If you want to start a flight between people from different Middle Eastern countries, just ask which country invented Hummus and who makes the best version. I tried this one night in NYC with an Israeli, Jordanian and Lebanese at the table. Protracted verbal sparring ensued but in the end, they all agreed that the ingredients were the same but proportions were different. Each still insisted their country’s version was best- no surprise there.

You can also start a fight between any two Arabic speakers by asking who makes the most authentic Shurbah. Shurbah is an Arabic word loosely meaning ‘soup’. Unlike the Hummus argument, which largely illustrates country-particular ingredient proportions, Shurbah  has village and sometimes family-specific ingredients and methods. Its also quite personal since Shurbah is often the fast-breaking meal during Ramadan.

This version is from a Yemeni Jew I know in NYC. Its different from most versions both in the spices and the meat used in the preparation.

The first step is to make the Hawaij, or spice, used to season the meatballs and soup base; this should give you enough for both. Put all of this into a Ziploc and shake. Done.


  • 1 t Aleppo Pepper
  • 1/2 t Zatar
  • 1/2 t Ground Clove
  • 1/2 t Ground Cardamom
  • 3/4  t Tumeric
  • 1/2 t Cumin
  • 1/2 t Coriander
  • 3/4 t Black Pepper
IMG_1757 IMG_1760


  • 1 lb Ground Turkey
  • 1/2 Onion, finely chopped
  • 3 Cloves Garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 t Hawaij
  • 1/2 t Salt
  • 2 T Olive Oil


  • 8 C Chicken/Veg Stock
  • 1 Onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 Carrots, chopped
  • 2 Potatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 C Milk
  • 1 1/2 C Oatmeal
  • 2 t Hawaij
  • 2 T Olive Oil

To make the meatballs. Heat 2T oil over medium-high heat. Saute onions for 5-7 until golden then add garlic and sautee for several more minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Mix onion/garlic mixture with ground turkey, spices and salt. Cover and let rest in the fridge for at least one hour. Roll mixture into 1″ balls. Heat the other 2T oil over medium heat. Add meatballs and cook through, turning occasionally, about 7-8 minutes. Remove to a plate, cover  to keep warm.

To make the soup. Heat the remaining 2T oil over medium high heat. Saute onions for 5-7 until IMG_1763golden then add garlic and sautee for several more minutes, Add Hawaij, sautee for an additional minute. Add potatoes, carrots and stock, raise heat to boiling, then lower to a simmer. Cover and cook for 30 minutes. Process the soup with a stick blender to break up potato and carrot a little. Add oatmeal and cook for another 30 minutes, tasting, stirring and adjusting seasonings occasionally (more Hawaij, salt if needed). Before serving add the milk and stir for another minute.

To serve, plate up the soup, a few meatballs, some chives, Zatar, hot sauce or whatever else suits your tastes.

A vegetarian version is easily made by subbing veg stock for chicken stock and grilled tofu sausages instead of the meatballs. Go vegan by also omitting the milk.

2 thoughts on “Shurbah

  1. Tasty Eats Ronit Penso

    Born and raised in Jerusalem, I don’t want to start yet another argument ,BUT the Hawaij mix I know never had Za’ater in it, as it is already a mix of spices by itself.
    There is also another type of Hawaij used to flavor boiled coffee, which contains cloves, ginger, cardamon, nutmeg and cinnamon.
    As for the soup, as much as it looks delicious, it is not an authentic Yemenite-Jewish one. They would not add milk to the meat and don’t use oatmeal, and the meat would probably be beef or chicken and not turkey.
    So what you have is an Americanized version. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! 😀

  2. freetimeinhouston Post author

    No way, I have family in Jerusalem! ( שָׁלוֹם )The recipe itself cannot be considered Kosher for the milk-meat transgression. As for its authenticity, I have no idea. My family is Jerusalem would never make this version; family in Jordan, more likely.

    I thought the Zatar was an odd ingredient when I first read her recipe.I’ve only used it recipes from N. Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. I added it to replicate her version exactly but I didn’t pick up any of the herb flavours I usually notice when Zatar is used, likely just too small of an amount. In any case, it was good!

    I have tried the spice mix for coffee you mentioned, also good!


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