Dolma is a family of stuffed vegetable dishes in the cuisines of the former Ottoman Empire and surrounding regions, including Turkey, Egypt, Albania, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, the Balkans, Greece, Iraq, Iran and Central and South Asia. Perhaps the best-known is the grape-leaf dolma, which is more precisely called yaprak dolma or sarma. Common vegetables to stuff include zucchini, eggplant, tomato and pepper. The stuffing may or may not include meat. Meat dolma are generally served warm, often with sauce; meatless ones are generally served cold, though meatless Dolma are eaten both ways in Iran. Both are often eaten with yoghurt.
The filling generally consists of rice, minced meat or grain. In either case, the filling includes onion, parsley, herbs and spices. Meatless fillings are cooked with olive oil and include dried grapes, nuts or pulses.
Names and etymology
Dolma is a verbal noun of the Turkish verb dolmak "to be stuffed", and means simply "stuffed thing".
Dolma, strictly speaking, is a stuffed vegetable, that is, a vegetable that is hollowed out and filled with stuffing. This applies to courgette, tomato, pepper, eggplant and the like; stuffed mackerel, squid and mussel are also called "dolma". Dishes involving wrapping leaves such as vine leaves or cabbage leaves around a filling are called 'sarma' though in many languages, the distinction is usually not made. Sarma is derived from the Turkish verb sarmak which means to wrap. Other variants derive from the Turkish word for 'leaf', yaprak.
In some countries, the usual name for the dish is a phonetic variant of 'dolma' or 'yaprak' (meaning leaf in Turkish); in others, it is a translation, sometimes the two have distinct meanings: Albanian: japrak; Arabic: , mahshi or dolma, mahshi warak einab (grape leaf); Aramaic: ''t'urrpehor yapraghe; Armenian: tolma/dolma; Azerbaijani: dolma, Bosnian: dolma; Bulgarian: LOZOVA SRMA(lozova sur'ma - grape-leaf sarma) ; Georgian: tolma''; Greek: ntolmas [dol'mas] (grape-leaf), gemista [jemis'ta] for vegetables; Ladino: yaprakes finos (grape-leaf); Montenegrin: japraci; Persian: dolmeh; Romanian: sarma (grape or cabbage leaf); Serbian: SARMA (sarma).
In Turkey, there are two main categories of dolma; those filled with a meat mixture: minced meat ("kiyma"), onion, pinenut, rice, oil and some spices and those filled with a rice mixture (without meat): rice, olive oil, pinenuts, currants (or dried figs/cherries), herbs (fresh parsley and mint) and spices . Meat dolma is always eaten hot; meatless ones, "zeytinyagli dolma" (dolma with olive oil) - "yalanci dolma" (false dolma), usually at room temperature, as a meze. Dolma with meat is a main-course and always served with yogurt. An egg-milk based sauce is sometimes used for yaprak sarma with meat in some regions. Common types include peppers (biber dolma), eggplant/aubergine (patlican dolma), zucchini/courgette (kabak dolma), plum (erikli dolma), collard greens (karalahana dolma), vine, chard and cabbage leaves (sarma), zucchini flowers (cicek dolma) or mussels (midye dolma). Tomatoes, pumpkin and some fruits such as quince, apple or melon are also used to make dolma in Turkish cuisine. Mumbar dolmasi is an interesting type of dolma for which the intestines of sheep are filled with rice-meat-bean mixture. In some regions rice is replaced or mixed with bulgur (pounded wheat). The inner part of some vegetables or fruits (which is hollowed out) can be added into the filling.
In Iran, the mixture of ground lamb or beef, rice, split yellow peas, and savory herbs is used as the filling, wrapped either in grape vine leaves (dolmeh barg mo - ), cabbage leaves (dolmeh kalam - ), eggplant or aubergine (dolmeh badenjan - ), tomato (dolmeh gojeh farangi - ), or in bell peppers (dolmeh felfel - ).
In Cyprus stuffed vine leaves are called koupepia (Greek) . Greekcypriots call the rest of the stuffed vegetables either gemista (which means something stuffed in Greek) or dolmades (as a plural for dolma). When they stuff with spices and rice, they call them pseftika (fake) and this is done either for fasting or especially when they stuff zucchini flowers.
Among Albanians, minced meat (usually beef), rice and sliced potatoes are cooked in spices (salt, pepper, vegeta (food), paprika), folded into large leaves of steamed or boiled collard greens, then baked. There are other variations depending on personal taste and availability. White cabbage is used mainly among Albanians in Kosovo, whereas Albanians in Montenegro use alternately collard greens or white cabbage. In Kosovo, this dish is known as "sarma."
In Azerbaijan, small portions of minced lamb meat (or lamb-and-beef) are mixed with leek and rice. They may be wrapped into grape or cabbage leaves, or be stuffed into eggplants, green peppers, tomatoes, apples or quince. The most common varieties of the Azerbaijani dolma are yarpag dolmasi (grape leaf dolma), kalam dolmasi (cabbage leaf dolma), badimjan dolmasi (eggplant dolma), bibar dolmasi (green pepper dolma), yalanchi dolma , pib dolmasi (meat wrapped into linden leafs picked up in mid-May), dali dolma , lavangi dolmasi , shirin dolma . Sour clotted milk is used as a sauce.
In Armenian cuisine, minced lamb meat with rice is wrapped into grape leaves (tpov tolma - ) or occasionally in cabbage leaves (kaghambi tolma - ). This dish is condimented with coriander, dill, mint, pepper, cinnamon and melted butter. Sometimes chestnuts and peas are part of the mix. Sour milk is often used as a sauce. Eggplants, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, onions, quince and apples are also stuffed with lamb meat and also called dolma. Echmiadzin tolma utilizes eggplants, green peppers, tomatoes, apples, and quinces.
In Romania, they are wrapped either in grape leaves (sarmale in foi de via), in cabbage leaves (sarmale in foi de varza) or in bell peppers (ardei umplui). They are often eaten with hot mamaliga and sour cream or yogurt.
Kaldolmar is a Swedish dish inspired by dolma, probably brought to Sweden by king Karl XII who was held captive by the Turks in Bender after losing the Battle of Poltava against the Russians. It is made of cabbage instead of grape leaves and contains minced pork or beef and rice. It is eaten with boiled potatoes, brown sauce and lingonberry jam.
In Iraq, the mixture of ground lamb or beef with rice is usually made with many different fillings on the same preparing pot, as well as pomegranate juice which gives it a unique taste. The Assyrians of Iraq may either call it dolma or yaprekh which is the Aramaic term for stuffed grape leaves. It is usually served with plain yoghurt (masta) or khalwah which is a yogurt mixture of cucumbers and spices similar to jajeek.
Middle Eastern cuisine
Alan Davidson, The Oxford Companion to Food. ISBN 0-19-211579-0.
Vegetarian Cold Dolma recipe aka. Sarma or Yalanchi (wrapped grape leaves)
Mussel Dolma recipe (stuffed vegetables)
Lahana Dolma recipe (wrapped cabbage leaves)