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From chick pea to Leblebi

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Posted 01 September 2004 - 12:07

The city of Corum is synonymous with "leblebi", or roasted chickpeas. They are sold in many guises on every street corner.

The tale of a 63 day evolution
It takes an astonishing 63 days to turn chickpeas into leblebi. It is a long and complicated process. In fact, the chickpea undergoes a kind of metamorphosis. Chickpea has its great taste from the dedication of the farmers who cultivate and harvest it and from the skills of the masters who build their own custom-made ovens to roast the leblebi and pick their wood for them, choosing the the type that burns cleanly.

At first sight, it is hard to believe that the humble chickpea could be transformed into the myriad and colourful varieties of leblebi. Its appearance and taste changes completely, like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly.

Up to the 1960s, Corum produced enough of its own chickpeas for the leblebi industry. When leblebi demand outstripped chickpea supply, Corum began to import chickpeas from Kutahya Tavsanli and Denizli. These regions were chosen properly as they produce totally organic chickpeas. Every year, a competition is held among Corum's leblebi makers. And, every year, the winner is Yaşar Bodur, who comes from a family of leblebi makers.


The shy ''Sari Kiz''
Yasar Bodur tells us that leblebi is like a shy "Sari Kiz", or Blonde Girl. It takes love and dedication to persuade her to come out of her shell. The first stage of the process is cultivating and harvesting the chickpeas. They are then sent to the leblebi maker who sorts them according to size. Next, the chickpeas are roasted. Yasar Bodur explains that the best results are obtained by roasting over a wood fire. A gas flame should never be used.

First, second and third roast
After the first roast, the chickpeas are put in cloth sacks and set aside for two days. After the second roast, they are again set aside and then spread out to dry for 15-20 days. These processes dictate the final flavour of the leblebi. Before the final roast, the chickpeas are moistened and set aside for a day. The chickpeas shed their shell in the final roast. The chickpeas are roasted at 120C-130C. These "tek kavrum" or single roast leblebi are ready to be sold. Flavourings can also be added during the final roast to create spicy, salty or clove-flavoured leblebi. "Leblebi sekeri" or candied leblebi is made by coating the final roast in a layer of sugar. "Leblebi sekeri" is a particular favourite of Turkish children.
There is another kind of chickpea known as "beyaz" (white) or "sakiz" (gum) leblebi. This is manufactured in a completely different way and is not made in Corum.

In addition to being a tasty treat, leblebi is said to lose weight and stomach problems by soaking up acid. Maybe a handful of leblebi a day keeps the doctor away!

By The Gate Magazine

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