Mutabal, also spelled “moutabal” or “muttabal”, is a traditional Syrian and Lebanese recipe. It’s a mixture of roasted eggplant, tahini, garlic, olive oil, salt, and lemon, used as a dip.
Mutabal is widely consumed in the Fertile Crescent region, while in other areas the terms “baba ganoush” and “mutabal” are used synonymously. Like many regional foods, the subtle differences are generally lost on non-locals, but to those who grew up eating mutabal the two couldn’t be more different.
- When buying your eggplant, be sure to look uniformly-sized eggplants. Bigger ones are more bitter. You want your eggplant to be shiny and smooth, without bruises or pits in the skin.
- Some people use vinegar for their mutabal, but we prefer lemon or lime juice. Adding finely chopped coriander or parsley can also assist with this.
- Roast your eggplant over an open flame to imbue it with delicious smoky flavor. Oven roasting will also accomplish this.
- Although some recipes may encourage you to try grilling, frying, or braising the eggplant, that won’t work for mutabal. Those methods of cooking are delicious, but for mutabal to have its characteristic flavor and texture you’ll need a roasted eggplant.
- If you’re using yogurt, go full-fat as low-fat yogurt won’t have the same effect or flavor.
This dip will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days.
How To Make Mutabal
The most important, and time consuming, step in making mutabal is roasting or charring your eggplant. It’s vital that you get this right to achieve mutabal’s deep, complex flavor profile.
Traditionally, you’d want to roast the eggplant on an open fire. It should be charred on the outside and soft on the inside. You can use a grill or your oven to roast the eggplant if you don’t have an open flame handy.
Roasting the eggplant as close to the heat source as you can is important, too, as this will achieve the delicious charring. It can take anywhere from 45 to 60 minutes to roast your eggplant, depending on its proximity to the heat source and the level heat itself.
Poke a couple of well-placed holes in your eggplant prior to roasting to let some of its moisture out and prevent aubergine explosions. This will help thicken the texture of your mutabal dip.
You’ll know that your eggplant is ready when its outside is cracked and wrinkled, with the skin mostly blackened by the cooking process.
Your eggplant will need to cool after roasting, so be sure to take advantage of this downtime to mix your garlic and salt, then adding the tahini to this mix.
Then scoop your eggplant pulp out from the skin and add to this mixture, stirring with a fork or mortar and pestle. If you don’t mind cleaning up, or have someone to clean up for you, you can use a food processor, although this will affect the texture of your dip. Throw in your lemon juice and any spices or seasonings, and that’s all! You’ve just made your very own batch of delicious, nutritious mutabal.
The Difference Between Mutabal and Baba Ganoush
Mutabal’s flavor is far earthier, with strong notes of roasted or charred eggplant and plenty of garlic. This richness is balanced by the addition of lemon or another acid. Sometimes mutabal will be lightly seasoned with cumin or paprika, but rarely anything else.
Baba ganoush, on the other hand, is far more fragrant, with more ingredients. Baba ganoush often comes mixed with onion, cucumber, or tomato, and includes extra spices and pomegranate molasses.
Some people include tahini in baba ganoush, and some don’t. Mutabal always comes with tahini, and although both can contain yogurt many recipes ignore this.
Baba ganoush, like mutabal, will vary from one region to the next. However, because baba gaoush has so many ingredients, these regional variations are far more distinct from one another, with the addition of peppers, walnuts, and onions not uncommon.
Is This Eggplant Dip Vegan
The only non-vegan ingredient in mutabal is yogurt. You can simply make this mutabal recipe without any yogurt, thereby creating your own vegan mutabal!
What To Serve With Mutabal
Typically, in the Arab world, meals are served with a large platter. People share food, family-style, with lots of smaller dishes comprising a single meal. It’s not unlike Spanish tapas.
Mutabal is no exception to this.It generally appears on the meze platter, accompanied by a flatbread and perhaps some hummus, yogurt, olives, and some pickles.
Serve it as a side to grilled meat.
What to Drink with Mutabal
Although Mediterranean food often accompanies wine over dinner, alcohol is more scarcely consumed in the nations to which mutabal is home. Instead, black tea, mint tea, or a cardamom scented coffee, served in a tall glass, is a traditional accompaniment to any Middle Eastern meal.
If you want to try an alcoholic beverage to go with mutabal, arak, an anise-flavored drink, is popular in Syria and Lebanon.
In Armenia, it’s common to add cumin to mutabal, to complement the citrussy flavors imbued by lemon juice. Often, Armenian cooks will also add onion to their mutabal, making its texture a little close to that of baba ganoush.
In the Levant, mutabal recipes often also use anar, or pomegranate, seeds. This really sweetens the mutabal, and can give it some of the pomegranate’s instantly recognizable color.
An Israeli variation, named salat hatzilim, is a similar dish. For salat hatzilim, the eggplant is fried or grilled, and mixed with mayonnaise, and chopped fried onions. Lemon and salt are also often used in this dip. Generally, olive oil is used as a topping for this variant.
In some parts of the Eastern Arabia and the Persian Gulf, thinly chopped coriander or parsley leaves are added either as a topping or mixed through the mutabal. This is to bring a pleasant, citrussy freshness to the dip, balancing out the deep, smoky flavor of the eggplant.
More Delicious Middle Eastern Dips
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