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What is Kibbe?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 27 September 2016
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Kibbe is a Middle Eastern dish made from a mixture of spiced meat and bulgur wheat. It is typically served as an appetizer, either alone or as part of a spread known as mezze in many regions of the Middle East, and it is extremely popular in regions like Iraq, Israel, Iran, and Syria, in addition to being consumed in some parts of Latin America. This dish is commonly on offer at Middle Eastern restaurants, and it can also be made at home relatively easily. For cooks who want to make a Middle Eastern spread for friends, kibbe can be an interesting addition.

Typically, kibbe is served in the form of football-shaped hand-molded meatballs, leading some people to confuse it with kofta, another form of Middle Eastern meatball. Three things are always present in kibbe: bulgur, meat, and a spice mix known as baharat. In addition to these ingredients, kibbe typically feature ingredients like finely chopped onions, fresh coriander, and so forth, and in some regions they are served with a rice crust or a battered outer coating.

Baharat is made from a blend of cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, nutmeg, and pepper, and a small amount of salt may be added as well. The meat can be lamb, beef, or pork, and it is finely ground before being mixed with the spices and the cooked bulgur. At this stage, kibbe can branch off in a number of directions.

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In regions like Lebanon, kibbe are often served raw, a form of Middle Eastern steak tartare. They can also be cooked and served in a broth, or deep-friend, depending on regional tastes. In all cases, kibbe are traditionally served with a rich sesame tahini sauce, which may be seasoned with lemon, garlic, and salt for extra tang, and they may be served with bread or greens so that people can pick the kibbe up without handling them directly.

Raw kibbe, of course, needs to be carefully handled to ensure that no contamination enters the meat. It should ideally be made with fresh meat which has been kept chilled to fend off unwanted bacteria, and it should be served cold. If kibbe is not used at the end of the meal, it can be cooked and then stored; after sitting out at room temperature, it is no longer safe to eat raw.

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