little warm when you need to handle it.
8. Notes: If it’s too hot to handle wear rubber gloves. Machine mixers make it too mushy, so you have to use your hands to knead it into a rice dough.
9. When it cools off enough, crack one egg in it. Egg whites alone are fine, but mama uses the whole egg.
10. Knead it in with your hands. Dip your hands in water to handle the dough. That’s it, just knead the dough. Done. Set aside.
Qeema for the Stuffing:
1. Start with sautéing the finely diced onion on high head/
2.Then add the meat, salt/pepper, and let it cook about 5 minutes
3.Chop the parsley, lower the heat to medium, then add the parsley. 4.Sautee until the liquid of the meat is absorbed. This doesn’t take very long. Qeema takes only about 20-30 min of cooking on medium. If there is excess fat, just tip the pan, move the qeema aside, and pat dry with a napkin. But that’s up to you. Don’t let it burn, so fold it a bit until it feels cooked. The clear liquid comes out of the meat first then absorbs it, and browns the meat.
Assembly line of the following:
(1.) bowl of rice dough, (2.) pot of qeema, (3.) bowl of water (for hands).
1. Dip your hands in some water, take some dough, work it with your hands, make a ball about the size of a small egg. You got this.
2. Make a hole with your index finger to make a well, while working the dough. Then flatten out the sides of the well. See picture. Try to imagine you’re making an espresso cup size.
3. Add about a Tablespoon or less of qeema with one hand, then close the ball with the other hand.
4. Then cup the ball with your hands to make it into an egg shape. Keep using slightly wet hands. Make as many as you want before you start frying. Mama usually makes about 5 at a time, because we, her children, always need to eat them right away.
5. Deep fry. When you fry them they need to be covered in oil. See image below. Fry as many as you want at a time, without crowding the pot. Fry until golden.
6. Let them dry on a cooling rack.
Bil ‘Afya! | Bon Appetit! Find more Iraqi recipes at
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