Ancient Babylonian Stew

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Ancient Babylonian Stew

Post by Dreamweaver » 26 Apr 2017, 21:17

Here is a modern recipe for an ancient Babylonian stew!
Unfortunately, we are not able to identify tuh’u and a few other ingredients in the recipe. The late Assyriologist Jean Bottéro—formerly of L’École Pratique des Hautes Études (EPHE) in Paris—translated numerous Babylonian recipes, a task for which he was uniquely qualified as both a scholar of ancient Mesopotamia and an accomplished cook, and we have used his translation as the basis for our work. [samīdu and šuḫutinnū—two of the ingredients we omitted—were “probably in the onion family.”]
Tah’u Stew

“There must (also) be the flesh from a leg of lamb. Prepare the water. Add fat, [ … ], salt, beer, onions, (an herb called) spiney, coriander, samīdu, cumin, and beetroot to throw into the pot. Then, crush garlic and leeks, and add them. Let the whole cook into a stew, onto which you sprinkle coriander and šuḫtinnū.”1
This recipe is sparse and does not list exact measurements. It was discovered on Yale Babylonian Collection Tablet number 4644, which includes 24 other recipes. Written in Akkadian, the tablet dates to c. 1750 B.C.E. We have attempted to replicate Tah’u Stew, and the ingredients and measurements we used are printed here. All of the unidentifiable ingredients have been omitted.2
Tah’u Stew (BAR’s variation)


1 lamb shank
3 cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil (We used fat in the form of olive oil; you could also use lard)
Salt to taste
2 cups beer (We used a wheat beer)
1 large onion, chopped (or 2 small onions)
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
3 beets, cooked, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 leek, sliced
Coriander to taste


1) Wash and prepare all of the vegetables for the stew. Chop the onion and beets.
2) Sear lamb shank on all sides with olive oil in a large pot. Add water, salt, beer, onions, coriander, cumin and beets. Let ingredients cook for 10 minutes on medium heat.
3) Chop the garlic and leeks.
4) Add the garlic and leeks to the stew and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let the stew simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally.
5) Take lamb out of the pot and pull or cut the meat off the bone; then return the meat to the pot. (The photo below shows a lamb chop; for a meatier stew, use a lamb shank, per the recipe here, or another cut of lamb.)
6) Sprinkle with coriander and enjoy a bowl of Tah’u Stew! We thought it paired well with crusty bread.
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