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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  • 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

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amba fish tacos

amba fish tacos

I’m back in Hong Kong, and thinking about all the wonderful food from our trip to Chicago (and also briefly Austin, Philadelphia, NY, and NJ). When we were at home with friends and family we cooked nothing but dolma, and when we were out and about we ate nothing but tacos. There are a million amazing taquerias in Chicago, so no matter where we happened to be, whether visiting my in-laws or my sister on the north side, friends on the south side, my family in the suburbs, passing through a random neighborhood on the go, or driving down familiar streets… we could always find good tacos within minutes.

But there was one day I actually made some tacos at home for a change, and I just had to share them with you, because they’re my current favorite thing to make for dinner: beer-battered fish tacos with quick-pickled amba, cilantro, radishes, and a little squeeze of lime juice.

Amba, in case you haven’t encountered it, is essentially pickled green mango—it’s unbelievably tangy and bright, and it goes perfectly with fried food. Store-bought versions are almost always made with mango, but some homemade versions are even made with cabbage, carrot, or peppers (the uniting feature is that they’re all pickled in a fenugreek brine. Traditionally, amba is served with falafel (in Iraq and many other places), so it’s no surprise that it also works wonderfully with perfectly crispy Mexican-lager-battered tilapia. Here, instead of classic amba sauce made with green mango, I’ve chosen semi-ripe mangoes, which are delicious on these tacos as more of a slaw than a condiment.

amba fish tacos
amba fish tacos

amba fish tacos

yield: 20 tacos (about 2-3 tacos per serving)
total time: 45 minutes
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amba (quick pickled mango)

  • ½ of 1 medium red onion, sliced thinly

  • Apple cider vinegar

  • 1 large semi-ripe mango, peeled and julienned*

  • ¾ teaspoon yellow curry powder (preferably fenugreek seed heavy)

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

  • Salt, to taste (about ⅛ teaspoon)

  • 1 pinch crushed red pepper

  1. Soak the red onion in a couple tablespoons apple cider vinegar for 10 minutes.

  2. Strain the red onion (discard the oniony vinegar), and combine with the mango, curry powder, extra virgin olive oil, salt, crushed red pepper, and some fresh apple cider vinegar to taste (about 1 teaspoon). Set aside.

the tacos

  • 1-2 cups neutral oil, for frying (e.g., canola, sunflower, peanut, etc.)

  • ¾ cups all purpose flour (90g) + about ⅓ cup more for dredging

  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

  • ¼ teaspoon salt + more to taste

  • Half of an 11.2 ounce bottle Mexican-style lager

  • 1 ½ pounds tilapia (675g), cut into about 20 pieces

  • 20 small corn tortillas, warmed for a few seconds in the microwave or on the stove

  • Amba/pickled mango (above)

  • 5 limes, each cut into 4 wedges

  • 8 radishes, sliced thinly

  • Cilantro leaves for garnish

  1. Let ¾-inch of oil heat in a 10-inch frying pan (preferably nonstick or cast iron) set over medium heat, and make the batter while you wait on the oil to heat. The oil is ready when you dip the end of the fish in it and it immediately sizzles.

  2. In a small mixing bowl, combine the flour, black pepper, and ¼ teaspoon salt, then pour in the half bottle of beer, mix everything together (don’t overmix, and enjoy the leftover beer while you cook), and set aside.

  3. Pat the fish dry with paper towels, and season with more salt (to taste). Once the oil is hot, dredge the fish in flour, shake off all the excess, and dip in the batter. Remove the fish from the batter and flap the fish on the side of the bowl once or twice to let the excess drip off.

  4. Gently lower the fish into the hot oil, and then repeat with about 4 more pieces. Let them cook for about 3 minutes per side (carefully flip them over once they’ve turned golden brown on one side, and cook thick pieces a bit longer). Lower the heat if they brown too quickly, and keep an eye on them.

  5. Remove the fried fish to a paper towel-lined plate, and work in batches until they’re all fried (you can keep the plate in a 200°F oven for about 30 minutes to keep them warm).

  6. Build the tacos at the very last second before eating (or set up a taco bar/taco table if you’re cooking for a group). Each corn tortilla should be topped with a piece of fish, some pickled mango, radishes, and cilantro leaves. Serve with a lime wedge on the side.

Make ahead the day before: Prep all the components (mix together dry ingredients for batter, cut the fish into pieces, prep the limes, radishes, and cilantro). Make the mango topping and store in the refrigerator overnight. Soon before frying and serving, set everything out on the table or buffet. Whisk together the batter and fry the fish about 30 minutes before you plan to eat. Bring the fish to the table while they’re still hot.

How to store leftovers: Leftovers keep in the refrigerator for a couple days, and can be reheated in a toaster oven at 350°F until crispy on the outside and warmed through. They’ll be a little dryer leftover, but still delicious. The mango topping keeps in the refrigerator for several days. You can even freeze everything if you’d like to store it longer than a couple days (freeze the fish on a plate or sheet pan, then place in a tightly sealed plastic bag, and reheat in the oven. Keep the mango slaw in the freezer, and then let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight, or microwave it on low until it thaws. The texture of the mango will be softer after thawing, but it’s still super delicious and holds up pretty well. And, of course, corn tortillas freeze beautifully).

* Semi-ripe mangos are firm, but yield slightly to pressure. Their flesh is tangy and sweet, and firm enough to hold its shape when sliced. Slice a bit off the bottom to steady it, then slice big fillets from the wide sides, and little fillets from the skinny sides. Peel the fillets with a vegetable peeler. Slice thinly, then julienne the slices (use the following GIF series as a guide).

B-min.jpg

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