Yemeni style Mandi – an all-time favorite rice dish made with grilled chicken, and simple flavored rice…
Aren’t there times when we feel scared to be excited about the days to come? Next week, we have a long holiday, thanks to the National Day holidays. After that, my sister and family will be with us for a couple of days enroute their journey back home. I feel I should also be going home just to catch a glimpse of my family. But thinking about the seven-day quarantine requirement, my mind tells me otherwise. What is the point in going home when you can’t even be in the midst of them and have to be locked up in a room all by yourself? Anyway, I am just trying to breathe and take days as it comes. Having said about breathing, the climate is beautiful these days, with a nip in the air in the mornings but we still have uncomfortable afternoons at times. Hope that the climate gets better with the days to come, InShaAllah…
Today’s recipe is something I have been wanting to master for a long time. Being in the UAE, Mandi is something that can be found in almost every nook and corner on the streets. When we get bored on eating biriyani, the first thing that comes to mind is eating Mandi. I have always wondered what is so amazing about this dish, that is so subtle in spices but still high on deliciousness. Mandi is a very aromatic Yemeni rice dish, where usually the chicken and the rice are baked together till done. The chicken is baked on the top of the rice and the drippings become a part of the flavoring of the rice. There are so many ways of even seasoning the chicken for the Mandi, going from a simple turmeric-paprika-salt and a nice pinch of red color to rubbing the chicken well in a Yemeni spice blend called “Hawaij”. This spice blend is said to be primarily a lot of cumin and black pepper, mixed in with some more spices very much used in Middle Eastern cuisine. The red colored chicken is usually what we always get here but going with some recipes I found online, the blend is what separates it from a restaurant style mandi.
My first few trials with the mandi wasn’t successful. I tried baking the rice in the oven and I got “kanji” aka mushy rice. Not that we didn’t eat it, but mandi is all about rice that stays separate from each other. The second time I did it, I got under-cooked rice, even worse! 🙁 Then I got HD to ask a few of his friends, who are cooks in Arabic households, and they told me that when the ovens give a heart attack, it is best to cook both separately. They also said they use the red spice blend, which I am sharing in the notes of the recipe card, in case you feel too lazy to pull out all the spices from your shelf. 😛 When the dish got done, I wasn’t really happy with the way it looked. I mean, we are so used to the red chicken, that the dark chicken felt a little off. But the flavor wise, I can’t comment how delicious this was. We literally cleaned it up the first time I made it during Ramadan – that is why you see night clicks for a rice recipe, and then when I have made it again, I had no patience to take pictures again. Lazy me… hehe…
Why I love this recipe – It is highly flavorful, and a heaven for weight watchers. There is very little fat being used – a little butter in the chicken and a little oil for sauteing the rice. There is no chopping involved – how much I love that! If you like, you may saute an onion into the rice, but I chose not to. It is a little time consuming, however, if well planned, it is a recipe that will allow you to binge watch a series on Netflix or read a book, while you just use the timer on your phone. The mandi is always served with some Zahawiq, which is so similar to the Salata Harra, that is a simple blitz on the go recipe. If you wish, you can have it with some yogurt and a huge salad on the side. Before I move onto the recipe, I would love to share Fami’s version of the Mandi, which looks absolutely amazing! Off to the recipe…
- FOR MARINATION:
- 1 kg whole chicken, with skin
- 2 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp black pepper powder
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- ½ tsp cinnamon powder
- ¼ tsp clove powder
- ¼ tsp turmeric powder
- ¼ tsp dry ginger powder
- Salt to taste
- 15 gm melted butter
- A pinch of saffron, crushed
- FOR RICE:
- 3 cups basmati water, soaked for 30 minutes and drained
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cinnamon
- 2 cloves
- 5-10 black pepper
- 1 litre water
- 2 stock cubes/ 1 sachet Maggi seasoning
- Salt to taste
- Wash the chicken well. Cut through the center and make the chicken into two pieces. Loosen the skin.
- Combine all the ingredients for the marination. Rub them all over the chicken well, in and out of the skin. Allow it to marinate as much as possible, at least for an hour.
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Bake the chicken on both sides for a total of an hour, flipping at the 30 minute mark.
- In a large pot, heat the olive oil. Fry the whole spices. Add the drained rice and fry for a couple of minutes.
- Add in the water and the stock cubes/ seasoning and bring it to a boil. Cook on high till the rice absorbs the water.
- Now arrange the chicken on top and pour the stock in the pan all over the rice.
- Seal the pan tightly and cook on low flame for around 20 minutes. Switch off and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
- For serving, take out the chicken, give the rice and good mix and fluff. Spread the rice on the platter and top with the chicken. Serve with salata harra.
1 tbsp paprika
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
A fat pinch of red color
Salt to taste
If you want to try some more of Yemeni cuisine, then here is the very little I have on the blog…
Khailat Al Nahl – beautiful fluffy sweet buns