Sunday, May 9, 2010

Melokhia bi Dajaj (Chicken with Melokhia)

Melokhia is as I can best describe it one of those things where the history behind it is more interesting than the dish itself.Melokhia is a green leafy vegetable that belongs to the same family as the jute plant.It resembles spinach but when cooked acquires the texture of okra.Melokhia is one of those things were either you like it or hate it.There is no in between.Melokhia is derived from the Arabic word for "royal" because dishes made with this vegetable were greatly enjoyed by royalty especially the 7th century Umayyad caliph, Mu'awiyya. Unfortunatly, the 10th century Fatimid Caliph of Egypt, Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah didn't quite agree.Al-Hakim believed that its consumption led to a life of debauchery and banned its cultivation and consumption.

Today melokhia is enjoyed throughout Egypt and in Lebanon and Jordan.Traditionally it is made into a soup by the same name or is used as a sauce for chicken and rice dish.

Yield:6 Servings
4 1/2 lbs. chicken breasts, chopped into pieces
4 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 onion, peeled, chopped
6 cardamom pods, optional
salt and pepper
2 or 3 - 14oz. melokhia, frozen, chopped

For the garlic sauce(takleya):
15 garlic cloves, peeled, minced
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. ground red chili pepper
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil

Basmati rice, to serve
Arab flat bread, to serve, optional

1.Heat the vegetable oil in a large pan and add the chicken pieces and cook in a medium -high heat for 5-7 minutes.Add the onions, cardamom pods, if using, and salt and pepper.Cook for 10-12 minutes more, stirring regularly.Add the melokhia and cook for another 10 minutes, till melokhia is cooked.Remove from heat and set aside.Keep warm.
2.To make the garlic sauce, heat the vegetable oil .Add the garlic, coriander, and ground chili.Stir.Cook sauce for about 8 minutes till it becomes fragrant.Remove from heat and add to chicken and stir.
3.Serve immediately with rice or serve layered with Arab bread on a dish topped by rice then followed with melokhia chicken/garlic sauce mixture.
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