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What Is Kebapche?

By Karize Uy
Updated May 16, 2024
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Kebapche is a Bulgarian dish typically made of meat such as beef and pork. It is usually and traditionally grilled, and not fried, like many meat dishes. Some people say that the dish’s consistency is very similar to that of a meatball, but its appearance is like a Spanish “chorizo” or sausage. Kebapche is a staple food in many parties and celebrations, and is said to go well with a glass of beer.

The word “kebapche” is a derivation of the word “kebab,” another common grilled-meat dish in the Middle East. The “che” suffix means “little,” so the name of the dish is literally translated as “little kebab.” The meat dish may be a Bulgarian favorite, but its origin is from another culture, although it's uncertain. Some historians think that it might have come from the Turkish empire, the Ottoman, in the 14th century, as Bulgaria was one of the many countries conquered by the empire. The dish also reached several countries in the southeastern region of Europe, such as Greece, Italy, and Hungary.

After World War II ended, all establishments were closed, including all restaurants that sold kebapche, since the Bulgarian Communist Party (BCP) stipulated that all businesses had to be government-owned. Gradually, the dish returned to popularity and began to be sold in government-owned restaurants. Since then, the dish went on to become a significant part of Bulgarian cuisine.

Kebapche is usually made with a combination of different meats, usually of beef and pork, but mutton and veal can also be included. Most, if not all, cooks prefer the meat to be minced so the different meats can be mixed well together, along with common spices such as salt, pepper, and cumin. Some cooks prefer adding some finely chopped or grated onions to add more juiciness and sweetness, as some of the meat’s own juices will be lost during the cooking process. Many recipes suggest leaving the mixed ingredients to sit in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight to let the meat absorb all the spices, making the dish more flavorful.

When the raw meat is ready, it is divided into small pieces that are shaped cylindrically, like hotdogs. The pieces are then grilled over medium to high heat until they are brown and some striped “grill marks” form on the surface. Traditional recipes insist on cooking the kebapche only by grilling, and not by any other cooking method like frying or baking. Kebapche is never served individually, but usually by threes or “kebapcheta" in plural form. A small amount of tomato sauce, cheese, or crispy chips on the side completes the dish.

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