I absolutely love this dish for many reasons. It’s fast, it’s a healthy vegetarian option, it’s delicious, and my children surprisingly love it! It’s not really a salad. It’s more of a fried rice type dish, only made with bulgur wheat rather than rice. I learned this dish from my mother. The Armenian name is “eech” or “itch.” There are so many spelling variations. Most Armenian households make this dish, especially families originally from Eastern Turkey. The Armenians from that part cooked with bulgur far more than any other starch other than bread. We have so many bulgur wheat recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation. I’ll have to post my favorite bulgur recipe, Borani, very soon. It’s from the Armenians who lived in Urfa. Borani is a soup made with small bulgur wheat balls, big chunks of lamb or beef, and swiss chard. My mouth waters just thinking about it.
I love serving this dish with vine leaves. I love its sour brininess, which goes so well with the bulgur wheat. I spoon the bulgur wheat in the middle of each vine leaf, wrap it up, and pop it into my mouth. You may be able to find vine leaves in your ethnic food section of your supermarket. I’ve seen it in a few places. If not, try a Mediterranean or Middle-Eastern market in your area. If vine leaves are too weird, try cabbage or lettuce instead. Sometimes, I even make an omelet on the side and mix it into the dish after it’s cooked.
The recipe includes red pepper paste, a staple in Middle-Eastern kitchens. Red pepper paste will come in both hot or mild versions. If you can’t find this, you can play around with other ingredients like gochujiang, harissa, or sambal oelek. It’s won’t taste the same as the super concentrated and thick Middle-Eastern red pepper pastes, but I think any of those will be yummy.
The type of bulgur wheat in this recipe requires finely ground #1. I’ve never seen this type in a conventional supermarket. This too will need to be purchased from a Mediterranean or Middle-Eastern market. It’s super quick to cook and doesn’t require too much water. I would say that this recipe only takes about 30 minutes from start to finish and only about 20 minutes of cooking time….perfect for a weeknight meal. It also makes for a perfect side dish with lamb chops.
*Tip for red pepper paste and bulgur wheat storage: I divide the pepper paste into small portions and store in the freezer for longer keeping. I also keep the bulgur wheat in the freezer because I find that it starts to get stale and develop a cardboardy oder if you keep it in the pantry at room temperature for too long.
Here is what you’ll need:
- 1/2 cup olive-oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 yellow or red bell pepper, diced
- 1 large tomato, peeled and chopped
- 1 tbsp. tomato paste
- 1 tbsp. red pepper paste
- 1/2 tsp. Aleppo pepper, or other ground red pepper
- 2 tbsp. lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp. salt (or more) and a couple of rounds of fresh black pepper
- 2 cups bulgur wheat, #1 fine grind
- 1/2 cup water, or more if necessary
- 3 green onions, both green and white parts, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
- bunch of vine leaves, rinsed of brine (optional)
First, we prepare the tomato for chopping. Puncture the large tomato, and soak it in very hot water (just boiled) for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, dice the onions and peppers. Add the olive-oil to a sauté pan and turn to medium-high heat. Add the onions to the pan, and sauté for a few minutes. Next, add the bell pepper and sauté for three more minutes.
While the onions and peppers are cooking, run the tomato under cold water, peel the skin, and chop. Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan, along with the tomato paste, red pepper paste, Aleppo pepper, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Turn down the heat to medium, cover and cook for five minutes.
While the vegetables cook, chop the green onions and parsley and set aside. Measure 2 cups of bulgur wheat. Add the bulgur wheat and water to the pan and mix well. Turn down the heat to medium-low and cover. Cook for 10 minutes and check if the bulgur is cooked. If it still needs to cook more, add a few tablespoons of water, cover, and cook for a few more minutes.
Plate the bulgur wheat in the large serving plate and sprinkle the green onions and parsley on top. Enjoy with vine leaves, cabbage, or lettuce.