Shish Barak

Last Updated on March 8, 2024 by Jacqueline Rafidi

Shish barak are little meat filled dumplings wrapped in a quick, homemade dough and dunked into a savory yogurt soup which then gets sizzling fried garlic and crushed, dried mint on top. This hearty Arab dish also happens to be my ultimate comfort food.

This shishbarak recipe is so special to me. This is a traditional dish made throughout the Levant: Palestine, Jordan, Syria & Lebanon. Whether you call them shishbarak, shish barak, meat dumplings in yogurt, or “the best meal ever”, its a comfort food that’s quite hard to beat. 

If the thought of a savory, garlicky yogurt broth sounds different to you and you have nothing to compare it to, think of any other creamy soup you’ve had where it may have had milk, heavy cream or even coconut milk in the dish. Yogurt is no different. And if you do it right, it should be smooth and savory. There are some meticulous steps that make this what it is which I’ll explain along the way, but believe me – they’re all well worth it for this cozy dish.

How to make shish barak

To start, make the lamb broth:
This step makes the whole recipe what it is. Not everyone does this step, but I always end up making extra broth when we make laban immo and freeze it for when we want shishbarak. But if you don’t have the lamb broth on hand, you’ll want to do this step!

In a large pot, add all the lamb, onion, bay leaves and allspice and a whole bunch of water to cover the lamb. Bring it to a boil and begin scraping out all the foam that rises to the top of the pot, so you are left with a clean broth. Reserve this broth and strain it out from all the impurities and other ingredients. This step can even be done a day in advance. 

Meanwhile, make the dough:
Combine all the dry dough ingredients in a large bowl with warm water and a little olive oil and knead by hand or in the bowl of a stand mixer. Let this sit while you work on the filling.

Start on the meat filling:
While the dough rests, add the ground meat (you can use ground lamb or beef here – we usually do beef) to a skillet on medium heat with avocado or vegetable oil, breaking it apart into small pieces. Remove any excess fat/liquid developed on the bottom of the pan and reserve it in a small bowl on the side. (If the mixture gets too dry, you can add in a tablespoon at a time.) Add in the chopped onion, spices, garlic and parsley and cook until onions are translucent. Cook this all up and set it aside.

Making the shish barak dumplings

Flour a clean working surface and bring out the dough. I like to cut the dough into 4 even pieces so that its easier to work with. Take one of the four pieces aside and cover the rest. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out to about 1/8 inch thick. Use a shot glass, espresso cup, or anything of this general size to cut little circles in the dough. Collect the rest of the dough, form it into a ball and put it with the other 3 pieces to rest. Because there is no yeast in the dough, we can use it again once it rests. 

Take one small circle piece of dough and slightly flatten it with two fingers. Fill it with about 1/4 teaspoon of meat filling then close the dough to look like a half circle or half-moon shape and seal it well around the edges. Bring both ends of the half circle together, press firmly to seal, and lift up the bottom portion of dough to give it a flat bottom. Continue doing this with the rest of the circle pieces. They should be in the shape of small dumplings. I prefer them on the smaller side. Use the first 3 pieces of dough next, then use the balls of excess dough so they have ample time to rest before rolling out. Then let all the dumplings sit for 30 minutes to 1 hour on a baking sheet while you make the soup.

Making the yogurt soup

The yogurt sauce in any shish barak recipe can really make or break the entire dish. It’s like having raviolli with a flavorless marinara sauce. The way my family makes it is a bit different from any other family but the result is the most delicious, savory & brothy yogurt soup perfect for these shish barak dumplings.

Start by adding an entire container of plain yogurt (not Greek yogurt, most of the water has been strained from Greek yogurt and we need it to be a little looser so it can make a smooth broth) to a large pot – it cane be the same one you made the broth in. Add an egg and some salt and mix well. This yogurt mixture always yields consistent results and a smooth broth. Stir very well with a wooden spoon before adding it to the heat so that the yogurt becomes smooth and the egg is well incorporated. Place the pot on the stove on low heat constantly stirring in ONE direction.  

Gradually raise the heat as the yogurt loosens and gets warm all the way up to medium high. Once on medium-high heat and you start to see steam, the yogurt loosens and becomes more liquidy and some bubbles form, you can begin add the warm lamb broth. The consistency is a pretty thin broth, but it does thicken as it cools because of the flour in the dumplings. Stir the yogurt and the broth until it comes to a boil, then add all the shish barak dumplings to the pot very gently so they don’t break. Stir them and let them cook on a gentle simmer about 7-10 minutes or until they start to float to the surface.  

The most important part:
The garlic and mint in the broth is arguably the most important part in terms of looks and flavor. In a small saucepan, add the samneh or butter and all the chopped garlic, fry until golden brown then pour all the samneh and garlic directly into the laban immo pot straight from the pan. Take a ladleful of the soup and pour it into the saucepan to collect any bits of garlic and flavor that may be left in the pan, then add that directly into the pot. Top the pot off with some dried mint by crushing it between your hands and letting the crumbles fall into the pot. 

Take another tablespoon of samneh and toast some slivered almonds or pine nuts until golden brown. Remove from heat and place into a heat proof dish once desired color is reached. To serve, Place the shishbarak and soup in a bowl and top with the toasted almonds or pine nuts. Enjoy & Sahtein!

Traditional recipes like this really bring me so much joy to share. It’s important to me to keep my culture alive and to share these meals with my kids and for them to have memories in the kitchen. This recipe is definitely a labor of love, but that’s why once I’m in the groove, I like to make extra so I have it ready for me for future use any time I want it! Add any leftovers to an airtight container once its at room temperature and store in the fridge for later. These treasured recipe from the Middle East are so important to continue sharing. 

How to freeze shish barak

Whenever I make shishbarak, I always make a ton extra to freeze for a quick, future meal. Make the meat dumplings like usual, place them on a sheet pan or a baking sheet in a single layer and freeze them for 30 minutes to an hour so that they harden. Give them a little sprinkle of flour, then place them into a large ziploc bag and back into the freezer to make whenever you want them. If you are accustomed to toasted shishbarak, I would probably suggest to freeze them after they’ve toasted in the oven. Otherwise, if you freeze the meat dumplings raw and want them toasted, you’ll need them to be in the oven longer OR wait till they fully defrost to be placed in the oven to bake. I would not recommend freezing the shish barak once its already in the soup.

Similar traditional Arab recipes

Laban immo – another delicious yogurt soup
Adas w irkak – lentil soup with handmade noodles
Maftoul – the Palestinian chicken soup of dreams

When you make this shish barak recipe, comment down below and rate this recipe to let me know your thoughts! Also, share a picture or tag me on Instagram @thebitewithjackie, I love seeing your remakes!

Shishbarak! – Meat dumplings in a yogurt broth

These homemade tortellini shaped dumplings are a labor of love, but the end result is such a masterpiece.
Course Side Dish

Ingredients
  

For the dough:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 cup warm water

For the filling:

  • ¾ – 1 lb of lean ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 small onion diced very fine
  • 1 tablespoon parlsey chopped very fine

For the lamb broth:

  • This quantity makes enough broth to freeze for later or to make laban immo or mansaf with
  • 2 lb lamb shoulder bone in, excess fat trimmed, cut into about 3 inch pieces
  • 1 small onion quartered
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 10 cups water

For the soup:

  • 1 – 32oz tub of plain yogurt NOT Greek yogurt!! And Not flavored!
  • 6 cups of lamb broth
  • 1 egg
  • Salt to taste
  • 10 cloves garlic finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons samneh ghee or unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup dried mint
  • Slivered almonds or pine nuts

Instructions
 

  • In a large soup pot, add all the lamb, onion, bay leaves and allspice. Cover them with the 12-14 cups of water, bring it to a boil and begin scraping out all the foam that rises to the top of the pot, so you are left with a clean broth. Reduce the heat to a simmer and let it cook for 1 hour. Remove the meat onto a plate and strain out the onion and bay leaf reserving the broth. We will be using about 6 cups of broth for the soup, the rest of the broth can be frozen for future meals.
  • Meanwhile, make the dough by combining all ingredients in a bowl and kneading by hand or using a stand mixer. Mix for about 4-5 minutes or until the dough comes together in a ball. Drizzle an extra teaspoon of olive oil on the dough, cover it and set it aside for about 30 minutes.
  • Start on the filling. In a medium nonstick pan, add the oil and heat on medium. Add in the ground beef and begin breaking it up as finely as possible. Remove any excess fat/liquid developed on the bottom of the pan and reserve it in a small bowl on the side. Add in the onions, spices, garlic and parsley and cook until onions are translucent. If your filling becomes too dry, add in any remaining fat 1 tablespoon at a time. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
  • Flour a clean working surface and bring out the dough. Cut the dough into 4 even pieces so that its easier to work with. Take one of the four pieces aside and cover the rest. Roll the dough out to about 1/8 inch thick. Use a shot glass, espresso cup, or anything of this general size to cut little circles in the dough as far to the edge as possible by pressing the rim side down onto the dough, pressing firmly and twisting until the dough is cut into the circle shape. Continue cutting circles throughout the dough as close together as possible to use as much of the dough as you can. Collect all the excess dough, form it into a ball and put away with the remaining 3 pieces of dough for later use.
  • Take one small circle piece of dough and slightly flatten it with two fingers. Fill it with about ½ teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of meat filling then close the dough to look like a taco/half circle and seal it well around the edges. Bring both ends of the half circle together, press firmly to seal, and lift up the bottom portion of dough to give it a flat bottom. Continue doing this with the rest of the circle pieces. Use the first 3 pieces of dough next, then use the balls of excess dough so they have ample time to rest before rolling out. Then let all the dumplings sit for 30 minutes to 1 hour while you make the soup.
  • *If freezing the shishbarak, flash freeze it at this point for 30 minutes in a single layer before transferring them to a plastic bag and back into the freezer for later use. When you want to cook them, make the broth and yogurt soup as directed and place the frozen shishbarak in for about 10 minutes*
  • In a large soup pot (it can be the same one you made the broth in), add the full tub of yogurt, the egg and a bit of salt. Stir very well with a wooden spoon before adding it to the heat so that the yogurt becomes smooth and the egg is well incorporated. Place the pot on the stove on medium heat constantly stirring in ONE direction. Once you start to see steam, the yogurt loosens slightly and some bubbles form, you can begin add the lamb broth. The consistency is a pretty thin broth, but it does thicken as it cools. Stir the yogurt and the broth until it comes to a boil, then add all the shishbarak to the pot very gently so they don’t break. Stir them gently and let them cook about 7-10 minutes or until they start to float to the surface.
  • In a small saucepan, add the samneh or butter and all the garlic, fry until golden brown then pour all the samneh and garlic directly into the laban immo pot straight from the pan. Take a ladleful of the soup and pour it into the saucepan to collect any bits of garlic and flavor that may be left in the pan, then add that directly into the pot. Top the pot off with some dried mint by crushing it between your hands and letting the crumbles fall into the pot.
  • Take another tablespoon of samneh and toast some slivered almonds or pine nuts until golden brown. Remove from heat and place into a heat proof dish once desired color is reached. To serve, Place the shishbarak and soup in a bowl and top with the toasted almonds or pine nuts. Enjoy & Sahtein!
Keyword Shishbarak, Shishbarak! – Meat dumplings in a yogurt broth

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