About a month ago, our friend/former co-worker Noel moved with her husband to Bahrain. Not exactly your average move to the other side of town, or across state lines. Noel has been blogging about their move and adventures halfway around the world, which is so fun to see! I was pretty jealous reading about their first Iftar in Bahrain and the gluttonous mounds of food they were offered, which prompted me to investigate the cuisine of Bahrain. From here I learned that the “national dish” of Bahrain is this one we’re sharing today, Chicken Machboos.
This is a simple chicken and rice dish, but with way more spices and flavor than the typical American comfort food version. It is not spicy, but deeply spiced. I tasted the rice both before and after the addition of the rosewater, and let me tell you… you don’t want to skip that step. Don’t fear the floral aroma! It doesn’t make your dish taste sweet or like you’re munching on a bouquet of flowers. It does bring out the flavor of all of the other spices in the dish though. Rosewater can be found at some regular grocery stores, but definitely at Middle Eastern markets. And since you’re definitely going to need to hit up a Middle Eastern market/grocer for the loomi, you now have two reasons to explore. I’ve been wanting to cook with loomi for awhile now. I love trying new ingredients! Loomi are dried limes. Sometimes they’re labelled as such, or as black limes, or even (incorrectly) as dried lemons. Loomi are used in many Middle Eastern recipes, especially those with Persian origins. To make them, fresh limes are boiled in salt water and then left out in the sun to dry. Definitely a unique taste for the average American palate! Give them a try and see what you think!
PS: Noel, what should we make next?? Send us more Bahraini/Arabic/Gulf/Middle Eastern recipes or ideas!
Bahraini Chicken Machboos
- 2 tbsp neutral oil
- 1 tbsp baharat*
- 2 tbsp paprika*
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp cardamom
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 10 turns fresh ground black pepper
- ~3lbs mixed, bone-in chicken pieces (we used thighs & drumsticks)
- 2 onions, diced
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 inch fresh ginger, minced or grated
- 1 large jalapeno, de-seeded & minced
- 3 loomi/dried limes/black limes
- 2 medium tomatoes, diced
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 1/2 cups chicken stock
- 2 cups basmati rice
- 1/4 cup chopped, fresh cilantro
- 1/4 cup chopped, fresh parsley
- 2 tbsp rosewater
*We’ve made our own baharat mixture, following these proportions, as suggested by a Syrian chef when we made Syrian Mini Meatballs (Dawood Basha). As with most spice blends, there are many variations of exact mixtures, especially regionally. Most baharat blends contain paprika; the one we follow does not, so we’ve added it to the recipe. You can also buy this blend, usually at a Middle Eastern market or similar place.
- In a large dutch oven, heat the oil. Combine all of the spices in a small prep bowl to the side.
- Pat all of the chicken pieces dry and season with roughly a third of the spice mixture. Fry the chicken, skin down, until brown and crispy. (You will likely have to do this in batches.) Remove pieces to the side.
- Now add the onions to the hot oil. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Follow the onions with the garlic, ginger, and jalapeno. Top this with the remaining spice mixture. Continue cooking for another 6-8 minutes.
- Poke holes into the dried limes and add them, along with the tomatoes, cinnamon sticks, and chicken stock, to the pot.
- Return the chicken to the pot and bring the liquid to a boil. After reaching that boil, lower heat to a slow simmer and cover, cooking like this for 1 hour.
- While the main dish is cooking, soak the rice in cool water. Drain when the main dish has reached that hour of cook time.
- Add this point, remove the chicken to a lined cookie sheet, preheated to 325 degrees. This will bake just while while the rice is cooking.
- Add the rice, cilantro, and parsley to the liquid in the dutch oven. Simmer until the rice is cooked and liquid absorbed, which should take less than 10 minutes. Remove from heat while the rice still appears wet.
- Remove the cinnamon sticks and dried limes.
- Sprinkle the rice with the rosewater. Adjust salt if needed.
- Serve with chicken on top of the rice.