Throughout the holy month of Ramadan; Balila stands, draped in red and blue tizaar fabric, can be found adorning the blessed city of Makkah (Mecca). Balila is a Hijazi dish made of boiled chickpeas, cucumbers, vinegar, and an array of spices and hot sauces. Balila Sellers often dress in traditional Meccan clothing while selling the spicy delight. They are found on street corners, at Ramadan markets and outside of masjids until the wee hours of the morning.
The Hijazi version of balila is a bit different from the Lebanese or Levant version.
The stalls are managed by men trying to attract customers by praising their chickpeas using certain traditional sayings popular among Meccan residents.
كلوا بلِّلوا يا اولاد
“Kuulu Balilu ya awalad”
“Oh Boys Come and Eat The Balila”
or in Meccan slang they chant:
“هادي بليله بللوكي سبعه جواري خدموكلي”
Hadi balila ballaloky, saba’a jawari khadamooki.
Meaning “This is a well made balila, seven girls have made it”.
Some innovative young Saudi sellers sing folk songs to draw attention to their stalls.
The first video below demonstrates how Balila Hijazia is made (the traditional method made with boiled beets):
Fresh chickpeas, boiled with a bit of baking soda are always used, (never canned or bottled)!
The Balila is served in a cup with torshi (pickled vegetables), cumin, a bit of salt, a squeeze of fresh lemon, vinegar dissolved in water and a splash of hot sauce.
The recipe for a quicker version:
2 cups of boiled chickpeas
1/8 cup of white vinegar
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp red pepper
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 tsp hot sauce
1 cucumber chopped in squares
1/8 tsp red food coloring
1/2 cup white vinegar
A photo of Balila from the street in Makkah!