I’ve been having an e-discussion about my paternal grandmother’s keebah dish with my Aunt Zabelle (affectionately known as Zippi), the last remaining relative from my father’s immediate family. It’s important for me to tap into her memory bank in order to preserve some mighty-fine Dikranagerdtsi recipes.
Keebah: stuffed tripe
Tripe: the stomach lining of lamb, beef, or pork.
I have childhood memories of visiting Haiganoush Nanny and having a feast of Armenian dishes my father and aunts grew up on. One of those was Keebah – the real deal, meaning ground lamb, bulgur, fresh mint, and seasonings stuffed in a pouch fashioned out of tripe.
Were the kids told what the outer layer was? Nope, we just ate it and thought it was pretty darn good!
Aunt Zippi relayed the following method of Haiganoush Nanny’s Keebah recipe:
“Nanny used bulgur, meat, fresh mint, seasonings and tripe, just as you remembered. I have no measurements, just use your own judgement. Although as I recall there was more bulgur (which was the medium size) than meat. The mint was very finely chopped so you had the taste of it and not any of the pieces. The seasonings were as desired but she did add just a pinch of cayenne to give it a little "kick". She also used **Nalbandian's cleaned, white tripe "seeghoch" (sausage) and large tripe (cow's intestine) which she stuffed. (See NOTE below for information on tripe.) Then with sterilized needle and thread (!) she would sew up the tripe's opening to secure it so the stuffing wouldn't come out in the cooking. Let me add at this point, when we were kids, we just ate the tripe since it was so delicious never knowing what it was, it just tasted so fine. That was the stuffed keebah. When she made it without the tripe, which was often, she just made the mixture into meatballs and cooked it in chicken broth. Of course, in the cooking the bulgur expanded and held the meat and seasonings in place. When serving it, Nanny would always cut up a nice onion, or crisp green scallions placed on the plate to go along with the keebah.”
** Hagop Nalbandian, my husband's great uncle owned a grocery store in Union City, NJ which catered to the needs of the area's Armenian community.
NOTE: According to information found in ‘The Assyrian Cookbook’, fresh lamb stomach is no longer available in our markets. By ‘fresh’, I refer to stomach that comes directly from the animal. The coating on the outside had to be scraped and cleaned before it could be prepared for stuffing.
Today, tripe is cleaned, processed, frozen, then sawed into small blocks making it hard to find pieces of tripe large enough to make keebah.”
Can’t stomach tripe? (Pun intended! J)
My departed aunt Arpie, also of Dikranagerdtsi descent, gave me her shortcut recipe called ‘Sud Keebah’, which I posted several years ago. The only difference between Aunt Arpie's and my grandmother's Sud Keebah recipe is that Arpie used dried mint; Nanny used fresh.
Here it is again, for your dining pleasure, without the tripe!
A recipe from my aunt, Arpie Vartanesian
1 lb. ground lamb, beef or turkey (Aunt Arpie always said, "For best results use lamb!")
1/3 c. #2 bulgur
Salt, pepper, and paprika to taste
Handful of dried mint, crushed
A little water to moisten
1. In a small bowl, add the bulgur and 1 or 2 tablespoons of water, just so bulgur starts to absorb the water.
2. Combine the meat, bulgur, seasonings and mint, mixing well with your hands. Dip your hands in the additional water to shape meat mixture into patties, slightly rounded on the top and flat on the bottom -or - if you prefer, into meatball shapes. This makes about 12 to 14 walnut-sized pieces.
3. In a large pot, bring about 8 cups of water (or broth) to a boil; add 2 tsp. salt.
4. Place meat patties in boiling water; reduce heat to medium and cook for 35 to 45 minutes. Remove patties from water.
5. Serve in a bowl with some of the cooking liquid, and sliced raw onions. A chopped salad and fresh, plain yogurt will round out this dish nicely.