Koca Tarhana

Miscellaneous - Turkey

Koca tarhana, or ‘“big tarhana,” is a grain mixture that is usually used for making soups in the Manavgat district of Antalya, Turkey. It is said that the name tarhana comes from the phrase “dar hane” meaning “poor house” as, according to legend, it was the only dish a poor peasant wife could quickly prepare as an offering to a visiting sultan. Over time the name evolved into tarhana and the dish spread into the neighboring Balkans. Today tarhana is made by nomads as a way of preserving and consuming yoghurt in every season. Tarhana is in fact the first instant soup ever made and was invented by the Central Asian Turks thousands of years ago by combining the wheat grown by the Manavs (settled farmers of the Manavgat villages) with the milk and yogurt of the nomadic people living in the surrounding hills. The ingredients and preparation method of koca tarhana remain the same as those used hundreds of years ago. Homemade buttermilk, crushed wheat and red pepper are added to a big pot of water and put over a fire. Once boiling a handful of fresh basil is added and the mixture is simmered until the wheat softens. A combination of wheat bran and more buttermilk is then added and, when the mixture thickens the pot is removed from the fire, covered and left overnight. The next day the liquid is drained through a big cloth and tablespoons of the solid tarhana are pressed into thin round pieces and left on another cloth to dry. Each day the “cakes” are turned and crumbled by hand into smaller and smaller pieces until they turn a brown color and become koca tarhana. The tarhana is preserved in a cotton pouch and kept in a cold place to then be eaten as a soup by local people in the wintertime. The soup is made by soaking koca tarhana in water overnight then the next day adding it (water included) to sautéed onions, olive oil, boiled beans and chickpeas, and cooking until soft. It is served with melted butter and red pepper powder on top. Every home produces about 8-10 kilograms of koca tarhana, which amounts to 3.5-4 tons in total per season. It is produced for home consumption however some people sell their excess product at the weekly village markets. Koca tarhana is at risk of extinction because of the time it takes to prepare and because the younger generations, and those with fast paced city lifestyles do not have the facilities needed for home production. Industrial tarhana soup mix is now available in supermarkets and, due to the lack of generational renewal in villages and mothers and grandmothers being the only ones still producing it, koca tarhana may disappear completely.