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Chi Kofte with Rita Chemilian

“I would say to my uncle ‘I’m making Chi Kofte,’ and he would say ‘wonderful Rita! I’m coming over right now!’” Rita Chemilian tells us as she prepares her flank steak for the Chi Kofte. “So I would make it every week.” she smiles.


Chi Kofte is an Armenian delicacy made with raw steak. Sometimes referred to as ‘Armenian sushi,’ the quality of a Chi Kofte is found in how rich and red the finished plate appears. Rita Chemilian has been making Chi Kofte since she was a little girl. She shared her tips with us to make the perfect spread for entertaining important guests and uncles alike. Watch the video below!



Rita’s Chi Kofte Tips

“You might be asking,” Rita says, “are we going to be eating raw meat? Yes.”


Rita recommends freezing the meat before you start, especially if it’s your first time making Chi Kofte. “Handling meat is a delicate matter, so we want to make sure the meat is always cold.” This helps keep the meat fresher, and ensure it is nice and cool when you serve.”


Rita also takes out a bowl of ice cubes which she can add to the meat as she puts it in the processor, so none if it is just sitting and warming up while she de-veins it. Don’t worry about water! The bulgur will absorb any moisture you add from the ice.


On ingredients, Rita walked our producer through what was necessary, and what was more optional. The fresh basil can be substituted for dry, since it will be going through the food processor. If you want any fresh greens, pick the parsley and green onions, because you’ll probably also be using them in your side dish.

Also, Rita adds the red pepper paste because she likes the spice. You can add more, or you can remove it entirely.


Rita takes her steak out of the freezer and begins to remove the veins, and as much fat as she can. Meanwhile, dicing the steak for the food processor. “The more fat you remove, the redder and nicer the Chi Kofte will look!” She puts an ice cube into the food processor for every 5-6 chunks of meat.


“When I was a little girl I would make Chi Kofte to entice my uncle to come over!” she tells us while she works on the steak. “Chi Kofte is a delicacy. It’s a very special food for happy occasions.”

Add salt, basil and red peppers to the meat in the processor. “You want to ensure the meat maintains its nice rich red.” Rita tells our producer as she adds the peppers. Then, process the meat for about 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the processor a few times to make sure no chunks of meat aren’t processed. “You want it very very fine.” she adds.


Once the meat is done processing she puts it on a plate and covers it with plastic wrap. “I don’t want to let it sit, so I’ll put it in the fridge while we do other things.”

Rita puts the meat in the fridge and gets out a huge flat mixing bowl for her bulgur and a bowl of water. She pours two cups of bulgur into the bowl, and dips her fingers in the water. She splashes a little water into the bulgur, never measuring. “We want the bulgur to be a little moist. We call it achki chapov,” she says, meaning ‘eyeballed.’ “We’re going to add some cumin, some salt, and some pepper.”

Never measuring anything, Rita adds a few pinches of cumin and salt, and a spoonful of pepper paste.


“This is the key part of making the Chi Kofte.” she says, putting a towel under her bowl so it doesn’t move. “You have to rub the bulgur against the bulgur to make it softer. It’s like doing your laundry--or like how you used to do your laundry--by hand.”


Rita works the grains for 10 minutes. This is a labour intensive process. “Once you think it’s ready to go, you should do a little bit more.”


Rita gets the meat from the fridge, and fills her water bowl with ice cubes. “You still want to keep the meat cool as you go.”


She shows our producer how to knead the meat and bulgur together. She leaves some bulgur to the side of the bowl and mixes it into the meat in stages. “When do you know that it’s ready? It’s nice and soft, and nice and moist.” She lifts the Chi Kofte out of the bowl. “And it’s one ball.”

Rita says there’s two options to plate Chi Kofte. Either you can create little balls of meat and pile them in a pyramid on your plate, or, “if you have a real Chi Kofte lover,” you can flatten a large ball of Chi Kofte on their serving plate for a single serving. Once the single serving portion is flattened, use a fork to make grooves in the meat across the plate.


“This is where everyone’s rushing!” she says. “Like ‘hurry! Hurry! Hurry! We’re hungry!’”

On either presentation method, you then can drizzle on some oil, sprinkle some extra cumin, and add fresh parsley and green onion.


By this point, your guests should have arrived, so wash your hands, and enjoy the Chi Kofte!


Prepared in a food processor, and served uncooked.

Dietary Notes

Dairy Free, nut free, peanut free

Ingredients

  • 1 lb (500 g) flank steak

  • A bowl of ice cubes

  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) salt, divided, and more to taste

  • 6 fresh basil leaves

  • 2 red peppers

  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) red pepper paste, and more for a spicer Chi Kofte

  • 2 cups (480 mL) fine bulgur

  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) cumin

  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) aleppo pepper

  • 1 spanish onion

  • Olive oil, parsley and green onions for the garnish

Note

Consuming raw or undercooked meat carries increased risk of foodborne illness. Refer to your local health guidelines prior to making this dish. Ensure you are selecting meat for your dish which is of the correct standard.

Steps

  1. (Optional) freeze your flank steak for a few hours so that it remains cool through the preparation process. This helps with food safety when consuming raw meat.

  2. Dice 2 red peppers coarsely, and 1 onion finely and set them aside separately.

  3. Chop the steak into cubes and remove the fat and any veins you find.

  4. As you chop the steak, put it in a bowl with a few ice cubes, to keep the temperature low.

  5. Combine in the food processor the steak and ice cubes, 2 teaspoons (10 mL) salt, 6 basil leaves, and the diced red peppers. For a spicier Chi Kofte, add an additional 1 tablespoon (15 mL) red pepper paste now.

  6. Process the mixture until the meat is smoothly ground, about 2 minutes, scraping the sides of the processor a few times.

  7. Remove the meat from the processor, cover it, and put it in the fridge.

  8. Pour 2 cups (480 mL) into a large mixing bowl and moisten the grain with 2 tablespoons (30 mL) water. Mix the water in evenly with your hands.

  9. Add 1 teaspoon (5 mL) salt, 2 teaspoons (10 mL) cumin, 2 teaspoons (10 mL) aleppo pepper, and 1 tablespoon (15 mL) red pepper paste to the bulgur.

  10. Combine the bulgur and the spices with your hands, and work the bulgur grains against each other between your hands and knuckles so they soften. Sprinkle more water into the grains to keep the mixture moist.

  11. When the bulgur begins to soften, add the diced onions and continue grinding the grains together. The total process with the bulgur will take 10 to 15 minutes.

  12. When the bulgur is soft, prepare a fresh dish of ice water nearby, and add the meat into the bulgur. Knead the meat and bulgur to combine, adding splashes of ice water to keep the meat cool, and the mixture moist. When the meat and bulgur are fully incorporated, and hold together in a big ball, the Chi Kofte is ready to plate.

  13. Roll out small balls of Chi Kofte in your hands, each about the size of an apricot, and place them on your serving plate. Pile the Chi Kofte balls on the plate to create a sort of pyramid shape. Once the plate is full, drizzle the pyramid with 1-2 tablespoons (15-30 mL) olive oil, sprinkle on fresh parsley and chopped green onion, and serve.

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