Yemeni Bulgur Wheat Shurba (Soup)


Often served with meals during Ramadan, this Yemeni shurba, or soup, is warming and hearty. Shurba usually contains lamb, but Hakim Sulaimani of Yafa Café in Brooklyn makes this vegetarian version, which is rich and satisfying thanks to the savory blend of cumin, black pepper, cinnamon, ground ginger, and bay leaves.

Yemeni Bulgur Wheat Shurba (soup)
Photo: Alex Lau
Total Time:
45 mins


  • 1 cup uncooked #3 coarse bulgur

  • 5 cups water

  • 1 small yellow onion, halved, peeled, and root end trimmed

  • 1 small tomato, cored

  • 4 medium garlic cloves, peeled

  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste

  • 1 ¾ teaspoons kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste

  • .50 teaspoon ground cumin

  • .50 teaspoon black pepper

  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

  • 4 (1 1/2-oz.) sourdough bread slices

  • Chives and lemon wedges, for serving


  1. Place bulgur in a fine wire-mesh strainer; rinse under cold water 30 seconds. Transfer bulgur to a large saucepan; add 5 cups water, onion halves, tomato, and 2 garlic cloves. Bring to a boil over high. Boil, turning onion and tomato occasionally, until onion is translucent and just tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat.

  2. Transfer onion halves, tomato, and the 2 garlic cloves to a blender, leaving bulgur and water in pan. Secure lid on blender, and remove center piece to allow steam to escape. Place a clean towel over opening. Process until smooth, about 25 seconds. Return pureed onion mixture to pan with bulgur. Stir in tomato paste, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, cumin, black pepper, cinnamon, ginger, and bay leaves. Bring to a gentle simmer over medium. Simmer, stirring and scraping bottom of pan occasionally to prevent sticking, until bulgur is tender, soup thickens, and mixture resembles the consistency of porridge, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Remove and discard bay leaves. Season soup with additional salt to taste.

  3. While soup cooks, preheat oven to broil with rack about 6 inches from heat. Grate remaining 2 garlic cloves to equal 1 teaspoon. Place grated garlic in a small bowl, and stir in melted butter. Brush butter mixture evenly over both sides of bread slices, and sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Arrange bread slices on a rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Broil in preheated oven until bread is toasted and golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Garnish soup with chives, and serve with garlic bread and lemon wedges.

Suggested Pairing

Light-bodied Alto Adige white: Cantina Terlano Pinot Grigio

Related Articles