Love and food - Warak Arish

In goes by many names, dolmas, dolmades, dolmeh, warak enab, WARAK ARISH. Personally I prefer the Lebanese name. At least that is what I grew up with.

Warak means leaves and arish means vine.

Warak Arish is the best dish in the world. It is so good that every Greek, Lebanese and Turkish Grandma will tell you their ancestors invented the dish and only we make it correctly. It sounds so simple but centuries of love and tradition are wrapped in this dish.

This is not a dish you can make in an hour. I takes about 3ish hours for a single pot. That’s got to be devotion right there.

You must be wondering what is this miracle dish that has won the world over.
  • grape leaves- pulled off the vine- the canned grape leaves do not taste as good and are tough
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Water
  • 1.5lbs. ground beef or lamb
  • 3/4 cup Rice, uncooked and rinsed in cold water
  • Maybe a touch of allspice or cinnamon
  • Fresh lemon juice
You mixed the meat and rice together with salt and pepper. You will likely have to mix with your hands to ensure the meat and rice is evenly distributed. You added lemon juice to taste. You want a flavor of lemon but you do not want to overwhelm the dish.

Take about 2 tbsp of the mixture and set at the base of the leaf. Fold in the sides and roll tight. Repeat until the entire mixtures is wrapped in the grape leaves.

Get a large pot. Use extra grape leaves to coat the bottom of the pot. Then pack all the rolled grape leaves in in the bottom. You will want to fill with water until is just covers the leaves and squeeze another two lemons into the water. In order for the leaves to stay packed, put a weight or small dish over the leaves to ensure they don’t unravel. My thate used a sanitized kitchen tile.

Bring to a boil and simmer for about an hour. Once all the meat is cooked through and the rice is not crunchy, the dish is done. Remove the dish or weight. Test one roll to ensure cooking is complete.

Drain the water. And you use tongs to grab the grape leaves. Or you can flip the pot onto a dish. (Do so carefully). Due to the nature of the cooking, you have to make a pot. You cant make one roll.

This might sound the like the most simple dish. When you handpick the grape leaves and use lemons from a garden there is nothing that comes close. It takes energy and love. This is one of the dishes my thate (grandma) taught me to make.

I was reminded of this tradition at the Contra Costa Greek Festival. It gave me an opportunity to travel to my childhood to familiar tastes and flavors. While they call their dish dolmades, it is the same dish with a little olive oil added for a touch. But equally delicious and filled with love and care.

If someone makes you Warak Arish or Dolmathes know someone loves you.


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