Musakhan is a traditional Palestinian dish made in villages in outdoor ovens. It’s a large, toasty bread, smothered with onions and sumac and topped with chicken. It’s still a popular dish in every household throughout Palestine. Here in Seattle, replicating this dish is tricky because we don’t have the outdoor ovens to make the fresh taboon (bread). BUT, we do have access to naan, which is similar, and even more recently taboon can be found at some Arabic stores. If you are out looking for the bread, it is also called tanour.
Typically when trying to make this here in Seattle, we modified it by rolling the chicken, onions, and sumac into tortillas and calling them musakhan sandwiches. When Zina, Rania’s daughter, ate this for the first time in Palestine prepared the traditional way, she exclaimed “You’ve been cheating me all of these years?!” Now every time Rania says she is preparing musakhan, Zina asks “Is it the real musakhan or the Seattle one?” What dishes have you had a hard time replicating? What did you do to modify them?
Musakhan is traditionally served in the center of the table and everyone eats family style by ripping pieces of the bread with their hands and taking pieces of the chicken and onions with the bread. You can cut into the bread and chicken any way you find easiest, be we typically cut the bread around the chicken pieces and transfer to a plate.
Here is the recipe for the “real” musakhan. We will also be sharing Seattle musakhan with you in the future because it’s tasty and also easy to take on picnics or gatherings. In the mean time, give this a try and tell us how you like it! Sahtain!
- 1 whole fryer chicken, quartered
- 1 large onion
- 3 Tblsp. sumac
- 1/2 cup of olive oil
- 1/4 cup of vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup of sliced almonds
- 2 pieces of taboon bread or naan to cover a large baking sheet
- 1 cup of water
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 cardamon pods
- salt and pepper
- 1/4 tsp. all spice
Slice the onions and caramelize them in the olive oil in a sauce pan over medium heat.
Add the sumac, and a pinch of salt, and cook on low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and fully mixing the sumac with the onions. Set aside.
Heat 1/8 cup of vegetable oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat and saute the chicken for 5 minutes on each side. Add the water, bay leaves, cardamon, and salt. Let it come to a boil and lower the heat to medium-low. Cover it and let it cook for 25 – 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked. Set the chicken aside.
In a small saute pan, toast the almonds in the remaining vegetable oil. Once the almonds start to turn a golden brown immediately remove from heat.
Grease a large baking sheet with olive oil. Arrange the taboon or naan to cover the baking sheet.
Spread the onions across the bread.
Arrange the chicken on top of the onions and sprinkle with salt and pepper and the 1/4 tsp of all spice.
Set the oven to broil and put the baking sheet on the top rack and let it toast until the chicken skin is golden.
Sprinkle with the toasted almonds, and serve immediately with yogurt and salad.