Because this dish takes a long time, it was traditional in the town of Gaziantep to hire a professional storyteller to keep the cooks entertained while they rolled hundreds of tiny balls of meat and rice. Yuvalama is consumed in vast quantities during the three-day eating festival called Bayram that follows Ramadan.
The word yuvalama means ‘rolled’, and it is said that it takes one person four hours to roll 1 kilo of meatballs. Few restaurants serve yuvalama these days, because their kitchen staff just don’t have the time, but it remains a signature dish at the Gaziantep restaurant Yörem. Hatice Kalan, a rare female restaurateur in this male-dominated town, sits rolling and storytelling through the afternoon with a bunch of friends and employees. The meatballs they make go into her soup (decorated with a yin and yang of mint oil and paprika oil) and also get sold as takeaway to locals who add them to their own soups at home—grateful not to do all that rolling themselves (but missing out on the stories).