Sharing this traditional Turkish dessert called aşure/ashure or Noah's Ark pudding to anyone regardless of race, culture, and belief symbolizes the true meaning of friendship and unity among God's people.
Isn’t it amazing how a single serving of a dessert or simple dish can give so much meaning to the world?
Indeed, it is. And what makes it even more wonderful is to see people sharing the same values of friendship and solidarity regardless of their differences in culture, religion, geographical location, etc. through a common practice in which their tradition holds so dearly. Yes - that’s exactly the "message" that the observance of making aşure/ashure in Turkey gives to its people all throughout the passing years.
What is Aşure?
To those who had the chance to live or visit Turkey (and its neighboring Middle Eastern countries), you may probably already guess what this dessert is all about. Yet to those who are still wondering, let me humbly introduce to you what aşure is and what makes it so important to the Turkish people.
Aşure (pronounced "ah-shu-reh" in Turkish) is a traditional Turkish dessert made from about 7-15 different varieties of grains, nuts, and fruits mixed together to form a porridge-like pudding. The word “aşure” is derived from the Hebrew word “asor” which means “the tenth” or more literally as “the tenth day” as the Aşure Günü (which means “Day of Aşure” in Turkish) usually falls on the tenth day of Muharram - the first sacred month of the year in the Islamic calendar. On this month (and especially on the Aşure Günü), preparations of this traditional dessert are being made in huge amounts. This will be shared with families, friends, and sent to neighbors in several small bowls of individual servings. Through the years, this has become a common practice traditionaly observed by most people in Turkey (Turkish or non-Turkish) as well as to some of its neigboring Middle Eastern countries.
How Aşure Came To Be
Aşure has long been a part of the culinary tradition of Turkey. This traditional dessert originated from a very popular story or a legend about Noah and his ark.
To summarize briefly, the story tells of Noah and his family together with some animals aboard a large vessel or the “ark” of which they built to save themselves from the great flood. After the long journey above high waters, the great flood has finally subsided and the ark rested on dry land, yet Noah and his family almost already run out of food. So in order to save themselves from starving, Noah immediately decided to gather all the left over fruits, nuts, and other remaining grains in his storage and mixed them together. The way Noah and his family prepared and cooked all the ingredients that were left from their storage resulted in a porridge-like pudding which we now call “aşure” or Noah's Ark pudding.
"The Prophet Noah called his people to the religion of God for nine hundred and fifty years. When his people insisted on unbelief and persisted in their wrongdoings, God ordered him to build an ark. After completing the construction of the ark, Noah embarked in it, upon God's command, and of each kind - a male and a female, his family, except those who are against the Word had already gone forth, - and the believers." (Qur'an 11:40)
" I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons' wives with you. You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them."
Noah did everything just as God commanded him. Genesis 6:17-22 (Bible-NIV)
" By the twenty-seventh day of the second month the earth was completely dry. Then God said to Noah, "Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you—the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground—so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number upon it."
So Noah came out, together with his sons and his wife and his sons' wives. All the animals and all the creatures that move along the ground and all the birds—everything that moves on the earth—came out of the ark, one kind after another. Genesis 8:14-19 (Bible-NIV)
Mount Ararat, also known as Ağrı Dağı in Turkish is situated in the highlands of Ağrı, a city in the Eastern Anatolia region of Turkey between Doğubayazıt and Iğdır near the borders of Iran and Armenia. It's main peak - known as Great Ararat, is the tallest peak in Turkey which rises to 5165 meters (16,945 feet). This has been a very popular mountain site of several searches for the remains of Noah's Ark. The huge floating vessel (the ark) where Noah and his family along with some animals had been secured during the great flood is believed to have rested on Mount Ararat after the great flood had subsided.
Celebrating Aşure Month in Turkey
The Turks love aşure and valued the significance of the story that goes along with it. This may well be one of the reasons why aşure has become one of the oldest and most cherished traditional dessert in the Turkish cuisine.
Every year, the Muslim and Christian Turks as well as those who migrated to Turkey prepare huge amounts of aşure in their respective households to share individual bowls of the pudding to its friends and neighbors. This practice has long been observed in almost all regions of Turkey to commemorate the day when Noah and his companions landed on dry land and feasted on a meal made from the leftovers in the ark after their long months of journey during the great flood.
As this tradition has long been treasured so dearly for many years, a festive celebration of this practice is done in Turkey every year – known as the Aşure Month. This is the month which immediately follows the Kurban Bayramı or Feast of Sacrifice which is, a religious festival observed among the Muslims.
Every year during the Aşure Months in Turkey, huge pots of aşure are now being prepared not just from each household but it also branches out to some establishments, such as in supermarkets and malls which observes this tradition. Usually, single servings of aşure are placed in styrofoam bowls or transparent plastic containers and are given to the employees as well as to their customers for free during a particular day (Aşure Günü) within the Month of Aşure.
During the past few years, the Aşure Months in Turkey were usually held in January. Though this changes every year as the special days and religious holidays move 10 days forward each year based on the Islamic calendar.
How To Make Aşure
Traditionally made aşure or Noah’s pudding in Turkey usually consists of dry beans, wheat, and other grains, cereals and varieties of nuts and fresh or dried fruits mixed together and cooked to make a wonderfully delicious pudding which is then shared with families, neighbors and friends regardless of what their religion or beliefs may be.
If you haven’t tried eating this sweet traditional dessert which comes with a sweet story from the past, you should try doing it at home. Although how aşure is prepared varies between people, the regions, and with each individual taste. In view of this, the pudding does not really have a one single recipe. Traditionally though, aşure is said to have about 7 to 15 varieties of ingredients which usually include wheat, grains such as rice, beans, dried fruits, nuts, sugar, etc. Some renditions may include adding pomegranate seeds, rose water, sesame seeds, lemon peel and even lentils.
In my own aşure recipe, I always prefer to
add orange peels and cinammon to add a little fruity taste as well as a slight
brownish color to my own version of Noah’s pudding. (see photo below)
Get Your Own Turkish Cookbook!
is the homemade aşure or Noah’s pudding
recipe that I’ve prepared in my own kitchen during this year’s Aşure Month in Turkey.
- 1 cup barley
- 1 cup white kidney beans
- 1 cup chickpeas or garbanzos
- 1 cup rice (short-grain)
- 1 cup raisins
- 1 cup sugar
- 10 cups water
- 10 pcs dried apricots (diced)
- 10 pcs dried figs (diced)
- 1 tbsp orange rind
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp lemon juice (optional)
- walnuts (crushed)
- dried figs (diced & previously soaked in warm water)
- dried apricots (diced & previously soaked in warm water)
- Wash the barley thoroughly. Measure 4 cups of water in a pot and bring to boil in high heat. Immediately add the barley and cook for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Turn the heat off and leave the barley (in this water) overnight.
- Repeat the same procedure for the chickpeas and white kidney beans leaving them overnight in the same water they were boiled in.
- Measure 4 cups of water in (each) three separate pots. Boil the barley, white kidney beans and chickpeas until cooked. Discard the water they were cooked in and leave to drain.
- Remove the skins of the white kidney beans and chickpeas.
- In a big pot (this will be your main pot), put in 10 cups of water.
- Add the barley, white kidney beans, chickpeas, rice, orange rind and bring to a boil for about 10 -15 minutes over high heat.
- Stir and add the sugar, raisins, dried apricots, dried figs, and the rest of the ingredients while reducing the temperature to medium heat. You may also add water from time to time if its necessary since the barley absorbs a lot of water.
- Stir occasionally.
- Continue boiling for another 15-20 minutes or until fully cooked.
- Turn off the heat and leave the pot to rest for about half an hour.
- Pour into small bowls and garnish with diced dried figs & apricots, chopped walnuts, and fresh pomegranate seeds (optional).
Afiyet Olsun! (It's the Turkish way of saying, "Have a good appetite!")
Significance of Aşure to the Turkish Culture
In Turkey, the preparation of Noah’s pudding in every home is not just about tradition but more of a commemoration of the great story of “Noah’s Ark”. And as everyone in Noah’s ark feasted on the meal of leftover grains, dried fruits, nuts, and everything they could find to make a dish to fill them up, they also feasted on the spirit of sharing which is a symbol of unity among God’s creatures.
In Turkey, people believe that sharing aşure should not only be within the family but it should also be extended to friends and neighbors or everyone in the community. This is a common nature of Turkish people - their warm hospitality and friendliness and a sharing-attitude is an act alone that strongly symbolizes the true meaning of friendship, peace, unity and harmony among people of different cultures and beliefs.
This is the true significance of making and sharing aşure or Noah’s pudding.
Until this day, the observance of Aşure Günü which means preparing and sharing aşure on the Month of Aşure is continuously practiced not just by Muslims but also to Christian communities in Turkey and in other parts of the world.
I, for one, am not a Muslim yet every year, I prepare a huge pot of aşure at home. Yes – huge enough for my own family to feast and to share individual servings of the pudding in bowls just to make sure my friends who come to visit may get a simple taste and that my next-door neighbors will be able to get the same.
I have come to love this feeling of being able to give and share something - and most of the time, it is usually returned. This is the symbolic significance of love, friendship, and harmony through sharing – regardless of everyone’s belief. That’s why, the one’s who got used to prepare aşure or Noah’s pudding would always love to share it and will continously do it – a practice that has long become a tradition in Turkey.