Tarhana is the first “instant soup” ever. It is said that the name comes from the phrase “dar hane” meaning “poor peasant,” as, according to legend, it was the only dish a poor peasant wife could quickly prepare as an offering to a visiting sultan. It was invented by the Central Asian Turks as a way to be able to consume yogurt in every season, and over time it spread to the neighboring Balkans. It is a tradutional Turkish food with an important place in the local culture.
In the areas of Akseki and Manavgat in southeastern Turkey, wild plums grow naturally, and sour tarhana gets its sourness from this wild plum. In other regions of Turkey, such as Kütahya and Bolu, sour tarhana is usually made with cranberries instead of wild plums. The traditional preparation method involves blending together chopped tomatoes and red pepper, then cooking this mixture over a fire with wild plums and their seeds and a bit of salt. When the plums are tender, the mixture is removed from the fire to cool. Once cool, wheat kneaded into the mixture. The mixture is left in the pot for 5-6 hours until completely cool, then spread over a clean cloth and left to dry. The tarhana takes on a brown color and a crumbly consistency. Once complete, it can be stored in cloth pouch for use in the wintertime. Sour tarhana is prepared locally as a soup, mixing the tarhana in water and adding vegetables and spices. The soup is served topped with melted butter and red pepper powder.
Sour tarhana is generally produced for household use, although some producers sell their excess at the village markets once a week. Local households produce about 8-10 kg each of sour tarhana. In general, total production is about 2-3 tons per season. Today, however, younger generations are not interested in the time-consuming production process, and lack the facilities to make tarhana at home. Industrially-produced tarhana soup mixes sold in supermarkets are replacing traditional versions, meaning homemade sour tarhana is at risk of disappearing.