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Cheburek: The Half-moon Pastry from Crimea

Published: June 24, 2020

On streets throughout the post-Soviet space, you can generally find the чебурек (cheburek) — a juicy, fried, savory pastry — for sale. This tasty treat likely originated in Turkey or Crimea and its popularity slowly traveled north and eventually spread throughout what is today the former USSR.

Почему они носят такое название?

Чебурек was likely invented by the Crimean Tartars, who speak a Turkic language. The name “чебурек” comes from the original Turkic, “Çiğ Börek.” “Börek” refers to a family of baked of fried pastries, made of thin, flaky dough surrounding a savory filling that can range from cheese to meat to vegetables. “Çiğ” loosely translated, means “raw,” and refers to the fact that the dough is filled with raw meat and the entire dish is fried together.

While some believe the food came from Turkey, another theory is that it is a descendent of the Asian dumpling. Evidence for this is found in Mongolian kitchens, where they serve a dish nearly identical to чебурек but call it хушуур (khushur).

Of course, given the simplicity of the dish, it’s also possible that it was developed in multiple locations at once.

Another useful piece of information I’ve learned from buying чебуреки from the local corner-store is how to properly ask about the filling. My first instinct was to ask “что внутри” (what’s inside)? However, after going to the store with native speakers, I have learned that it is far more common to ask “чебурек с чем” (cheburek with what)? This little tip will help you be understood more quickly!

Как правильно есть чебурек?

Чебуреки are easy and inexpensive to make and are a great street food, easy to eat without utensils while on the run. They can be found at corner stores, food stands, and restaurants throughout the former USSR. Additionally, many people make these in their homes as well, with the recipe being especially popular in Crimea and southern Russia. They are typically eaten with your hands.

Because the meat is cooked directly in the shell, sometimes there is loose grease inside. So, always make sure to have the half-moon pointing towards the ground when you bite into the чебурек to prevent any spillage – especially if the pastry is fresh. Чебуреки are also best fresh, when the crispness of the shell with contrast with the moist filling. Given time, the pastry will absorb the moisture and the whole thing can become limp and soft.

Как правильно готовить чебурек?

Чебурек can be made with a variety of fillings.

Meats used often include баранина (lamb), говядина (beef), and свинина (pork). The meat is ground together with seasonings such as лук (onion) and укроп (dill) ‒ optional to give it extra flavor. Adding a little water, milk, or stock when sending it through the grinder can make the meat a little juicier.

Cheburek stand in central Moscow.

Vegetarian-friendly versions are also relatively common. Чебуреки can also be filled with сыр (cheese), картофель (potatoes), грибы (mushrooms), капуста (cabbage), or яйца (eggs). The versatility of чебурек is one reason why it is a popular choice for anyone!

Some more health-concsious chefs will make чебуреки in an oven. However, they are traditionally fried ‒ either in a deep-fat fryer or in a skillet with generous amounts of oil.

The size of the чебурек may vary as well ‒ typically, they will be the size and shape of a thin, hard shell taco. However, мини-чебуреки (mini-chebureks; cheburek poppers) can now be bought in many restaurants. Likewise, some stands and cafes make extra-large чебуреки to help set themselves apart from the competition.

Lastly, it should be mentioned that frozen чебуреки can now be bought in many grocery stores throughout the former USSR. These are sometimes meant to be microwaved, heated in an oven, or sometimes have been frozen raw and should be thawed and fried. However, much of the experience of this food rests on the contrasts in textures. The shell should be crispy on the outside but soft and chewy inside, with both contrasting with the texture of the soft meat. Generally, we have found, чебуреки that are not prepared, cooked, and eaten fresh should be avoided.

Давай приготовим!

Чебуреки классические Classic Cheburek
Ингредиенты

Для теста:

  • Мука—4 стакана
  • Растительное масло—8 ст. ложек
  • Соль—2 щепотки
  • Сахар—1 ч. ложка
  • Вода—1 ¼ стакана
  • Водка—1 ч. ложка

Для начинки:

  • Свинина—300 г
  • Говядина—300 г
  • Молоко или мясной бульон—0.5-1 стакан
  • Лук репчатый—1 шт.
  • Соль, перец, петрушка, укроп

Приготовление

Тесто:

  1. В воде растворить сахар и соль.
  2. Муку просеять горкой на стол, сделать углубление.
  3. В получившееся углубление влить воду с солью и сахаром, добавить растительное масло, водку и замесить тесто.
  4. Накрыть салфеткой и дать полежать.
  5. Через некоторое время тесто опять помесить и снова дать ему полежать. Таким образом месить тесто 3-4 раза.
  6. Готовое тесто раскатать в пласт, толщиной ~ 2-3 мм и вырезать при помощи блюдца круги диаметром ~ 15 см.

Фарш:

  1. Свинину с говядиной пропустить через мясорубку, добавить в фарш мелко порезанную луковицу, рубленую зелень и хорошо перемешать.
  2. Фарш посолить, поперчить и развести мясным бульоном или молоком по получения полужидкой консистенции. Хорошо перемешать.

Наконец:

  1. На середину каждого круга положить столовую ложку фарша, соединить края и хорошо защипать.
  2. По краю чебурека при помощи вилки сделать кайму, прижимая вилку к тесту.
  3. Чебуреки жарить во фритюре или на сковорде в большом количестве растительного масла на середнем огне с двух сторон до румяной корочки.
Ingredients

For the dough:

  • Flour—4 cups
  • Vegetable oil—8 table spoons
  • Salt—2 pinches
  • Sugar—1 tea spoon
  • Water—1 ¼ cups
  • Vodka—1 tea spoon

For the filling:

  • Pork—300 grams
  • Beef—300 grams
  • Milk or stock—0.5-1 cup
  • Yellow onion—1
  • Salt, pepper, parsley, dill

Preparation

The dough:

  1. Dissolve the sugar and salt in water.
  2. Sift the flour on the table, make a cavity in the flour.
  3. Pour the water with sugar and salt into the cavity and add the vegetable oil and vodka. Knead the dough.
  4. Cover with a napkin and let it lie.
  5. After a few minutes, knead the dough again and let it lie. Repeat 3-4 times.
  6. Once the dough is finished, roll it out so that it has a thickness of about 2-3 mm. With the help of a small plate, cut small circles from the dough, each with a diameter of about 15 cm.

The minced meat:

  1. Mince the pork and beef with a meat grinder, add finely chopped onion and greens. Mix well.
  2. Add salt, pepper, and milk or stock to the meat to have a semi-liquid consistency. Stir well.

Lastly:

  1. In the middle of each circle, place a spoonful of minced meat, fold over the circle to form a half-moon, and connect the edges.
  2. At the edge of the cheburek, use a fork to press the edges together.
  3. Fry the chebureks in a deep-fryer or frying pan with generous amounts of vegetable oil over medium heat until both sides are golden brown.

 

Our Favorite Чебурек Videos

Coming from a Russian television show called “Manly Food,” this video gives a very thorough demonstration on how to prepare чебуреки. The Russian is clear and easy-to-understand, and the host demonstrates the instructions while speaking. After watching this video, you will be sure to learn some new words.

Watch this video to learn more about the Crimean Tartar чебурек.

 

 

About the author

Caroline Barrow

Caroline Barrow is a graduate of Texas A&M University with a degree in International Studies and Russian. She loves traveling and hearing people's stories. Out of the places she's been able to visit, her favorite was Kiev, Ukraine for its beauty, history, and friendly people. She received a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship and will spend the next year teaching English in Kostanay, Kazakhstan. Additionally, she has been named SRAS's Home and Abroad Translation Scholar for the 2013-2014 cycle.

Program attended: Home and Abroad Scholar

View all posts by: Caroline Barrow