I was supposed to be getting directions to The History Theatre in St. Paul. However, a link on the theatre web site to nearby restaurants caught my eye, and suddenly I was reading about “a great and mighty Kurdish tribe called the Babanis.” Five hours later we were at Babani’s Kurdish Restaurant on St. Peter Street in St. Paul. Everything we tried was delicious.
For a first course Jerri ordered Babani’s version of tabouli salad made with couscous rather than bulgur, and I tried Dowjic, a chicken rice soup described as having a tangy bite that “has traditionally kept many a Kurdish traveler from wondering too far from home.” I didn’t get a taste of the tabouli, but when Jerri sampled the dowjic, she said, “This is really good.” And then, “You should try to make this.”
So I searched the web, found some recipes and experimented with them until I had a version that we thought was as good or even better than that wonderful soup we first had at Babani’s. Chicken and rice soup is wonderful on a cold winter day, but lemon, basil and yogurt make dowjic a light and refreshing soup for all seasons. Here is how to make it.
1 chicken bouillon cube
1/2 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast
1 quart chicken broth
1/2 cup uncooked rice
Juice of 1 to 1 1/2 lemons (about 3 T)
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 T finely chopped fresh basil or 2 tsp. dried crushed basil
Put the chicken breast in a saucepan with enough water to cover the meat. Add the bouillon cube and a dash of black pepper. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer slowly for 9 to 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the meat to finish poaching in the hot liquid for another 10 minutes while you are starting the soup. Remove the chicken to a plate to cool and cut into 1/2 inch cubes.
In a large pan or pot, bring the chicken broth to a boil, then add the rice and lemon juice. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 15 minutes. With a fork or wire whisk, beat the egg until lemon colored in a medium size bowl and then beat in the yogurt.
Using a 1/4 cup measure, very slowly add one cup of the simmering stock to the yogurt, whisking constantly to prevent the yogurt and egg from curdling. Whisk the yogurt mixture into the broth.
Add the chicken, salt and basil. Stirring frequently, heat the soup over low heat until it is steaming, but do not boil. Taste and add a little more lemon juice or salt if needed.
NOTE. When I squeeze a lemon for this soup, I remove the seeds but leave the pulp in the juice. About 3 tablespoons suits our taste, but you may want a little more or less. In an emergency, you can use reconstituted juice. This soup is great for lunch too!