Aleppo Food Middle East Syria

The Dish of Aleppo: Kabab Bil Karaz – Cherry Kabab

The people of Aleppo have a shared passion. Not only do they pride themselves in food that is steeped in culinary traditions and guard their recipes close to heart, they undeniably affirm their cuisine as the best in the Middle East.

Aleppo Citadelle

As one of the world’s oldest inhabited cities, Aleppo’s cuisine takes inspiration from the mosaic of cultures that have inhabited Syria over the millennia, as well as more recent influences of the Ottomans and Armenians.

Aleppo Citadelle

Talk to Aleppians about food and they’ll sing a litany of delicacies culminating in one dish unique to their city. Kabab Bil Karaz is a cherry kabab made with minced lamb and wishna, a small and sour black cherry that grows on the outskirts of the city. It is used in Ambarieyet el Karaz, a sour cherry liqueur. Learn how to make ambariyet el karaz in this step by step recipe.

From the first taste I had in Aleppo, I was completely taken with the perfect balance of sweet and sour flavours, the unique presentation on triangular pieces of bread decorated with pine nuts and parsley.

Later, I was privileged to be instructed in the making of the dish that unites this culinary city. Getting the right balance of sweet and sour is the key element to perfecting this dish. And this is where their expertise comes into play.

Sour cherries and meat balls - Kabab Bil Karaz

Kabab Bil Karaz Recipe

(Serves 4)

½ kilo minced lamb
½ kilo sour cherries
1½ teaspoons of Bharat (a middle-eastern spice mixture of black pepper, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, pimento and nutmeg)
125g pine nuts, toasted
3 tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon citric acid powder
2 rounds of flat Arabic bread
1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley
Salt and pepper

Sour cherries - Kabab Bil Karaz Bharat - Kabab Bil Karaz Toasted pine nuts - Kabab Bil Karaz

Soaked cherries - Kabab Bil Karaz Lamb meatballs - Kabab Bil Karaz Sauteeing meatballs - Kabab Bil Karaz

Cooking - Kabab Bil Karaz Triangular bread pieces - Kabab Bil Karaz Kabab Bil Karaz


Soak the cherries overnight with enough water to cover. The following day, pit the cherries and put them in a large pot with their liquid. Add the citric acid and sugar. Taste the sauce, adding sugar or citric acid powder as required to get the right balance of sweet and sour. Bring to the boil then simmer for 15 minutes or until the liquid has reduced and thickened a little.

Mix the meat with the spices, season with salt and pepper then roll into marble-sized balls. In a shallow pan, sauté in butter over medium heat until evenly browned.

Add the meatballs to the cherry mixture and cook over low heat for 15 minutes until they take on the cherry colour.

To assemble, cut the Arabic bread into small triangles and arrange in a circular pattern on a plate, with the pointy end facing out and the light side up. Spoon the kakab and drizzle some of the thickened sauce on top. Add a sprinkling of toasted pine nuts and decorate with parsley leaves.

Kabab Bil Karaz

Like many Middle-Eastern dishes, Kabab Bil Karaz can be eaten by hand, scooped with the pieces of bread that have absorbed the tangy sauce.

The city of Aleppo gave me a combination of balanced flavours that I committed to memory. Its people made me an offering that was more than just their signature dish on a plate.

Kabab Bil Karaz

This post has been entered into the Grantourismo and HomeAway Holiday-Rentals travel blogging competition.

For more information about Aleppo’s food, don’t miss our food and drink guide: What to Eat in Aleppo Syria

About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is a drinks writer, author of GROW YOUR OWN COCKTAIL GARDEN, SHRUBS & BOTANICAL SODAS and founder/editor of Gourmantic, Cocktails & Bars and The Gourmantic Garden. She has been writing extensively about spirits, cocktails, bars and cocktail gardening in more recent years. She is a spirits and cocktail competition judge, Icons of Whisky Australia nominee, contributor to Diageo Bar Academy, cocktail developer and is named in Australian Bartender Magazine's Top 100 Most Influential List. Her cocktail garden was featured on ABC TV’s Gardening Australia and has won several awards. She is a contributor to Real World Gardener radio program and is featured in several publications including Pip Magazine, Organic Gardener, Australian Bartender and Breathe (UK). Read the full bio here.