The Ultimate Chicken Mandi Recipe: A Taste of Arabia at Home

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If you’re a food enthusiast with a love for Middle Eastern cuisine, you’re in for a treat. One dish that stands out in the rich tapestry of Arabian flavors is Chicken Mandi. This exquisite dish is a true representation of the Arab culinary heritage, and the good news is, you can recreate this masterpiece right in the comfort of your home. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take you on a culinary journey through the heart of Arabia and teach you how to prepare the ultimate Chicken Mandi.

What is Chicken Mandi?

Before we dive into the cooking process, let’s understand what Chicken Mandi is. Mandi is a traditional Arabian dish that hails from Yemen but has since become popular across the Middle East. It’s known for its aromatic spices, tender meat, and fragrant rice. The chicken variation of Mandi is a favorite among many for its succulent, perfectly seasoned chicken that melts in your mouth.

Ingredients You’ll Need

For the Spice Blend

For the Chicken

For the Rice

For the Garnish

Instructions

  • General note: Its best to prepare the spice blend and marinate the chicken for 24 hours for optimal flavour.

For the Spice Blend:

  • Start by placing all of the spices for the blend except for the turmeric in a small skillet and toast on medium heat for 1-2 minutes, moving them around constantly. Be careful as they burn fast! Remove them as soon as they start to become really fragrant.
  • Once toasted, remove and place in a spice or coffee grinder and grind until a fine powder forms
  • Remove 2 teaspoons from the spice mix and set aside for the rice. Add the turmeric to the remainder of the spice mix and set aside to be used for the chicken

To Marinate The Chicken:

  • To the spice blend, add the ½ teaspoon turmeric and the 1.5 teaspoons kosher salt listed under the chicken
  • Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the spice mix and create a paste. Lather the paste onto the chicken legs and massage it in really well.
  • Place the marinated chicken in an airtight container and marinate overnight in the fridge for optimal results. If you can’t do this, you can marinate for 30 mins to 1 hour to save time.

To Fry the Onions:

  • Thinly slice all of the onions evenly. I do this by hand but if you want to be precise you can always use a mandolin (even size helps them fry evenly)
  • Add the one cup of vegetable oil to the pot (the same pot you will cook rice in) and heat on medium heat
  • Add the onions in and fry them, stirring them every 3-4 minutes. This process will take 10-15 minutes, so be patient! But also be careful, towards the end, they will burn fast so keep a watchful eye and remove them quickly.
  • Remove the onions when they look golden brown, leaving approximately 3 tablespoons of onions in the pot for the rice. Spread on a paper towel lined plate to absorb the oil. As they cool they will crisp up (see notes). Set aside until ready to garnish.

To Cook the Chicken:

  • The chicken will cook by steaming. Start this process after marinating the chicken. To the pot that you fried the onions in (and with the remaining onions and oil inside), add the spice mix that was set aside for the rice
  • Carefully pierce the dry limes a couple of times using a sharp knife (be careful because they are round!) and add them to the pot along with the bay leaves
  • Cook the spices in the oil on medium heat for a few minutes. Add 2 cups of water.
  • Place a steaming rack in the pot (if you don’t have a steaming rack, use a small wire rack similar to an instant pot insert). Place the marinated chicken on the steaming rack.
  • Close the pot lid and steam the chicken for 50 minutes on medium heat. Check it every 10 minutes to ensure there is enough water and top it up if not.
  • Remove the chicken (reserve the broth) when cooked through and place on an oven baking tray (preferably on an over wire rack placed on top of a tray, but you can use a tray too).
  • Brush the top with the remaining olive oil and bake for 20 mins at 400F. Broil the top for 5 minutes until golden brown. Remove and keep warm.

To Make the Rice:

  • Wash the rice really well multiple times until the water runs clear, then soak for 10 minutes
  • In a mortar and pestle, grind the saffron to a fine powder then add 2 tablespoons of hot water (boiled water that has cooled slightly) and bloom for 5 minutes
  • Strain the broth that was used to steam the chicken. Using a measuring cup, measure out how much broth you have and add to it some water (if required) to get exactly 4.5 cups of liquid
  • Pour the liquid back into the same pot. Add to it the turmeric listed under rice, the salt and the bloomed saffron. Taste and ensure it is visibly salty (like sea water). Allow it to come to a boil.
  • Add the rice to the broth and stir a few times to combine. Allow it to come to a boil uncovered for a few minutes on medium heat.
  • Once bubbling, place a paper towel on top of the pot and then close the lid. Lower the heat to medium low and allow it to cook for 20 minutes, undisturbed.
  • After 20 minutes, turn the heat off and fluff with a fork. Close the lid and allow it to stand for 10 minutes.

For the Garnish:

  • The first layer of garnish will be the fried onions
  • To prepare the almonds, cook them on medium heat with the olive oil until golden. Stir continuously. Remove and set aside
  • Add the raisins in and toast for 2 minutes. Combine with the almonds.

To Assemble:

  • In a large platter, layer the yellow rice
  • Add the fried onions, almonds and raisins
  • Add the chicken, then add more onions, raisins and almonds. Garnish with chopped parsley if desired
  • Serve with a side of salad, yogurt, or Yemeni Zhoug and enjoy Chicken Mandi!

Serving Your Chicken Mandi

Once ready, fluff the rice with a fork and serve your delicious Chicken Mandi on a large platter.

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