Most Delicious Way of Eating Bacteria: Tarhana

Tarhana is a fermented milk product that is used in making a type of soup predominantly in the Middle East and some Europe countries. According to its etymology; the word tarhana dates to earliest 1st century CE, appearing in texts of Apicius in Greece as “a sort of cracker crumb”, τρακτόν (trakton, romanized as tractum). Some scholars, like Dalby (1996) also connect this source to τραγός/τραγανός (tragos/traganos) as appeared in Galen’s Geoponica, solidifying its Western origin from before. On the other hand, it has been found that there is a word in Persian, meaning “watered or soaked food” as tarkhwāneh ( ترخوانه‎).

What is beautiful about this food is that even though it exists in many different cultures, recipes in these diverse cultures differ significantly. As a person who was born in Cyprus, an island in the middle of Mediterranean Sea, I know tarhana by heart since I was a little child. I know it from my grandma, who prepares and cooks on her own, like any other traditional Cypriot. After having travelled a little bit, I realized that my tarhana is not the same tarhana for those people in Turkey, England, Brazil, Iran or in any other country.

That is why, I think it is worth exploring different recipes from different geographies. For once and for all, I decided to introduce you to the original Cypriot recipe of tarhana.

First, you start by pouring a litre of milk and yoghurt into a big jar. To this jar, you must add half a litre fresh sheep’s milk (freshly milked) every day. After a while, you will see that there is a remaining foamy texture of sour milk. This is the part with which we make our special type of yoghurt, called cube yoghurt (küp yoğurdu). After we have enough of this foamy sour milk, we start the cooking process. For this phase, we need the bulgur of raw wheat (not processed) and we start mixing bulgur with this sour milk, in a manner of making a rice pilaf. Mint and garlic are also added during this part of cooking. After a while, we have this muddy mixture of our tarhana. During this phase, to give it a shape and separate these big chunks into smaller ones; some use their hands (like my grandma), some using various other cutlery. Eventually, when you have these smaller chunks of tarhana you can also freeze them for more than 6 months if you prefer and use it whenever you want to make this soup on cold winter days. Simply, put a chunk into the pot and warm it up! According to some preferences, some may like more liquid form, it is enough to add 1 cup of water.

It is 2021, and whenever I go back to Cyprus to have lunch at my grandmother’s home, the tarhana I eat is still made the same for the past 100 years. The most delicious version of melancholy.

References and Bibliography

Dalby, Andrew. Siren Feasts : A History of Food and Gastronomy in Greece. London, Routledge, 1996, p. 201.

Weaver, William Woys. “The Origins of Trachanáás: Evidence from Cyprus and Ancient Texts.” Gastronomica, vol. 2, no. 1, 2002, pp. 41–48, 10.1525/gfc.2002.2.1.41. Accessed 21 Mar. 2021.

“Cyprus Food Virtual Museum – Τραχανάς.” Foodmuseum.cs.ucy.ac.cy, foodmuseum.cs.ucy.ac.cy/web/guest/parsintages/civitem/2025. Accessed 3 Aug. 2021.

Bilgiçli, Nermin. “Effect of Buckwheat Flour on Chemical and Functional Properties of Tarhana.” LWT – Food Science and Technology, vol. 42, no. 2, Mar. 2009, pp. 514–518, 10.1016/j.lwt.2008.09.006. Accessed 13 June 2020.

Koca, Ahmet, et al. “Utilization of Soy Yoghurt in Tarhana Production.” European Food Research and Technology, vol. 215, no. 4, 1 Oct. 2002, pp. 293–297, 10.1007/s00217-002-0568-0. Accessed 3 Aug. 2021.

“Tarhana.” Wikipedia, 21 June 2021, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarhana.

Comments, Athena Konstantinou 5th February 2017 0. “Trahanas Soup | a Greek & Cypriot Super Food Soup with Haloumi & Sausage -.” The Cinnamon Spice Blog, 5 Feb. 2017, cinnamonspiceblog.com/trahanas-soup-greek-cypriot-super-food-soup-haloumi-sausage/. Accessed 3 Aug. 2021.

Loucas, Christina. “How to Make ‘Trahana’ (Crushed Wheat Soup) – AΦRODITE’s KITCHEN | a Cyprus Food Blog.” Afroditeskitchen.com, afroditeskitchen.com/recipe/crushed-wheat-soup-trahana/. Accessed 3 Aug. 2021.

17 Traditional Cypriot Foods You Should Try – Nomad Paradise. 16 June 2020, nomadparadise.com/cypriot-food/.