Sunday, August 8, 2010


You'll remember during my post on homemade yogurt I mentioned that I used it for bushala. Today, I share with you bushala.

Everyone, meet bushala. Bushala, meet everyone.

Bushala is an Assyrian yogurt soup with barley and green veggies (crunchy and leafy greens). It's a soup that I think is best eaten lukewarm or cold, so it's a perfect year-round meal. And it's one of my favorite foods.

Hearty and mild all at the same time

I don't know if all families go ga-ga for bushala as much as mine, but my maternal grandfather has actually written a (multi-verse) song about bushala. Yes, you read that properly, a song about a yogurt soup. But I think Assyrians love to sing about everyday objects, like this song about yalikhtas, decorative handkerchief-type things we dance with at weddings.*  So maybe a song about bushala isn't so weird after all?

*A wedding entrance, littered with dancing ladies 
holding colorful yalikhtas (marked by arrows)

This post will likely fall under "interesting, but no thanks" to many people out there. And that's understandable; bushala may be a bit of an acquired taste. Not because I think there's any weird ingredients in it, but because typically Americans aren't as used to eating yogurt as a savory dish as they are eating it sweet. Plus, it's an entire bowl-full of yogurty goodness, which may be just a bit too much for some. But if you love yogurt as much as I do and are willing to experiment, I'd love to know what you think about it!

Buen Provecho,

p.s. Betty- your cake is NEXT on the blog... stay tuned..

Bushala, adapted from my mom and an Assyrian church cookbook

Note: The amounts of ingredients listed below are ideal for me. But feel free to play around with the amounts of ingredients to your liking...
If you don’t like green pepper or celery, don’t use them (or replace them with something else). Use less swiss chard or spinach if you don’t like too much greenery in your soup. My recipe has double the amount of barley my mom uses because I like a heartier soup; use less for a more traditional bushala recipe. Use less or more jalapenos depending how spicy you like your foods.


1 cup pearl barley (equivalent to ~ 3 cups cooked pearl barley)
12 cups (lightly watered down) yogurt*, preferably homemade
1 egg
1/3 cup flour
2 cups celery, coarsely chopped (~4 stalks)
1 cup green pepper, coarsely chopped (~1/2 pepper)
1-2 jalapenos (or more), finely chopped
1-2 bunches swiss chard*, stems separated from leaves and both coarsely chopped
4 cups packed spinach, coarsely chopped
½ cup parsley, chopped (~1 bunch)
½ cup cilantro, chopped (~1 bunch)


1. Cook barley until done either on the stovetop or in the slow cooker.
I used my slow cooker the day before and combined 1 cup barley + 2 ½ cups water and cooked on high for ~4 hours, or until done. The liquid should be absorbed and the barley tender. If liquid remains, re-cover and cook for another hour or two; if the barley is dry but not tender, add ½ cup or so more liquid and cook for another hour or two. (from my How to Cook Everything iPod touch app)

2. In large sauté or frying pan, cook the celery, green pepper, jalapenos, and ends of the swiss chard (reserving the leavy greens) with a little bit of water until softened and almost done.

3. While cooking veggies, prepare the soup base: In large stockpot, beat together egg, flour and ~1/2 cup water until well combined. Add the watered down yogurt* and combine well.

4. Add the mostly-cooked veggie mixture (from step 2) to the stockpot. Bring the yogurt to a simmer/ low boil while constantly stirring and cook until veggies are done. (At least 15 minutes) This key is step- you don't want to overheat the soup as the yogurt can curdle. Pull up a chair and just stay with your pot the entire time, making sure to keep it at a simmer.

5. Add leafy portion of swiss chard and spinach and continue to cook until the vegetables are tender. Add cilantro, parsley, and salt to taste. Stir until combined and cook for another minute or two.

6. Remove from heat. Although it's great fresh, if you have time, store it overnight in the fridge before eating as the flavors will have a chance to come together. Bushala may be served piping hot, fridge cold, or at room-temperature. I prefer mine served at lukewarm temperature (I think the flavor is most intense when not served at the temperature extremes...)

* Note:
When making this recipe I used 6 cups water to 6 cups yogurt. For me this was definitely NOT yogurty enough. Next time I’d definitely add much less water, if any at all. But that’s likely because I was raised eating super yogurty bushala; the amount of water you use is up to you.


Al said...

Just stumbled across this recipe today.

I'm Assyrian and I've been eating Bushala for decades but I've never seen a recipe using jalepenos. My mother might consider it apostasy but I'm willing to try it.

Alicia said...

I was having a bushala emergency and couldn't get my mom on the phone, your recipe really helped! Just wanted to say thanks!!

Jacqueline said...

Thanks Alicia!! "Bushala emergency" is a pretty serious event- glad I could help. :)

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