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Addictive, refreshing Bulgarian-style yogurt soup

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Chilled yogurt soup, or tarator

Wakako Sato, a research specialist on international cuisine, has a go-to dish in summer: chilled yogurt soup. It has a slightly sour taste, but it is refreshing and smells delicious. Sato learned about the dish during her time in Bulgaria and said it is incredibly addictive.

The soup called tarator in Bulgaria consists of plain yogurt that is diluted with water. Cucumbers, garlic and walnuts are also added, along with dill for aroma. It is either served chilled or with ice cubes.

While Sato was studying cuisine in Bulgaria, a local woman she stayed with made this soup for her. The woman told Sato that she did not know how to make many things, but tarator was something she made often.

“It’s simple to make, but it tastes amazing and it goes down easy, even when you don’t have much of an appetite,” Sato said. “I really start craving this soup once it starts getting hot.”

Sato prefers the soup thicker, like potage, by making a 2:1 yogurt-to-water mixture. But the thickness of the soup is a personal preference and can be adjusted by adding more or less water.

The main ingredient is cucumber, which needs to be diced. Sprinkle some salt and drizzle a bit of olive oil on top. Let the cucumbers sit until they are tender, so they can be mixed more easily into the soup.

The garlic, which is usually chopped before adding it into the soup in Bulgaria, is grated to reduce its strong flavor. Add walnuts and dill, then season with salt. Finally, for the finishing touch, drizzle olive oil in a circle into the bowl of soup. If dill is not available, konegi green onions can be used instead.

Chilled yogurt soup

Ingredients (serves 2):

300 grams plain yogurt

2 cucumbers

Salt

Olive oil

½ to 1 clove garlic

20 grams roasted, unsalted walnuts

Pinch of dill

Directions:

Chopped cucumbers
Chopped cucumbers

1. Peel stripes on the cucumbers, then chop them into 5-millimeter cubes. Grate the garlic and chop the walnuts.

2. Put the cucumbers, ¼ teaspoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of olive oil into a bowl and mix.

3. Mix yogurt and 150 milliliters of water in another bowl. Add the cucumber mixture to the yogurt. Then add the garlic and thoroughly mix everything together. Set aside some walnuts and dill to use as toppings and stir the rest into the soup. Season with salt.

4. After the soup has been chilled in the refrigerator, pour it into serving bowls. Sprinkle walnuts and dill on top, then drizzle some olive oil into the soup, as if drawing a circle.

As the yogurt’s slightly sour flavor spreads over the taste buds, the aroma of the garlic and dill wafts into the air, and with every bite, a satisfying crunch of the cucumbers can be heard. I could not eat the soup fast enough.

“It goes well with curry, too,” Sato said.

The refreshing soup provides the perfect balance for a hot and spicy meal. It also seems like it will pair well with meat dishes.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Snezhanka, a Bulgarian salad with cucumbers and walnuts

Same ingredients for salad

Bulgarian salad called snezhanka can be made using the same ingredients as the chilled yogurt soup. Place the yogurt in a paper coffee filter for more than four hours to reduce the amount to about one-half. Add chopped cucumber and walnuts, grated garlic and olive oil before seasoning the mixture with salt. Garnish with dill and lemon. It tastes excellent on bread.