What are dolma?
The term dolma covers anything in Turkish cuisine that is filled, whether peppers, mussels or melons. The word dolma, therefore, simply means “stuffed”. The Turks love to stuff anything that is hollow with goodies.
If you order dolma elsewhere in Europe, instead of stuffed vegetables, you often get rolled up vine leaves with a rice filling. In Turkey, however, these vine leaves are not called dolma but sarma. If you want to know more about Turkish stuffed vine leaves, read on. The verbal confusion stems from the fact that stuffed vine leaves are called dolmades in Greece.
The Turkish love for stuffing things already existed in the fifteenth century, when stuffed onions, apples and offal were served in the sultan’s palace. The trend continued into the following centuries and things like pumpkin, mackerel, leek and even lamb ribs were added to the repertoire.
Did you know...
The two most commonly used fillings today are savoury rice with onion and minced lamb and sweet rice with cinnamon, currants and pine nuts. The most traditional filling is the one with minced meat; in Turkey, the vegetarian variant is also called yalanci dolma or fake dolma (literally, “liars’ dolma”).
How to make dolma
Vegetables, such as zucchini, tomato, pepper and eggplant are cut open down one side and, if necessary, hollowed out. A filling of minced meat, chopped onion, chopped green herbs, garlic, tomato cubes and rice is mixed with olive oil and put into the vegetables. The vegetables are put upright in a casserole dish and simmered in water until everything is cooked.
Dolma is a dish where chefs can let their creative side emerge and the variations are endless. Sometimes the rice is replaced by bulgur and chickpeas are also used. The filling can also consist of white fish and shrimps, or liver, nuts and cranberries, to name just a few.
How to eat
For an authentic Turkish dinner, eat a selection of different types of dolma, served hot with a scoop of yoghurt.
Greek dolmades and Turkish sarma are stuffed vine leaves. Although strictly speaking they do not belong under the heading dolma – dolma are stuffed vegetables while stuffed vine leaves are considered “rolled” – the dishes are similar. The names are therefore regularly used interchangeably.
Dolma are also served cold, for example, as part of a mezze table. The vegetables are then usually sprinkled with a generous layer of oil – this keeps the filling juicy and ensures that the dish stays fresh for longer.