Chi Kofte (Armenian Steak Tartare) also has a Lebanese cousin called Kibbeh Nayyeh. They are nearly identical, featuring raw meat and bulgur wheat, but are shaped and served differently. With this recipe you can easily make both variations!
Some people have an aversion to eating raw meat and fish. I'm not one of those people! Bring on the steak tartare, the carpaccio, the sushi and sashimi. I fear you not! For I have grown up eating you, and think you're delicious.
To be specific, I have long been a lover of chi kofte, or Armenian steak tartare. If you live in Los Angeles and are hankering to make or buy some chi kofte, you are in luck.
Visit any Armenian market and you can buy the meat artfully prepared for this use (they have special machines). Otherwise, you will need to ask your butcher to grind your trimmed beef top round meat multiple times to achieve a similar texture.
You can also grind it at home the same way. If you do this, grind the paprika directly into your meat instead of mixing it in later. It takes extra work, but it's vital to get the silky texture of the meat. The beef should not be chunky like a French tartare. It should be smooth like a paste.
The other special ingredient in this recipe, other than the super-ground beef, is the bulgur, or cracked wheat. It is soaked with water and softened, and then all mixed together. You'll see that this recipe is extremely easy once you have acquired all your ingredients (namely the beef).
Chi Kofte vs. Kibbeh Nayyeh
Armenians shape their chi kofte (sometimes written cig kofte) into little chunks. They serve it with either gheyma (cooked ground beef with onions and parsley), salad (much like Israeli salad), or both. Some will drizzle theirs with olive oil as well. I personally like to take my chi koftes, smash them flat on my plate, top with gheyma, salad, and sometimes a drizzle of the oil.
My parents eat theirs with gheyma, and with the salad on the side. Others will take the chi koftes one at a time and actually dip them into the gheyma and take bites. It's really just personal preference. If this is your first chi kofte experience, try them all and see which technique you prefer!
For Lebanese kibbeh nayyeh, pat out the mixture flat in a serving dish and serve with extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling. Serve kibbeh nayyeh with pita bread to scoop up the meat and enjoy.
It's sometimes made with lamb instead of beef, and it is typically a simpler preparation than chi kofte. You can skip making the gheyma and salad, unless you really want to include them. They are not typical for the Lebanese style tartare.
Other recipes you may like
- Homemade Manti (Armenian Dumplings)
- Sulu Manti (Manti Soup)
- Armenian Meatball Soup
- Roza’s Tas Kebab
- Red Lentil Kofte (Vospov Kofte)
- Tomato Bulgur Pilaf
- Yalanchi (Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves)
- Dolma (Stuffed Grape Leaves with Meat and Rice)
- Ishli Kofte (Stuffed Kofte)
- Sini Kofte (Baked Kofte)
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Chi Kofte / Cig Kofte (Armenian Steak Tartare)
- ½ tablespoon unsalted butter
- 8 ounces ground beef
- 1 small onion finely chopped
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 2 medium tomatoes (or 4 plum tomatoes) ¼-inch diced (about 1 ½ cups)
- 1 cucumber peeled and ¼-inch diced (about 1 cup)
- 1 green Italian pepper (Cubanelle) ¼-inch diced (about ¾ cup)
- 4 scallions thinly sliced
- ⅓ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon sumac (optional)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 ½ cups grade #1 fine bulgur (cracked wheat)
- 1 ½ cups cold water plus more as needed
- 1 ½ pounds very fresh top round trimmed of all fat and ground 3 to 4 times until fine like a paste
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup sliced scallions
- ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
- Extra-virgin olive oil for serving (optional)
- Start by making the gheyma. Heat the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. When melted add the ground beef, stirring and breaking up into small pieces. When the beef has started to brown but is not completely cooked yet, add the onions and season with salt, pepper, and paprika. Continue to cook until the beef is well-browned and cooked through. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Stir in the parsley and remove from the heat. The gheyma can be made ahead and reheated as needed. It can also be frozen.
- For the salad, mix together all the ingredients and set aside until ready to serve. It will be quite juicy.
- Fill a small bowl with some water to use to wet your hands as needed during the mixing and shaping process. In a large mixing bowl, soak the bulgur with the 1 ½ cups cold water for about 15 minutes until absorbed but still wet. Add the meat and mix thoroughly with your hands. Season with salt, paprika, and pepper and mix well. Mix in ¼ cup scallions and ¼ cup chopped parsley.
- To shape the kofte, dip your hands in the water and grab a small handful of the mixture. Form it into a ball and then lightly begin to make a fist with your hand to make it a bit more oblong (but not completely flat) and leave finger imprints on one side. Place on a serving dish, dip your hands in water and repeat the process until all of the mixture has been used to form koftes. Garnish with the remaining green onions and parsley and serve with the gheyma, salad, and olive oil (if desired) on the side for topping.
- To make Lebanese Kibbeh Nayyeh, reduce the bulgur and water to ½ cup each (for 1 ½ pounds of meat), omit the herbs from the chi kofte mixture and instead of forming it into chunks, pat the entire mixture flat on a large serving dish, use the tines of a fork to draw decorative crisscrossing or diamond-shaped lines across the top, drizzle the top with olive oil (optional) and serve with a cake server or spatula for cutting and serving onto individual plates. Serve with pita bread to scoop up the kibbeh.
- This recipe uses kosher salt (aka cooking salt, kitchen salt, coarse salt outside of the US). If you are using table salt, definitely scale down the salt as that is a saltier type of salt! The type of salt will make a big difference in how salty your food tastes, so keep that in mind.
*All nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary with brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes and more.*