One bite: turshi amba | Bleader

One bite: turshi amba




Around these parts, torshi (or turshi, tursu, etc) is most often seen as that little dish of tiny green olives and fuschia-colored turnips that precedes the meal in certain Middle Eastern restaurants. But torshi is really just the umbrella term for an infinite variety of mixed pickled vegetables. It's the giardiniera of the Levant.

There are almost as many different formulas for torshi as there are vegetables to make it with, and I came across a particularly powerful and extraordinary version at the newish Attra Middle Eastern Grocery. It's a chunky mustard-colored medley of rough-cut vegetables—chile peppers, garlic, baby corn, turnips, two different kinds of cucumber, and carrots—in a thick, dill-flecked, almost currylike sauce redolent of cumin, turmeric, fenugreek, and the unmistakable pungency of an Indian-style mango pickle. Trot up a flight of stairs after eating a bite and they'll know you're coming on the next six floors.

Turns out this stuff is in fact liberally dosed with the pickled-mango condiment known as amba, popular not just in India, but in Israel too, where it's commonly used to dress falafel.

Attra owner Claudine Babico, whose Assyrian-Iraqi family converted their dollar store five weeks ago into the well-stocked Middle Eastern grocery it is now, says her mom makes a mean turshi amba at home, but the stuff they sell in the store is imported from that exotic Arabia of the midwest, Detroit. The family likes to eat it on rice. I've found it damn near irresistible with scrambled eggs, and for lunch today a few bites were just the thing to clarify the ichthyous fattiness of some leftover grilled mackerel.

Another tasty item for sale by the pound at Attra—among many others, including an unbelievably varied collection of mixed nuts and seeds for snacking—is makdous, oil-cured baby eggplants stuffed with walnut and chile pepper.

Attra Middle Eastern Grocery, 6257 N. McCormick, 773-267-2004