lula subs

lulu sub

Way back when I first started blogging, I posted a recipe for kebab gu samoon, which is pretty much an Assyrian kebab on an Iraqi sesame roll. It’s one of the classics I grew up with, and my family most often makes ours with lula kebabs, an Assyrian and Armenian classic. The key to a good lula kebab is to add a ton of cilantro and green onion for a wonderfully fresh flavor. They’re delicious grilled (a little smoke complements all those herbs), but lately I’ve been taking inspiration from their flavor and baking them in a lula-inspired sub with zesty banadurah harrah, stretchy mozzarella, and fresh cilantro.

Baked subs are a really wonderful party trick, because you can make and prep all the components ahead of time, quickly assemble and bake them at the last minute, and then casually serve them on a sheet pan. Add a really simple green salad (arugula, olive oil, lemon, black pepper, and lots of parmesan), and you’ll blow your guests away.

lulu sub
lulu sub
lulu sub
lulu sub

How to make ahead

The day before

  • Bake the lula meatballs

  • Make the banadurah harrah (spicy tomato sauce)

  • Shred or slice the cheese (if it’s not already sliced/shredded)

  • Wash and dry the cilantro topping (refrigerate in a slightly damp towel-lined container)

  • Slice the baguettes (store everything in the refrigerator, except for the baguettes)

Right before serving

  • Microwave the meatballs for about 1 or 2 minutes (to warm them through, but don’t overcook them)

  • Microwave the banadurah harrah until it’s hot.

  • Toast the bread and assemble the subs, then bake and garnish them as in the recipe.

  • Once baked, they’re best served right away, but they’re still really delicious leftover.

lulu sub
lulu sub
lulu sub
lulu sub

lula subs

yield: 4 giant or 8 medium servings
active time: 40 minutes
total time: 1 hour
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PDF to print

  • 4 10-inch baguettes

  • fully cooked lula meatballs (below)

  • banadurah harrah/tomato sauce (below)

  • 200g/2 cups mozzarella (shredded or slices, not fresh)

  • a handful of cilantro leaves

  1. Prep all the components (the tomato sauce and meatballs, below).

  2. Preheat the broiler.

  3. Cut the baguettes almost all the way through, and then open them like books. Place on a sheet pan cut-side-up. Place the baguettes under the broiler for just a couple minutes to toast them (this takes about 4 minutes in my broiler, but it may take less in yours).

  4. Remove the baguettes from the broiler, and place the meatballs evenly over the baguettes. Spoon some banadurah harrah over the meatballs, followed by the mozzarella (1/2 cup per sandwich). Broil them just until the cheese melts and bubbles (about 3 minutes in my broiler). Garnish with cilantro and serve immediately.

lula meatballs

  • 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs (or 1/2 cup fine bread crumbs) (55g)

  • 1/3 cup milk (75g)

  • 2 pounds lean ground beef (900g)

  • 2 cups chopped cilantro (80g), plus a handful of leaves for garnish

  • 1/2 cup chopped green onion (30g)

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 1 clove garlic, crushed through a press

  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided in half

  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F / 204°C convection.*

  2. Place the bread crumbs in a large mixing bowl. Pour the milk over them, and let them sit for about 5 minutes to absorb it. They should become bread-like and mushy, but not soggy.

  3. Combine the hydrated bread crumbs with the ground beef, cilantro, green onion, pepper, garlic, and half the salt. Mix everything together evenly, but careful not to over-mix it or compress it.

  4. Shape the meat mixture into about 20 meatballs, each weighing about 50g. Do not squeeze the meatballs together too tightly—they shouldn’t be perfectly smooth.

  5. Place them on a parchment-lined 18x13 inch sheet pan, sprinkle each meatball evenly with the remaining salt, drizzle evenly with 1 or 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and bake for about 15 to 20 minutes. If they aren’t browning to your liking, feel free to place them under the broiler or turn the heat all the way up for the last couple minutes of baking (keep an eye on them, to make sure they don’t burn). While you’re waiting, make the sauce.

banadurah harrah sauce

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1/4 cup chopped green onion

  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed through a press

  • 1 28-ounce can (or 2 14-ounce cans) diced tomatoes (800g)

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

  • 2 teaspoons dried mint

  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice

  1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a 10-inch skillet for 1 minute. Add the onions and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  2. Add the diced tomatoes with their juices. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring every minute or so, until the tomatoes dissolve into a thick sauce and their juices evaporate. If you're not using a wide frying pan (e.g., if you're using a tall saucepan), this may take longer.

  3. Add the salt, dried mint, crushed red pepper, and oregano, and give it a stir. Remove from heat, add the lemon juice, and stir together. The sauce should not be too thick or too thin (there should not be any runny liquid. If it’s too runny, return to heat for a couple minutes, until it’s the right consistency).

* If you don’t have a convection oven, no worries—they might just take a little longer to bake, and you might need to increase the temperature a bit to get them to brown.

lulu sub
lulu sub

see more:

sheet pan ras al asfour

sheet pan ras al asfour

My great grandfather, baba Paulos, always said that hot drinks cool you down. He was known to sip scalding hot chai outside in the middle of summer. And apparently, science agrees. But I’ve always been more of a cool drinks in summer/hot drinks in winter kind of person, despite this inherited familial wisdom. And as it starts to heat up in Hong Kong (hello, perpetual nose sunburn! Even with all the SPF50 in the world...), I usually start moving away from stews and toward sheet pan dinners this time of year. As it starts to warm up wherever in the world you are, I highly recommend taking your favorite soups and stews, throwing all the ingredients on a sheet pan, coating everything in a combination of seasonings and oil, and roasting until cooked through and nicely caramelized.

Today I’m sharing a sheet pan version of my family’s ras al asfour (which literally means “birds’ heads,” but just serves as a description of the teeny tiny meatballs). All the flavors and features of the original stew are present here (most prominently: tomato, potato, tiny little meat balls, tangy pomegranate molasses, and baharat), but in a much less stick-to-your-bones mid-winter kind of way. Or if you’re like my great grandfather, stew season is just starting up, and you might want to give the original a try instead. In any case, stews are appropriate year-round in my book, so you can’t really go wrong, but if you’re looking for something a little lighter, this is the ras al asfour for you.

sheet pan ras al asfour
sheet pan ras al asfour

sheet pan ras al asfour

yield: 4 servings
active time: 25 minutes
total time: 50 minutes
download a
PDF to print

the meatballs

  • 3/4 pound (340g) ground beef

  • 2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses (14g)

  • 1/2 of 1 jalapeño, seeds and pith removed, finely minced (15g)

  • 1/3 cup finely minced parsley leaves (25g)

  • 1/4 cup finely minced red onion (35g)

  • 1 garlic clove, crushed through a press (5g)

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (3.5g) (or to taste)

  • 1 teaspoon baharat (2g)

  1. Combine the ground beef, pomegranate molasses, jalapeño, parsley, red onion, garlic, salt, and baharat. Stop mixing once it's well-combined.

  2. Shape into about 50 very small meatballs, about 1 heaping teaspoon (not tablespoon) each. To shape, squeeze one in the palm of your hand, and then use both of your palms to gently roll the ball around to smooth it out.

everything else

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (14g)

  • 1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses (7g)

  • 2 teaspoons baharat (4g)

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (3.5g) (or to taste)

  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, chopped in half (300g)

  • 1/2 of 1 small red onion, sliced (55g)

  • 2 cups 1/2-inch-diced potatoes (240g)

  • the above meatballs (raw)

  • (optional) rice or bread for serving

  • (optional) greens for serving

  1. Preheat the oven to 475°F (245°C).

  2. Stir together the olive oil, pomegranate molasses, baharat, and salt.

  3. Combine the tomatoes, red onion, and potatoes, and pour the olive oil mixture over the veggies. Toss everything together to coat evenly. Add the meatballs, and then very gently fold everything together to coat the meatballs.

  4. Spread everything out on a sheet pan into 1 even layer. If any of the meatballs have fallen apart, nudge them back together. Bake for about 20 minutes, just until the potatoes and meatballs are cooked through, and the whole thing is caramelized (if it’s caramelizing too quickly, cover with aluminum foil for the last few minutes). Serve over rice or alongside bread, and optionally also with greens.

sheet pan ras al asfour
sheet pan ras al asfour