Coming from a country where the word food is synonomous with spices and amalgamations of aromas and flavours, I am always pleasantly surprised by food from the Mediterranean region. Mediterranean food though sans infusions of spices retains its simplistic yet delicately delicious flavour. Although, I am a die hard spicophillic, yet trying a simple savory dish of Trahana soup prepared by a Greek friend(with hint of lemon and home made bread) has reinforced my belief that more doesn't always translate merrier- especially when it comes to spices and flavors.
Trahana is a type of fermented granular pasta which amongst other things can perhaps be called as world’s first dessicated soup. The word can possibly be traced to the ancient Greek word trakton or tragos which means grain. Trahana is prepared by mixing flour, egg, with milk or yogurt or butter milk; letting the mixture ferment; then drying, grinding, and sieving the result. The fermentation produces lactic acid and other compounds giving tarhana its characteristic taste. The low pH and drying results in a medium inhospitable to microorganism growth and at the same time preserves the milk proteins. It is very popular in Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Persia and there are different varieties of it with flavors ranging from sour to sweet.
An interesting legend pertaining to Tarhana which I came across mentions the origin of this popular dish as follows: Once upon a time, A king, whilst on a military operation was a guest in the home of a poor peasant . Having little to offer, the resourceful peasant housewife quickly boiled up a soup. Embarrassed at having to make such a meager offering, she said, “‘Dar hane’ soup is all I have to offer you, my liege. May you eat it with appetite!” In time this ‘dar hane’ soup became known as Tarhana and soon came to head the list of staple nourishments of both settled and nomadic people living in the Mediterranean region.
The origin of Trahana has been subject of much studies and confusion, while some say its Greek in origin while others claim its Persian. Whatever the origin, having recently discovered it, I plan to experiment with it and try different recipes which hugely differ from region to region. Maybe my Hellenic and Cypriot friends would enlighten me in exploring variety of flavours that Trahana has to offer. I’ll keep you posted with my Trahanic adventures! ;)