Tabbouleh vs. Eech: Is there a Difference?

Here’s where the debate begins. Is there a difference between tabbouleh and eech? Some say there is a difference; others say they are one-in-the-same.
Ask a connoisseur, and they’ll tell you that tabbouleh uses uncooked ingredients, whereas eech ingredients are cooked.
Frankly, it doesn’t matter to me one way or the other; they use similar ingredients and taste great. What else do you need to know?

For the record, I grew up eating the uncooked -sarma gurgood- version, pictured above.

When I spoke at St. David Women’s Guild last November, I served the members my maternal grandmother’s sarma gurgood and banerov hatz recipes. A few days later, guild member Lucy Hamalian, emailed me two recipes from her friend Helen Der Aprahamian – tabbouleh and eech. Helen is originally from Syria, as were my maternal grandparents – even so, their tabbouleh recipes are different.
Since my grandmother never made eech, I wanted to test Helen’s recipe, which was modified by Lucy.
(See my notes and evaluation at the end.)

Helen Der Aprahamian’s (Modified) Eech Recipe  

Eech, a cooked version of Tabbouleh
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Course Appetizer, Salad, Side Dish

Ingredients
  

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion (finely chopped – Cook half of it in olive oil and save the uncooked half to mix with parsley for topping.)
  • ½ green pepper (finely chopped)
  • ½ bunch flat-leaf Italian parsley (finely chopped – Use 3/4 of it in mixture and save 1/4 to mix with onion for topping.)
  • 1 8- oz. can tomato sauce
  • ¾ cup water
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 1 ½ tsp. dried mint (crushed)
  • ½ tsp. dried basil (crushed )
  • salt and pepper (to taste)
  • 1 cup bulgur, fine (#1 size)

Instructions
 

  • Sauté onion and pepper in olive oil until soft. Add tomato sauce, water, lemon juice and seasonings. Stir well, bring to a boil and let simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
  • Add bulgur, stirring well. Stir in 3/4 of the chopped parsley.
  • When cool enough to handle, scoop up a handful and shape into equal-sized sausage shapes until mixture is all used. up (or- I like to use a 1/3 cup measuring cup for a uniform shape and look when it is inverted. Sprinkle the top with reserved mixture of onion and parsley mixture.

Notes

This recipe’s yield varies: Makes 8 entree size portions, or 16 pieces for appetizers – or – since I used  1/3 cup measure for equal portions, the recipe yielded 10 (1/3 cup) servings.
  1. I used:
    •  a mixture of miniature red, yellow and orange peppers instead of green peppers.
    •  red pepper paste in addition to tomato paste plus enough water to create the 8 oz. of sauce.
  2.  The #1 bulgur softens nicely in the hot mixture, and holds its shape well for the presentation.
  3.  You can add seasonings of your choice to suit your taste.
My Evaluation of Eech:
Needless to say, we enjoyed it very much, but I’ll stick to my grandmother’s uncooked tabbouleh (sarma gurgood) rather than  cooked eech – only because there are fewer things to wash at the end!
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
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15 Comments

  1. JenFromAus July 30, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    I love eetch so much! My mum makes the best eetch with the right amount of ingredients 🙂 She's always said its like a poor version of tabbouleh salad because the less amount of parsley and burgurl. My mum is from a Lebanese/Armenian background but all of her cooking is mostly Armenian influenced.

    Reply
  2. Ara July 30, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    Tabbouleh and eech are similar. However, there are some significant differences: Tabbouleh uses a lot more parsley and mint; hence it looks green whereas eech is mostly bulghur. Also, some Lebanese versions use sumac and even cumin, which are absent from eech.

    Of course, there is the Aleppo version of tabbouleh, which uses much less parsley. And there are different variants of eech, as you pointed out, and some use cooked ingredients and some use raw.

    As long as it tastes good, who cares?

    Reply
    1. Robyn July 30, 2012 at 7:37 pm

      My feelings exactly!

      Reply
  3. Anonymous July 30, 2012 at 9:00 pm

    Hmmm, I grew up with Eetch, but it was never cooked (until I made a quinoa version). I always thought Tabbouleh was more about the parsley and fresh chunky tomatoes, where Eetch used tomato sauce. Strangely, I never encountered "regular" Tabbouleh until I was probably in college, so I always knew Eetch as Tabbouleh. To make it less confusing for others, I usually refer to it as the Red Tabbouleh. Either way, I never understood the cooking at all??? Then I've also never seen it as you have it presented above. That does actually make more sense though since it's Mock Kheyma, which would be shaped that way. I'm confusing myself even more now, since other people refer to Vospov Kufte as Mock Kheyma. As my Odar grandfather would say … "it all goes in the same spot," so it really doesn't matter. It does get very confusing though – imagine my surprise when I started hearing about Harissa everywhere I went, only to realize they were talking about the chile paste. 😉

    Reply
  4. Marash Girl July 31, 2012 at 12:59 am

    The folks from Marash call it Garmir Kufte, as it looks like raw kufte; (we use tomato paste & boulghour, fried onions, etc. etc.) and is NOTHING like tabouleh — doesn't look like it, doesn't taste like it. And no, we don't cook the boulghour!

    Reply
  5. sosie August 3, 2012 at 12:56 am

    I agree with Marash Girl…Tabuleh and eech are completely different.
    Next time you make eech, try adding in a good cup of sun dried tomatoes, I chop them up and toss them in the pan the last 10 minutes of sauteeing the onion… then, mix in some edemame at the end, it give the eech a new dimension and a great crunch 🙂

    Reply
  6. Ara August 3, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.

    Reply
  7. Ara August 3, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    There's a restaurant in LA called Mezze. It is run by a white guy (aka "foreigner/odar", non-Armenian LOL) but they have updated versions of Lebanese and Armenian dishes. Their tabbuleh includes fava beans, peas, almonds, and bacon. It's supposed to be very good. Check out their dinner menu: http://www.mezzela.com/dinner-menu.php

    Reply
  8. tasteofbeirut October 21, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    I love Armenian cuisine! However, it would never occur to me to compare tabbouleh and eech; I love eech, I just think the two are so different! Tabbouleh is ALL about the fresh silky-soft parsley, bulgur is barely there. Unlike eech which is the best salad for showcasing bulgur (in my humble opinion).

    Reply
  9. Anonymous December 10, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    Well done, eech…or, 'ich', is an amazing dish. Try adding a bit of allspice and/or cayenne to up the flavor punch. The best thing about it (as opposed to tabuleh), is that once you make it, the result will never go stale. Use the best extra virgin olive oil and you will have a true masterpiece.

    Reply
  10. Sonia December 18, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    I would like to add a description. the traditional EACH or GRGUDAG or KIMA has a lot of variations. instead of lemon, you can find recipes with AZOKH(which is the juice of unripe grape)or NRAN SHARAP (nran doshap, which is the juice of pomegranate). there are two main ways to prepare. with fresh tomato or tomato+pepper pasta.

    Reply
  11. VTA April 20, 2013 at 12:39 am

    i make eech often with red and green peppers. to me, it's very different from tabouleh, but they're both great. i'm not Armenian, so i discovered these as adult, and it never occurred to me that they might be considered the same, despite the bulghur in both.

    Reply
  12. Jill February 4, 2014 at 12:51 am

    Hi I was served and then orally given a recipe for what I thought was Ich , but it had lentils and onion and tomato paste. Would you know what this dish might be since it doesn't sound like your Ich. (which I'm going to make anyway it sounds delicious )

    Reply
  13. Gloria Hachigian-Ericsen May 13, 2017 at 4:19 pm

    I will always make sarma gugurd with the Bitias recipe my elders brought here. Serve it in romaine 'boats' yum. Now, all 4 of my adult children make it as well as one grandy. passing on our marvelous Armenian cuisine.

    Reply

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