This dish of thick yellow split peas (or lentils) with wide egg noodles is an essential part of Jaffa’s Arabic cuisine. After the smat is poured into serving bowls, chopped parsley and onions prepared two ways — fried and pickled — are sprinkled on top. “Not everyone does it,” says chef Nadir Abu-Seif, “but the most important thing when making this dish is to add the onions’ frying oil to the soup while continuously stirring it. The oil is full of good flavor, like onion confit, and it also helps to separate the noodles that would otherwise stick to each other.” It is important to mix the smat well while cooking, so the oil is incorporated and doesn’t float to the top. The soup is served immediately and should be finished the same day, otherwise the lentils will continue to absorb the liquids and the soup will turn to a thick puree.
1 teaspoon citric acid (or ½ salt and the juice of ½ lemon)
2 tablespoons sumac
1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
Cook the lentils in a large pot with 2 liters / 2 quarts of water over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally and cook until the lentils soften and fall apart.
Turn off the heat. Add salt, cumin, and turmeric, and blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Return to a low heat and cook uncovered.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the sliced onion, stir lightly, reduce to a low heat and fry until golden brown. Stir occasionally. Drain the onions and set aside but do not discard the oil. Instead, pour it into the lentil soup and add the noodles, stirring continuously to prevent the noodles from sticking to the bottom of the pot and making sure that the oil has blended into the soup.
Mix the chopped onion with salt, citric acid, and sumac.
When the noodles are soft, pour the smat into deep bowls. Place the fried onions on top and garnish the edges with the sumac-pickled onions and chopped parsley. Serve hot.