Ibn Sayyar al-Warraq's Kishkiyya

Ancient Hangover Cure

PHOTO: Kishkiyya, an ancient Iraqi stew used to cure hangovers.
Difficulty: Moderate
Cook Time: min

Try this 1,000-year-old hangover cure of kishkiyya stew from a Middle Eastern cookbook written by Ibn Sayyar al-Warraq in the 10th century and recently translated by Nawal Nasrallah in her book, "Annals of the Caliphs' Kitchens."


  • 3 pounds meat
  • 1/2 pound chopped onion
  • 4 ounces fresh herbs
  • Handful of chickpeas
  • 1 piece galangal
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Seasonal green vegetables, like chard
  • Kishk (see below for recipe, or substitute plain Greek yogurt)
  • Juice of unripe sour grapes (or unsweetened grape juice)
  • 6 grams cumin
  • 6 grams cassia
  • 1 gram cloves
  • 1 gram spikenard (or other aromatic root-based oil)
  • Cooking Directions

    Translated from Ibn Sayyar al-Warraq's cookbook:

    Wash 3 pounds meat and put it in a pot. Add 1/2 pound) chopped onion, 4 ounces fresh herbs, a handful of chickpeas, 1 piece galangal, and 1/2 cup olive oil. Pour water enough to submerge the ingredients in the pot. Let the pot cook until meat is almost done. Add any of the seasonal green vegetables and a little chard.

    When everything in the pot is cooked, add 1/2 of kishk.

    Pound them into fine powder and dissolve them in 2 cups juice of unripe sour grapes. Add it to the cooking pot.

    When kishk is done, add 6 grams cumin and an equal amount of cassia. Add a handful of finely chopped onion. Do not stir the pot. When the onion cooks and falls apart, add to the pot 1 gram cloves and a similar amount of spikenard.

    Stop fueling the fire, let the pot simmer and rest on the remaining heat, then take it down.

    This is how to make basic kishkiyya and it can substitute for all other kinds. However, you might add variety by making it less or more sour, to suit your taste, and putting whatever other vegetables you prefer.

    Translated recipe for Kishk:

    After you boil wheat and dry it, crush it coarsely and winnow it to get rid of all bran and finely ground grains (duqaq).

    Knead the sifted grains with enough hot water, and a small amount of yeast. Put the dough in a tub and leave it exposed to the sun. Uncover it during the day and cover it during the night. Do this for six-days or more until it becomes intensely sour.

    Finely chop as many kinds of herbs as you like. However, you should avoid endive and watercress because they are not good [with kishk]. Use a lot of tender-leaf leeks, cilantro, and rue. If you prefer to use finely chopped small round onions, do so by all means. You can also add eggplant, gourd, and cabbage. All these will make it quite delicious.

    Now add small and sour plum. Sour grape juice will be good, too. Knead together all the ingredients very well and leave the dough in a sunny place for five days. Then divide it into portions, which you shape into discs and set aside to dry out. When completely dry, thread them into necklace-like links, and hang them [for storage].

    If you like, you can substitute water [used in kneading the grains] with defatted sour yogurt. In this case, of all the herbs mentioned above, use only cultivated mint and parsley.

    Recipe Summary

    Main Ingredients: meat, onion, herbs, spices, kishk

    Course: Main Course

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