Vegan Shish Barak (Stewed "Meat" Dumplings) in Minty Garlic Cilantro Yoghurt Sauce
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Arab, and Vegan? is a column by Waseem Hijazi that covers a range of topics that dive into the vegan Arab cuisine. It explores naturally-vegan Arabic recipes, and ways to veganize traditionally meat-based classics. In this second installment, Waseem shares his recipe for Vegan Shish Barak (Stewed “Meat” Dumplings) in Minty Garlic Cilantro Yoghurt Sauce. 

Vegan Shish Barak (Stewed “Meat” Dumplings) in Minty Garlic Cilantro Yoghurt Sauce

Veganizing classic Arab food can seem intimidating. The truth is, some recipes might be a little elaborate to recreate. But that’s not always the case. This hearty Arabic dish is known to be one of the most popular comfort foods in the cuisine. Especially on a chilly winter day, or during Ramadan nights.

So it’s just the right time to share with you how to veganize it, with a simple plant based twist that’s no different than the original! For part two of the vegan Ramadan series from Arab, and Vegan?, we welcome Ramadan with a cozy dish that tastes like home:

Shish Barak (Yoghurt Stewed “Meat” Dumplings)

Shish Barak is a beloved Middle Eastern dish that I grew up eating – mostly in its homeland – when I would visit family relatives in Syria. Sensational meat dumplings, boiled or baked, then stewed in a rich and herby yoghurt sauce.

Vegan Shish Barak (Stewed "Meat" Dumplings)

Since the recipe can take quite some time to prepare, make a big batch of the (pre-baked) dumplings ahead of time, and freeze them to finish off in stewed yoghurt later. Which can be ready in about 15 minutes. Find the details in the notes section of the recipe card.

Vegan Shish Barak (Stewed "Meat" Dumplings) in Minty Garlic Cilantro Yoghurt Sauce

WHAT REPLACES MEAT?

While vegan meat alternatives (mock meats) are becoming widely available, I recognize that it’s not always easy to find for everyone around the world. Besides, they could be a little pricey. There are plenty of other options out there that can replace meat in many of the Middle Eastern dishes. It depends on what type of meat you want to try and recreate (chicken vs. beef, chunks vs. ground, etc.).

Personally, tofu is one of my favourite meat alternatives. But sometimes the right texture is not available, or you might just not feel like it. So here’s my go-to vegan ground meat replacement that’s affordable, accessible, and versatile.

vegan "meat" filling

TVP | Textured Vegetable Protein

It’s a dry soy product that’s shaped into strips, chunks, or crumbles (like the one in this recipe). They’re usually rehydrated with water then spiced and cooked. It’s a magical ingredient that adapts the flavours you soak and cook it in. Like in this vegan Shish Barak recipe.

Vegan Shish Barak (Stewed "Meat" Dumplings)

HOW TO MAKE SHISH BARAK

Making Shish Barak is quite the process, but a simple one. It’s a labour of love that’s worth every minute that goes into it. Let’s break down the recipe into 3 parts:

(1) Dumplings Dough

I use the same 4-ingredient dough as the one from my Sambousek recipe.

Simply roll out into a thin layer. Cut out mini circles using small coffee cups/condiment containers, or small jar lids. Remove one and roll it out further to stretch. Make sure to cover the parts of the dough that you’re not using, when it’s time to work with the dumplings.

resting dough

dough rolled out and small circles cut out using a glass

(2) Meatless Filling – Using rehydrated TVP, browned with aromatic flavours.

To make it work in the Shish Barak stuffing, we rehydrate the TVP in vegetable broth instead of water (for extra flavour), then cook in a pan with onions and garlic. Finishing off by browning with a Middle Eastern spice blend known as seven spice. This filling is then turned into dumplings to boil/bake, before adding to the sauce.

vegan "meat" filling

Vegan Shish Barak (Stewed "Meat" Dumplings)

Tip: use this vegan TVP mixture to replace meat in many Arabic recipes (like Ouzi, Mfarrakeh, and others).

(3) Yoghurt Sauce – Minty garlic cilantro yoghurt sauce.

A simple herby dairy-free sauce stewed with the dumplings to bring the dish together. Feel free to make half the amount of yoghurt to only cook a small batch of the Shish Barak at a time – freezing the rest of the dumplings for later.

Mise en place: yogurt, garlic, herbs and cilantro

Vegan Shish Barak (Stewed "Meat" Dumplings) in Minty Garlic Cilantro Yoghurt Sauce

WHY YOU’LL LOVE THIS SHISH BARAK RECIPE

  • Comfort food for a cozy night in
  • Meatless take with a simple replacement
  • Freezer-friendly to finish off later

Besides the timely process of shaping the dough into mini circles, then stuffing each with the filling, and turning into dumplings…it’s a fairly easy recipe to make! Prep a bunch of dumplings ahead of time to have on hand in the freezer for a quick weeknight dinner, or last minute meal for Iftar during Ramadan.

NOW LET’S TALK COOKING:

Vegan Shish Barak (Stewed "Meat" Dumplings) in Minty Garlic Cilantro Yoghurt Sauce

Vegan Shish Barak (Stewed "Meat" Dumplings) in Minty Garlic Cilantro Yoghurt Sauce

5 from 1 vote
This hearty Arabic dish is known to be one of the most popular comfort foods in the cuisine. Especially on a chilly winter day, or during Ramadan nights.
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Prep Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Author: Waseem Hijazi
Servings: 30 to 35 dumplings

Ingredients

For the Dough:

  • 2 1/2 cups 330g all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup 50ml vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water room temperature

For the Meatless Filling:

  • 1/4 cup dry TVP crumbles
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves finely minced
  • 2 tsp seven spices divided
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 3 tbsp pine nuts toasted
  • 1/4 bunch of curly parsley finely chopped

For the Yoghurt Sauce:

  • 1 cup plant based yoghurt alternative plain
  • 1/4 cup tahini optional - See Notes (1)
  • 4 to 6 cups water 1/2 cup at a time - See Notes (2)
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch one at a time
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves finely slice
  • 1/4 bunch of fresh cilantro finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp salt adjust to taste
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp dried mint

Instructions

Making the Dough:

  • Add the flour, sugar, salt, and oil to a bowl.
  • Mix to combine using a whisk. Gradually add in the water.
  • Knead by hand until smooth and not very sticky. Add more flour if too wet, or a little more water if too dry. Cover to rest for an hour.

Preparing the Meatless Filling:

  • Rehydrate the TVP in vegetable broth, per package instructions.
  • Sauté onions in a hot pan with olive oil for 5 minutes over medium-high heat. Add the
  • garlic. Cook for a minute. Turn heat down to medium. Stir in 1 tsp of seven spices.
  • Add in the TVP. Mix with remaining 1 tsp of seven spice and salt & pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove into a bowl.
  • Into the same pan, toast the pine nuts with a little oil, over medium heat. Stir occasionally and watch it carefully to avoid burning.
  • Return the cooked TVP meat mixture to the pan. Stir with the pine nuts and the parsley. Set aside in a bowl to cool down completely for later.

Shaping & Baking the Dumplings:

  • Sprinkle some flour on a clean flat surface. Remove the dough from the bowl. Cut in half and cover one-half back in the bowl. Roll out the other half into a thin rectangle.
  • Using a small coffee cup, or any circle lid, press down around the edge of the dough. Twist to cut it off. Remove the mini circle. Cover the rest of the dough under a clean towel. Roll it out further to stretch.
  • Hold it up in your hand, between the palm and fingers. Add 1 teaspoon of the meatless filling to the centre of the bottom side, leaving space to close it off. Fold over the top side, while pinching the edge of the circle.
  • Using the thumb of holding hand, carefully lift it off, as you continue to pinch both sides to seal them off. It should look like half a moon (similar to an empanada). Gently push in from the straight side with your thumb, making both ends closer. Place one end over the other. Pinch to seal. Cover under a clean towel while working on the rest.
  • Into a preheated oven (or air fryer basket), place the dumplings on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Bake at 375 F (or 190 C) for 10 to 12 minutes, flipping halfway. See Notes (3)

Cooking in Stewed Yoghurt Sauce:

  • Whisk together: plant yoghurt, tahini, and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Adding cornstarch last. Continue whisking frequently until it bubbles - adding 1/2 cup of water gradually - for about 10 minutes. Turn heat down to low.
  • While cooking the sauce, bring a pan to medium-heat with 2 tbsp of oil. Add the garlic and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until golden. Stir in the finely chopped cilantro for another minute to infuse with flavour. Add this mixture back to the saucepan.
  • Stir in the salt, pepper, and mint. Whisk in more water to thin down, if needed. Add the cooked dumplings to mix it up and finish off. Bring back to simmer for 5 minutes to thicken. Serve in a bowl with more toasted pine nuts, and a garnish of parsley.

Notes

  1. Tahini is not traditionally used for making Shish Barak. Adding a little of it makes the yoghurt sauce creamier and thicker. It’s a personal preference - you can omit completely.
  2. Depending on your preferred thickness, add more water while you whisk to thin it down, or take out a bit of the sauce into a small bowl to whisk with a teaspoon of cornstarch before adding back to thicken up.
  3. My air fryer has the option to bake - which cooks slightly quicker than an oven, since it’s smaller in size. Adjust temperature and timing accordingly. Feel free to cover in a little oil spray if baking in oven.
  4. To freeze the dumplings for later, place the pre-baked ones on a sheet pan with parchment paper. Freeze for an hour, then transfer to freezer bags to store for at least 30 days.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Recipe and Photography by Waseem Hijazi.

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If you enjoyed this recipe, you might also like these Vegan Sambousek by the same author. Click here for the recipe.

Vegan Sambousek (Potato, Carrots & Peas)

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Connect with Waseem on Instagram and find more recipes at PlantBasedArab.com.

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