Found in: Turkish cuisine
Tarhana (Turkish), tarkhina, tarkhana, tarkhwana (Persian ), trachanas/trahanas (Greek traxanas) or (xino)chondros ((ksyno)xondros), TRAKHANA/TARKHANA (Bulgarian), kishk (Egypt), or kushuk (Iraq) are dried foods based on a fermented mixture of grain and yoghurt or fermented milk, usually consumed as soup (Persian Ash-e tarkhina dough ). As it is both acid and low-moisture, it preserves milk proteins effectively 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 cuisine trahana contains only cracked wheat or a cous-cous like pasta and fermented milk. In Cyprus, it is considered a national specialty, and is often flavored with bay leaf, wild thyme, and fennel seed. They are cooked as soup by adding them to stock or water - or to milk (giving them similarity to breakfast cereals).
Trahana may be stored as small cakes or as coarse lumps.
Nowadays, tarhana soup is available as a convenience food in the form of dehydrated soup in packets.
Hill and Bryer (1995) argue that tarhana is akin to trakton/tractum, a thickener Apicius wrote about in the first century, which most other authors consider to be a sort of cracker crumb. Dalby (1996) connects it to the tragos/traganos described (and condemned) in Galen's Geoponica 3.8. Weaver (2002) also considers it of western origin.
Perry (1997), on the other hand, argues that the phonetic evolution of traganos to tarhana is unlikely, and that it probably comes from Persian tarkhane. He considers the resemblance to traganos and to traxys 'coarse' coincidental, though he speculates that traxys may have influenced the word by folk etymology.
In Persian language sources the name of this food is mentioned in the form of Tarkhana by al-Zamakhshari in his dictionary, in 11th century, and in the form of Tarkhina in Jahangiri encyclopedia (named after Jahangir the Mughal emperor of India), in 13th centruy CE. Tar in Persian means wet or soaked and khan or khwan (both spelled the same and W is not pronounced) means dining place/table, or food, or large wooden bowl. Therefore, in Persian it would mean the watered or soaked food that quite 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 prepared by mixing flour, yoghurt or sour milk, and possibly cooked vegetables, salt, and spices (notably tarhana herb); letting the mixture ferment; then drying, grinding, and sieving the result. The fermentation produces lactic acid and other compounds giving tarhana its characteristic taste and 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. (Daglioglu 1999)
Francoise 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.
O. Daglioglu, "Tarhana as a traditional Turkish fermented cereal food: its recipe, production and composition", Nahrung/Food 44:2:85-88, 1999
Andrew Dalby, Siren Feasts: A History of Food and Gastronomy in Greece, London, 1996. ISBN 0-415-11620-1, p. 201.
Elisabeth Luard, The Old World Kitchen, ISBN 0553052195
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.
Charles Perry, "Trakhanas Revisited", Petits Propos Culinaires 55:34 (1997?)
William Woys Weaver, "The Origins of Trachanas: Evidence from Cyprus and Ancient Texts", Gastronomica 2:1:41-48 (Winter 2002) (not seen)
Kishk, some versions of which are very similar
Tarhana herb, sometimes used to flavor tarhana
The Hungarian tarhonya, a kind of noodle whose name comes from tarhana