#SaveTabbouleh: Content creator wants to safeguard Lebanon's national salad

#SaveTabbouleh: Content creator wants to safeguard Lebanon's national salad
3 min read
27 June, 2023
A US-based Lebanese chef says he wants to "save" the tabbouleh salad from being modified and claimed as something it's not.
Tabbouleh is made of finely chopped vegetables, including parsley, tomatoes, onion, bulghur, lemon juice and olive oil [Getty]

A Lebanese content creator who has become famous by using his mother’s voice notes to make traditional Lebanese dishes has started a campaign to 'Save Tabbouleh.'

Kareem, known as The Voice Note Chef on Instagram and based in New York, says he wants to protect Lebanon’s national salad from being modified or claimed by others as something it’s not.

"We know tabbouleh originated in Mount Lebanon, in the mountains, at that time in a borderless area. For me, when I look at the salad, it’s Lebanon. Green, red, a little bit of the brown bulghur which is the soil that we know so well, with the white onions as well," Kareem told an online podcast called Afikra.

This seemed to be in reference to the colours of the Lebanese flag – red, white and the evergreen Cedar tree.

Kareem acknowledged that the salad was shared by Syrians.

"I don’t want to upset my Syrian community, it’s also [made in] Syria."

He lists the ingredients and how to make a good tabbouleh salad, the same way his mother taught him, "unlike in the rest of the world when you order a tabbouleh and you get a grain salad, which is infuriating for me."

"But I’m fighting back," Kareem says.

"I have a hashtag Save tabbouleh campaign I started last year. I’m inviting anyone to call out a tabbouleh crime... share it on the hashtag... we talk about it. I gently try to pressure western restaurants or creators to recognise this is not the right way and to stop selling it under the name of tabbouleh, because you’re actually contributing to the dilution of our culture, inadvertently," he explains.

He says he tries to articulate this in a very compelling way "from a place of passion rather than anger," to explain why this matters to him as a Lebanese chef.

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The name tabbouleh is believed to have come from the word 'tabbil' or 'tabbal' which means 'to season.' The salad is thought to have first been made by the Chaldeans in around 3000 BC, where people would mix a range of greens together and offer to priests.

Upon its arrival to what is today Lebanon, additional ingredients were added to the salad including tomatoes and bulgur, turning it into the salad people know and eat today.

The bulgur is believed to have come from Lebanon’s fertile Bekaa Valley.

Other famous salads from Lebanon and Syria is the Fattoush salad – known as the "bread salad" – and is believed to have originated from around northern Lebanon.