Two kinds of tarhana: tarhana with yoghurt (left) and wholemeal wheat tarhana from Crete (right)
|Main ingredient(s)||Grain, yoghurt or fermented milk|
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Tarhana (Turkish), trahanas (Greek τραχανάς) or (xyno)hondros ((ξυνό)χονδρος), tarkhīneh, tarkhāneh, tarkhwāneh (Persian ترخینه، ترخانه، ترخوانه), trahana (Albanian), трахана/тархана (Bulgarian), tarana/тарана (Serbian), kishk (Egypt), or kushuk (Iraq) are names for a dried food based on a fermented mixture of grain and yoghurt or fermented milk, usually made into a thick soup with water, stock, or milk (Persian ash-e tarkhïna dūgh آش ترخینه دوغ). As it is both acid and low in moisture the milk proteins keep for long periods. Tarhana is very similar to some kinds of kishk.
The Turkish tarhana consists of cracked wheat (or flour), yoghurt, and vegetables fermented then dried. The Greek trahana contains only cracked wheat or a cous cous-like paste and fermented milk. In Cyprus, it is considered a national specialty, and is often served with pieces of haloumi cheese in it.
Like many other foodstuffs which originated from the need to preserve food—cured ham, smoked fish,and the like—tarhana soup is often eaten as a matter of taste and choice where fresh food is abundant and refrigeration available.
Hill and Bryer suggest that tarhana is related to Greek τρακτόν (trakton, romanized as tractum), a thickener Apicius wrote about in the 1st century CE which most other authors consider to be a sort of cracker crumb. Dalby (1996) connects it to the Greek τραγός/τραγανός (tragos/traganos), described (and condemned) in Galen's Geoponica 3.8. Weaver (2002) also considers it of Western origin.
Perry, on the other hand, considers that the phonetic evolution of τραγανός to tarhana is unlikely, and that it probably comes from Persian: ترخوانه tarkhwāneh. He considers the resemblance to τραγανός and to τραχύς 'coarse' coincidental, though he speculates that τραχύς may have influenced the word by folk etymology.
In Persian language sources, al-Zamakhshari mentioned the name of this food in the 11th century in the form tarkhana in his dictionary; it is attested in the 13th century in the form tarkhina in the Jahangiri Encyclopedia (named after Jahangir, the Mughal emperor of India). Tar تر in Persian means 'wet, soaked', and khwān خوان (pronounced khān) means 'dining place/table, food, large wooden bowl'. Thus in Persian it would mean 'watered or soaked food', which matches the way the soup is made: tarhana must be soaked in water, and other possible ingredients are then added and cooked for some time.
Tarhana is made by mixing flour, yoghurt or sour milk, and optionally cooked vegetables, salt, and spices (notably tarhana herb), letting the mixture ferment, then drying, and usually grinding and sieving the result. The fermentation produces lactic acid and other compounds giving tarhana its characteristic sour taste and good keeping properties: the pH is lowered to 3.4-4.2, and the drying step reduces the moisture content to 6-10%, resulting in a medium inhospitable to pathogens and spoilage organisms, while preserving the milk proteins.
Tarhana are cooked as a thick soup by adding them to stock, water, or milk and simmering. In Albania it is made with wheat flour and yoghurt into small pasta-like chunks which are dried and crushed; the powder is used to cook a soup which is served with bread cubes.
See also 
- Tarhonya, a Hungarian noodle whose name comes from tarhana
- Frumenty, a Western European equivalent
- τρακτὸς, τρακτόν, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
- Stephen Hill, Anthony Bryer, "Byzantine Porridge: Tracta, Trachanas, and Trahana", in Food in Antiquity, eds. John Wilkins, David Harvey, Mike Dobson, F. D. Harvey. Exeter University Press, 1995. ISBN 0-85989-418-5.
- τραγανός, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
- Andrew Dalby, Siren Feasts: A History of Food and Gastronomy in Greece, London, 1996. ISBN 0-415-11620-1, p. 201.
- William Woys Weaver, "The Origins of Trachanás: Evidence from Cyprus and Ancient Texts", Gastronomica 2:1:41-48 (Winter 2002) doi:10.1525/gfc.2002.2.1.41
- Charles Perry, "Trakhanas Revisited", Petits Propos Culinaires 55:34 (1997?)
- O. Daglioğlu, "Tarhana as a traditional Turkish fermented cereal food: its recipe, production and composition", Nahrung/Food 44:2:85-88, 1999
- Françoise Aubaile-Sallenave, "Al-Kishk: the past and present of a complex culinary practice", in Sami Zubaida and Richard Tapper, A Taste of Thyme: Culinary Cultures of the Middle East, London and New York, 1994 and 2000, ISBN 1-86064-603-4.
- Elisabeth Luard, The Old World Kitchen, ISBN 0-553-05219-5
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