Silk Road: Olive Trahana

I was exposed to trahana on my recent trip to the Caucasus: a sour bulgur. “Sour, how?” you may ask. The grain is steeped in buttermilk and then dehydrated (traditionally, sun dried). I believe there are many Grecian pasta versions with similar name, and, even Lebanese (kishk). As soon as I was back to base, the grain was mail-ordered, which promptly arrived from Turkey.

I experimented with a simple, no-fuss, savory porridge. I discovered that olives and trahana is a marriage made in heaven! Was it my Asian taste-buds? I don’t know; I grew up on neither olives nor trahana. This is certainly worth a try. Enjoy!

Special tools:



  • 1/2 cup trahana
  • a dozen shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, thinly sliced and dry roasted in wok for 2-3 minutes
  • 1 tbsp (store-bought) olive tapenade
  • 1/6 cup diced shallots/Spanish red onions
  • crushed red pepper
  • Greens: 1/4 cup chopped cilantro or parsley


In a wok, soften the onions with a little oil from the tapenade jar (or just use a little olive oil). Add the tapenade and the trahana and stir till well mixed. Add 1 1/2 cups hot water, salt to taste and cover. Cook on low-medium for 20 minutes till the water is absorbed. Let rest for 5 mins (the grains will absorb some more moisture). Mix in the mushrooms and greens.

Serve hot with a dash of crushed red pepper and some tapenade.

Notes, hints, tips:
  1. Note that there is a sweet version of (Turkish) trahana too. Make sure that for this dish, you are using the savory (sour) version.
  2. I use shiitake for some texture and earthiness. I used the stems of the shiitake to make the broth to cook the grains: rough-chop the stems and throw them into the heating water. In fact, I did not even filter out the stems when using the broth/hot water to cook the grains.
  3. You can add other veggies of your choice for texture, color, taste. To retain their identity and character, I recommend folding them in at the end, rather than cooking together with the grain.
  4. The wide mouth of the wok helps in cooking the grain effortlessly, without stirring frequently etc.
  5. I tried a thinly shaved cheese (Manchego) topping that went well too. Perhaps not as magical as the olive tapenade.
  6. The trahana becomes naturally creamy. You can control the final texture by controlling the level of moisture that remains in the end.

A quick, complete meal with tarhana. The purists may be taken aback with the use of sardines. Quite delicious!
The same recipe as above, with additional 1 tbsp Ottoman spice-mix + 2 tbsp EVOO. Finally added 120 g can of sardines and mixed well.

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