Lebanese Yoghurt Fritters – Oowamat recipe

By June 27, 2010 Recipes 14 Comments

As I was growing up in Lebanon, there were times when produce was hard to come by. The war created a siege around the country and shops didn’t always have stock. Bakeries would open a few times a month and hundreds of people would line up to get bread. Dad would take my oldest brothers with him to buy bread as there was a quota of 2 or 3 bags per person. We would also receive bags of flour, rice; legumes, oil, powdered milk, sugar, canned beef, etc, as form of national aid, or i’ashet. Power would go out for months on end as the fighting worsened, and even TV was a luxury. Once, my brother Fady and I were watching “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” on tape, and the power went off. The cassette player didn’t work on generator power because it was an old, power hungry machine. And so, six months went by: school finished, summer came, we played, read books, fought and reconciled, and then school started again; and then one day, out of the blue, the power comes back and what’s the first thing Fady and I do? Finish the last 10 minutes of “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”, of course.

You can imagine, when there’s hardly any fresh produce, things can get a bit less than imaginative in the kitchen. But imagination was never an issue in the Kassab family. When my siblings and I would ask dad to buy us cornflakes, he’d say, “Cornflakes? Just toast some Lebanese bread and mix it with milk”. Or when we asked for some donuts, he’d say “Donuts? Have mom make you some oowamat (Lebanese yoghurt fritters), or zlebiyeh”. I love dad. Pretty good solutions when his kids were being unrealistic in their demands. And guess what, we proceeded to have our Lebanese bread cornflakes and our oowamat donuts, enjoyed them and life went on.

Oowamat and zlebiyeh are two forms of fried dough, which in fact, and I admit this now, makes them very similar to donuts. What was good about them is that with the limited amount of items in the cupboard one could still make a decent dessert. Oowamat are made by mixing yoghurt, flour and yeast, waiting for the dough to rise, then deep frying them into beautiful round balls that are then dipped in sugar syrup. They are meant to be light and airy, but with a glassy crisp exterior. The sweetness comes solely from the sugar syrup and melds with the acidity of the dough and creates a tasty harmony. The sourness of the yoghurt makes the dough more like sourdough bread, but luckily, you don’t need three days to make these. It should take around 1 to 3 hours depending on the temperature for the dough to rise. You can make oowamat the traditional way, in small round balls around 3 cm in diameter by piping them straight into the hot oil; or, like me, you can have a bit of fun and make a free form fritter which I find makes for more crunchy “donuts” as it increases the surface area the dough has in contact with the oil. Oh, and by the way, I used agave syrup instead of sugar syrup, but you can use a medium consistency simple sugar syrup that can soak in as well as having a nice stickiness that clings to the outside shell.

Oowamat Recipe/Lebanese Yoghurt Fritters


  • 2 cups plain white flour
  • 2 cups Greek or Lebanese yoghurt (not that creamy European stuff that has no acidity)
  • 1 tsp yeast
  • Oil – enough to deep fry
  • Agave syrup or simple sugar syrup of medium thickness
  • Pine nuts to sprinkle on top


  • Mix the flour, yoghurt and yeast together and knead for a minute. The dough should be sticky but needs to be holding together
  • Wait for the dough to rise and double in size
  • Deep fry the dough in any shape you want and remove when golden red in colour
  • Soak in sugar syrup or agave for a minute and devour hot


  • Haha, I love the Honey I Shrunk the Kids story. I like your theory on maximising surface area for crunchiness too. Do you use agave syrup for convenience or another reason?

  • Anita Khalek says:

    That was a funny story!! Lebanese cornflakes :)) I love it and your Ouwamat looks delicious.
    Anita Khalek´s last blog post ..Intentional Cooking with Love

  • We all read about what happens around the world, away from our generally safe and secure lifestyle here in Australia. It still does not really hit home until you read something from somebody you know and their experiences.

    Your dad rocks, love his attitude, Lebanese cornflakes indeed.

    The oowamat sounds scrumptious and I like the idea of the pine nuts.
    sara (Belly Rumbles)´s last blog post ..Tokonoma

  • linda says:

    ahh you’ve been using your cheapo pine nuts again. No wonder you had pine mouth. Can you make this for us next time we come around? I love anything that’s deep fried, dipped in a sweet syrup makes it all the better.
    linda´s last blog post ..Kansai- Wynyard

  • Gourmantic says:

    Very touching story. The world needs to hear more about this kind of day to day life than the way media portrays war.

    These looks ‘slightly’ more healthy than donuts, right? Please don’t shatter my perceptions 😀
    Gourmantic´s last blog post ..Meet Your Japanese Barman- Asahi Beer Robot

  • Tony says:

    Those look so good! They remind me of my childhood–I haven’t had zlebiyeh in AGES!

  • Such an interesting read! These sound great, even better than real ‘donuts’ too!
    Betty @ The Hungry Girl´s last blog post ..Sushi Tei- Sydney CBD

  • brian_in_gib says:

    What a great, inspiring read Fouad. A little snapshot of family warmth from what must have been a nightmare outside. And top marks for parental improvisation.
    In Gibraltar, we make similar fried, syrupy doughnuts at Christmas time, though without yoghurt in the mix.
    Greetings from Gib,
    brian_in_gib´s last blog post ..All cookbooks should be like this

  • Moya says:

    What a beautiful recipe! I don’t like overly sweet desserts so this is perfect for me!
    Moya´s last blog post ..A Table for Fifteen – ATFT Workshop

  • I remember these because our téta (grandma) used to make them only for Epiphany; how she managed to make perfectly tiny marble-sized ones all the same size is beyond me! She made them with potato.
    Your dad sounds wonderful; I remember my aunt telling me that people were buying “one” egg at a time during those days. Yesterday, a lady in Deir el-Qamar shared her memories of the Israeli invasion in 1982.
    Lebanese have been through so much.

  • Excellent recipe. Thanks for introducing us to Lebanese cuisine. BTW, are you sure you are not THAT chef on ready, steady, cook?
    Ellie (Almost Bourdain)´s last blog post ..Momofuku Pork Buns

  • Ingrid says:

    Loved your story! Great recipe was a bonus! 🙂

  • Viviane says:

    Hahaha now we know how you got creative in the kitchen: must be that you picked after your dad!
    I love oowaymet and a couple of years ago I was introduced to Zlebiyeh filled with Labneh. Of course with this one you would skip the syrup dipping step and head to make it a savory sandwich 😀
    Viviane´s last blog post ..Bulgarian Cheese Stuffed Chicken Rolls

  • Fouad says:

    Hi Viviane! Waynek ya 3amme?
    Zlebiyeh filled with labneh! that sounds great! I’ll give that a go hehehe. Maybe crumb it in sesame seeds and zaatar afterwards!

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