28 August 2016

There are lots of times when I buy something at the grocery store without knowing what it is.  It's especially tricky here because you don't know if something is from Saudi Arabia, or the broader Middle East, or south or southeast Asia.  A lot of things are packaged with English on them so there are clues at the store, but vegetables and some packages can be a complete mystery.

I bought a package of square dough sheets not long after I got here.  There was no English on the package at all and no instructions.  I'd assumed they were for samosas when I'd bought them, but none of the few words on the package indicated that.  Google translate wasn't helping either and after googling several of the words in Arabic script and transliterated (still not knowing if I was looking at Arabic or Urdu words since there was no context- and I was guessing Urdu because of the style of the script) without any success, I stuck the dough in the fridge to figure out later since the expiration date was still six weeks away.

I decided yesterday that it was time to figure it out, or at least fill the dough with cheese because how can you go wrong there?  But I did try the Internet once more, and finally figured out what I had.  It's dough for mutabbaq.  I'd not googled that one in Arabic, just done Google translate which said it meant pure, so I thought it was telling me about the dough, not what the dough was.  I should have stuck with my real dictionary- more on that in another post- and googling.

Anyway, the dough has lots of possible fillings.  You mound the filling in a square in the middle of the sheet of dough then fold the dough over the filling and fry them in a little oil.  I'm thinking this will be a popular option at our house, especially since rolling out dough is not my favorite thing.  Since I didn't know what I was getting into before I started, I had to come up with a filling quickly and decided to do greens and feta, but the greens were bok choy which is certainly odd, but it was local bok choy which means the stems weren't as hearty (like the local bean sprouts).  I liked the greens, but I'd use a different type in the future. I also did some cheese ones which were obviously a hit.  There are so many more things we can do.

I'm not sure where these originated.  They're called murtabak in India and Southeast Asia so that sounds like they were borrowed from an Arabic-spelling country. There are also similar breads in North Africa that I've made before.  So some people say they began in Yemen and travelled east with the Indian community.  But others say they started in India since mutabar means egg bread in Malayalam, apparently.  Another culinary mystery, like so many I've discovered.  

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