Sarma | Turkish Leaf Wraps
Sarma comes from the Turkish verb sarmak which means ‘to wrap.’ Sarma most commonly refers to a dish of vine leaves rolled around a filling. Some say that the origin of stuffed vine leaves dates back to 335 BC when Alexander the Great besieged Thebes. Starving Thebans cut what little meat they had and rolled it inside grape leaves. It is has also been suggested that the technique was later adopted by the Byzantines who refined the technique by using different varieties of leaves and fillings. Today, vine leaf dishes are a staple in Turkish cuisine.
Although sarma can be made from any variety of leaves (including cabbage, cherry, fig and hazelnut), it is normally prepared with grape leaves. Traditionally, the filling is rice based. When served cold, the rice does not include meat. Conversely, when served hot, minced meat is typically included in the filling. In addition to savory versions, sarma is sometimes used to reference sweet dishes (saray sarma and fıstık sarma) where phyllo dough is used to wrap a mixture of crushed nuts and syrup.
Sarma can be found in every region of Turkey. Rolled grape leaves with olive oil (zeytinyağlı yaprak sarma) is an Aegean Region speciality.
Sarma are available all year.
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