A unique Egyptian National Dish, beloved by her people, is Molokhiya (pronounced Mologheya!!!). To the un-initiated, this can be scary to look at and a bit intimidating to eat… largely because of its unusual texture (to the eye and the mouth).
But hold on… let me help you understand a bit more about this rich dish, and encourage you to be bold, be brave, put some on your rice and give it a go….
WHAT IS IT MADE OF?
The name Molokhiya (spelt in a huge variety of ways) is both the name of the dish, and the plant from which it is made. It is a leafy green vegetable…. but it is not spinach, nor is it basil…yet there are similarities to both!!!
This plant is known as:
- Jews Mellow (in English apparently)
- Nalta (in Indian)
- moroheiya (Japan)
- Jute leaves
- Japanese Globeflower
- Corchorus (botanical name)
It apparently thrives in hot, humid places and is well known in Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, India and many areas in Asia. The leaf is a medium size, bigger than basil, saw-toothed with a small point at the top, and small tendrils at the base of the leaf. In the middle east it abounds in its fresh state. Some countries it is available as a dried leaf, and in others in a powdered form. Wider abroad, it is often found frozen, but the discerning Molokhiya eaters shudder at the thought of using frozen molokhiya to make their dish.
HOW IS THE DISH MADE?
The way of preparing the dish differs on which country you are in, or from which country the chef originates from!! But as they say the origins lie in Egypt (popular from Pharaonic times apparently) we shall consider the Egyptian style. Ideally, the fresh leaves are stripped from the stems/spine, washed, dried and then minced/cut with a mezzaluna (the ever-present round blade knife with handles). If using the dried leaves, these should be soaked to soften them first. Then simmered gently, not covering the pot!
The stock then must be made from the chicken/beef/fish/rabbit that you will be using with the greens.
The “taqliya” mix must be prepared: sautéed garlic and olive oil.
These are carefully added and simmer a bit more, until a lovely, thick, rich, mucilaginous (slimy) broth is made. There is a natural thickening agent in the leaf, but care should be taken not to add too much broth, as you will have a soupy mess!
Coriander, salt and pepper, lemon is then added to taste.
Traditionally this is served over rice, never eaten just as a soup!
IS IT GOOD FOR YOU?
This simple yet comforting dish is extremely nutritious, in fact it is packed with many good things:
- vitamen C
- ……and 32 other vitamens/minerals/trace elements!
It is best to taste it made by someone who knows what they are doing, as “bad” molokhyia can you put off for life I am told. So take courage when presented with this soupy, gluey like substance: take a spoonful and pour it onto your rice… then taste: your body will be glad you did!