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Egyptian National Dish

Melokheya

This is Egypt’s most popular national dish. It is an ancient peasant soup. It has a mucilaginous quality imparted by the leaves, but it is an acquired taste. There are various ways of eating it in several stages, and each is something of a ritual. The soup may be eaten first with plain rice, or with toasted pita bread, then with a portion of chicken or meat which is used to make the stock. Or you can serve it all together in many layers on the plate. In either case, it represents an entire meal. The layers may start with pieces of toasted pita bread, a scoop of rice topped with pieces of chicken or meat over which the soup is poured. Frozen melokheya is available at Middle Eastern markets. A lot of garlic is used in the sauce called tahleya, which goes in at the end, but it does not seem like too much when you eat it.

 

3 ½ Lb. Chicken

1 Yellow Onion (peeled)

3-4 Cardamom Pods

Salt and Pepper

Hot Pepper (optional)

2 packages of frozen, chopped melokaheya leaves, or 1 bunch fresh

For Garlic Sauce:

8-10 cloves Garlic (crushed)

1 Tbsp. Ground Coriander

3 Tbsp. Butter (preferred) or Margarine

Salt

Bring 3 ½ quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add chicken, onion, and cardamom. Bring to a boil, removing the scum of the top. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer covered for one hour. Lift out the chicken and the onion. (Stock can be strained.) Simmer the stock (2 ½ quarts). Add the frozen melokheya (at this point, do not boil). Let the ice melt entirely, and simmer for another 10 minutes, stirring gently. Do not overcook, as the melokheya leaves could fall to the bottom of the stock, and they should be rather suspended for better texture. While the melokheya is simmering, cook the tahleya. To prepare the tahleya (garlic sauce), fry garlic with coriander and pepper flakes in butter. When the sizzling garlic begins to color, pour it on the simmering soup. Stir, and adjust seasonings. Serve with rice and chicken.

Or if using fresh melokheya, strip the leaves from the stalks, wash, air dry on a flat surface over a towel, chop by hand or in a food processor, add to stock, and simmer 5-10 minutes. Then add the tahleya.