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What Is Chorba?

By Karize Uy
Updated May 16, 2024
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Chorba is a type of soup dish that is eaten in the Middle East, Eurasia, and Afro-Eurasia, since some countries in these regions have similar traditions, especially when it comes to food. Some people say that the dish resembles a minestrone soup, since both contain as their main ingredients meats, vegetables, and spices. The soup can be enjoyed on its own, or with a piece of bread on the side.

The Turkish language can be credited for giving the dish the name “chorba,” but the soup is also called different, but similar names, such as “sorpa” for the Kazakhs, “shurpa” for the Russians, and “shorpo” for the Kyrgyz. The soup is also known as “ciorba” in Romania. The Turkish origin of the dish’s name may have been a byproduct of the Ottoman Empire, when the Turks controlled many regions in Asia, Africa, and Europe and, as a result, influenced their culture and cuisine. It is probable that the Turks would cook the chorba during their stay in a particular area, and the locals who tasted the dish began to imitate it. It also helped that during these times, countries had less strict policies on geographical borders and migrants may have easily crossed the borders, bringing a new dish with them.

One of the preferred meat ingredients included in the chorba would be lamb as it gives the dish a very unique taste, but other meat like beef, pork, and chicken can be used as well, sometimes in combination. To make the soup more flavorful, some cooks boil a separate amount of meat in some water to make a stock; others boil the meat and vegetables together, along with some onion and garlic for flavor. Some cooks suggest not putting salt in while the meat is softening, as the salt can make the meat tough.

The vegetables in a chorba are very varied, but some ingredients like tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, and turnips are almost always included. Other vegetables that can be used are zucchini, parsley, and cilantro. To make the soup heartier and thicker, beans such as chickpeas, green peas, and red kidney beans can be put in the pot, though some Europeans use pasta to thicken the soup.

Aside from the usual garlic, onion, salt and pepper, an assortment of spices gives the chorba a very unique flavor. These spices can include ginger, turmeric, and saffron. Even mint and lime juice can also be used, as well as some cayenne pepper to give the dish more heat. A bowl of chorba can be enjoyed on normal days, but many Islamic regions eat the dish as part of celebrating Islam’s holy month, Ramadan, probably at the end of the fasting time.

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