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Crimean Tatars and the gift of 'Chebureki'. A dangerous recipe!

Perhaps the most famous, most recognisable and most affiliated with the Crimean Tatars dish is, or, I should say, are - chebureki - a beautiful word to pronounce and an amazing meal to eat. Oh, the thin and crispy dough, filled with meat and onions that steam inside while you are frying these pieces of gold. As you bite in and hear the dough crisp, the juices begin to drip down your elbows. You better wear a bib!

This tasty word is comprised of three segments 'che', 'burek' and 'i'. I always thought that 'che' stood for 'fried', but after doing some research on the etymology, I discovered that it means 'raw'. 'Burek' is easy, it means 'pie' in many Turkic languages. The Russian ending of 'i' simply makes everything plural. So, 'chebureki' is 'pies with raw filling' - many, many pies! Don't worry, the filling cooks all the way when you fry these beauties. You cannot eat just one, or two, or three and that is why this dish is dangerous! If you know other meanings of the word 'che', leave a comment, please!

Chebureki is the national dish of the Crimean Tatars but they are widely known all across the post-Soviet space. Some countries like to take ownership of the origin of chebureki, we will leave this on their conscience. Although, and to be fair, many wise people across this planet thought of filling dough with something tasty and frying/steaming/boiling/baking the damn thing! Kutabi, bolaani, empanadas, pelmeni, manti, mandu, samosa, etc., etc., etc. In fact, I made some pelmeni from the leftover dough and filling.


Now, in the previous post we talked about the Korean diaspora in Central Asia. Just like the Koreans and several other ethnicities, the Crimean Tatars were deported from their homeland by one of the greatest murderers this planet has seen. I encourage you to do some research on this tragic history. After WWII, Crimean Tatars were accused of being traitors, were loaded into, it pains me to write these lines, cattle-carrying train wagons and were subsequently dumped in Uzbekistan. Many did not survive the road. Many more did not survive the harsh conditions in the 'new home'. But others lived and carried on... You might remember this history from Jamala's Eurovision song, check it out.

Although the satanic regime did not allow to register Crimean Tatars as such, as the chief despot's idea was to wipe them off the face of the earth, we had many friends and neighbours from the Crimean Tatar diaspora; beyond this, my aunt's husband is a Crimean Tatar and in spite of any eradication efforts, they all were tangible humans.

My experience with chebureki is rooted in childhood. My grandmother's best friend, Amina-opa, would come visit every now and then and every time she would come, she brought along chebureki the size of a US restaurant place. When times were harsh, chebureki would be filled with cheap (and VERY healthy) greens. When times were looking better, the classical ground beef and onion filling (my all-time favourite) was opted for. And sometimes, Amina-opa would take a very special approach and make dessert chebureki filled with raisins and honey. Wow. Plovism celebrates the Crimean Tatars and solutes their gastronomic contributions!

To celebrate this diversity together, let's learn how to make some chebureki, shall we?

I see a lot of odd recipes in the English segment of the culinary world. "Buy tortilla dough and make chebureki"- they say. Avoid such recipes, run! Such cooks are usually referred to as 'can openers' in the restaurant business as all they can do in the kitchen is open cans or packages of food already made by someone else. There is nothing more simple than the chebureki dough. Why would you buy it? All you need is flour, water, salt and oil. I do not like being a chemist, therefore I will not tell you the milligrams and the millilitres of each ingredient. We are losing the senses and that special feeling in the kitchen and it really bothers me. Too many things are measured to the fraction of a digit. Me no like. Experiment and get the feeling. If you really need details, for two people I use approx 2 cups (260-300 grams) of regular flour, 5 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of salt, lukewarm water - amount depends on altitude and dough consistency. Don't take these measures literally.

Make the dough, let it sit and rest. In the meantime, prepare the filling. I used ground beef (the fatter the better, but this is quarantine time, I took lean...sorry), thin-sliced white onion, chopped green onion (optional), salt, black pepper.

Roll out the dough. You can use a cup or a lid (in this case from a coffee jar) to cut out circles for small chebureki.

Small circles for small chebureki

Cannot be easier

Add the filling, close tightly. This is critical, otherwise, the juices will spill out and you will have trouble with the hot oil you are frying them. You can use a fork to seal the seams.

Tiny chebureki

I also made the real-deal chebureki, each one half the size of a large frying pan. Here you just roll out the dough, no need to play around with any lids.

Fry in hot vegetable oil. Serve hot. Eat hot, Be happy!

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