Surum — Homemade Pasta with Yogurt-Garlic Sauce

Every once in a while a reader will ask for a specific recipe that stumps us. This time the request came from distinguished author, physician, and instructor, Dr. Carolann S. Najarian.

Her request was for Surum.  Dr. Najarian mentioned an essay she wrote about her visit to Turkey in 2005, which was led by Armen Aroyan. 

One passage, which makes a clear reference to ‘surum’, was written during her visit in Kharpert.

Dr. Najarian wrote:
“Armen had already told us two local specialties would be served – Kharpert kufteh and surum! Surum! My aunt Hasmieg and I couldn’t wait! For years we have enjoyed surum (or serim) in our family, but today, few people are familiar with this dish – it is not in any recipe book or on any menu. It is a forgotten food! Hasmieg and I simply could not believe that surum was here, in this desolate town. During the summer, on the days our grandmother baked the flat round bread on the sheet of zinc – the sahje – over the outdoor fire, she would make surum for lunch. Some of the flat rounds of bread would be cooked until thoroughly dried and hard making it possible to store the breads for weeks while others were taken off the sahje while still soft. These she rolled and placed in a large baking pan layered with garlic, butter, and with her own madzoon (yogurt), and then baked. This is surum!”

After searching through my resources, I found  a recipe called ‘Surrum’ in the cookbook, Treasured Armenian Recipes. The dough preparation is labor-intensive, but back-in-the-day there were no grocery stores with ready-made pasta, so everything was made from scratch. I could envision a group of village women helping each other to make the dough. After all, it couldn’t possibly have been a one-person operation!

When reading the recipe below, don’t be put-off by the directions. In case this recipe sounds appealing but you don’t have the time or interest in making homemade pasta, I’m adding a time-saving version of this recipe at the end of this post, thanks to my Aunt Arpie. Remember her? She’s the one from our video on “How to make Boorma”.

Surrum, from the cookbook, Treasured Armenian Recipes

Yield: 6 servings

Dough Ingredients:
5 cups flour
1 Tbsp. Salt
1 ½ cups lukewarm water
4 Tbsp. Melted butter
1 tsp. Sugar

Dough Directions:
1. Make a dough of the above ingredients.
2. Divide dough into 15 equal pieces. Place on a baking sheet and cover with a damp cloth. Let stand for ½ hour.
3. Roll out each piece with a long type rolling stick to same size as the inside space of your oven. Sprinkle flour when rolling.
4. While dough is rolled on the stick, take it to the oven and spread it directly on the flat surface directly over the heating unit at 375ºF. (Robyn’s Note: Make sure the bottom surface of your oven is clean!)
5. Bake ½ minute on one side; turn over and bake another ½ minute on the other side. Leave door open while baking to keep dough soft and not browned too much.
6. Take the baked dough to the table. Fold twice the same way. Sprinkle a few drops of water and fold again 4 times until you have a 1 inch wide long strip. Put aside and cover with a dry towel. (Are you following all of this??)
7. Continue the same process with the remaining pieces of dough.
8. Pile all the strips on top of each other. Cut the pile into 2 inch long pieces.
9. Arrange these pieces in a pan close to each other with the cut sides up to let sauce run down.

Sauce Ingredients:
2 quarts madzoon
1 tsp. salt
½ lb. Butter, melted
garlic (optional)

Sauce Directions:
1. Prepare sauce by heating the madzoon mixed with salt. If madzoon is too thick, dilute with a little water.
2. Then blend the melted butter with madzoon. (If using garlic, it can be thinly sliced and sauteed in the butter.) While hot, pour sauce over the dough on the pan and serve immediately.

Aunt Arpie’s Easy Pasta with Garlic-Yogurt Sauce
Yield: 4 to 5 servings

1. Sauté 2 to 3 cloves of thinly sliced garlic in 4 Tbsp. butter until garlic is soft. Cool slightly.
2. Stir in 1 to 1 ½ cups plain yogurt. Set aside.
3. Boil ½ lb. shell-shaped pasta according to package directions. Drain.
4. Place cooked pasta in serving bowl; toss with garlic-yogurt sauce.
5. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Garnish with chopped parsley (optional).
6. Serve immediately.

NOTE: You can use any shape pasta you like, but Aunt Arpie recommends the shell-shaped pasta because the sauce collects inside each shell for a deliciously tangy bite.
Oh, and eat this with a spoon!

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  1. Bonnie February 22, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    Thanks for the link to Dr. Najarian's page, Robyn. I am very happy to have "met" her and learned of her work through your site.

  2. Hye Alcheeg April 20, 2020 at 9:26 pm

    My Medzmama was Kharpetzi from Husenig, she made Surrum and after the yogurt sauce she put Carmelized onions (sliced thin and fried in butter or oil until browned and crispy. This was usually made for holidays along with roasted leg of lamb and Salata! Delicious!!!!

    1. Robyn Kalajian April 22, 2020 at 6:05 pm

      That sounds delicious! Caramelized onions make everything taste better; thanks for sharing.

  3. Emee de Mercurio September 11, 2023 at 6:25 pm

    Sorry to bump an old post, but I just wanted to pop by and share a story about the Treasured Armenian Recipes book. Last week, I found this book at my local family-owned bookstore. They get in loads of vintage cookbooks from local community centers, churches, orgs, and when homes are cleared out. Today was my first time cooking Armenian food (I made a version of the Izmir Kufta on page 31) and googling for an Armenian Yoghurt sauce brought me to your site and this recipe. It was super cool to find someone else who also has this old school cookbook enjoying the traditions and recipes shared in it. The next dish I make will be this one and I will take extra time to appreciate it considering how rare it is to see. Thank you for sharing all of these recipes, your culture, and part of your family with the rest of us.

    1. Robyn Kalajian October 1, 2023 at 3:01 pm

      How very kind of you, Emee! Our website was created with that exact intention – to share our recipes, family stories, and Armenian culture!


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