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Monday, September 29, 2014

Mulukhiya (Simmered greens and chicken) with rice

I grew up eating did 99% of Syrians and most other Middle Easterners of the world. My  memories of summer's in Syria or California are filled with images of my child self picking the fresh leaves off the stems of literally a huge CARTON filled to the brim with 30 pounds of mulukhiya. I think its because of these long and endless sessions of picking leaves that I actually really disliked this dish as a child lol. My mom tried to make it fun for us by renting movies and buying ice cream to entertain us while we picked...but the job was just too tedious. After the hours spent picking the leaves, my mom soaked them several times in huge buckets of water to clean them. This step would take her all day. At the end of that night she would lay out clean bed sheets on all flat surfaces in the kitchen and dining room and spread the washed leaves in a flat layer to dry out. This step took several days, as the leaves had to completely dry and even crisp. At this point she packaged them into bags and froze them to use throughout the year. When the leaves dry out they shrink significantly so after everything was said and done we'd have enough mulukhiya for about 6 meals or so that year. In the opion of a child, so. not. worth. it. In the opinion of an adult, still. so. not. worth. it.  My mom disagrees (probably why my Middle Eastern food will never taste as good as hers!) and still goes through this process every summer. Whenever I drop by and she's got the leaves spread out and drying I'm hit with a wave of nostalgia from the smell that fills the house.

I've been cooking in my own kitchen for quite a while now, and I'm proud to say I've never picked a mulukhiya leaf :) Nowadays the cartons are sold picked and ready to be washed and dried, but the traditional mothers aren't satisfied with the quality of those leaves and prefer to do it the good 'ole fashioned way. I prefer to walk through the freezer section of a Middle Eastern market and pick up a few bags of picked, washed, dried and frozen mulukhiya. Probably the taste is not exactly the same, but its close enough and definitely worth the lack of hassle.

Now that I've finished my rant on my history with fresh mulukhiya, I'd like to share that I frequently make this dish following the same steps but switching out the mulukhiya for another green...often which is fresh. The flavor isn't the same, but everything still tastes good and regardless of which green you use, its extremely healthy. I use leftover lemon garlic sauce from my sheesh tawooq recipe, and if you have leftover chicken, use that (without the potatoes) for this meal and you'll be halfway closer to a finished dinner. Serve this with short grain rice cooked with vermicelli noodles or toasted pita bread for an ethnic meal that will transport you back to simpler times and fuller stomachs :)

Serves 5

-1 teaspoon oil
-1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 inch cubes
This is the mulukhiya I used this time
-1 teaspoon all spice
-1 tablespoon coriander
-1 teaspoon salt
-1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
-1 tablespoon lemon pepper (optional)

-1 teaspoon oil
-28 ounces frozen "molokhia LEAVES" (make sure not to buy minced). You can sub this for spinach, kale or chard. If using fresh leaves, use about 6-8 cups
-3 tablespoons of lemon garlic sauce OR 3 tablespoons minced garlic
-1 tablespoon red pepper paste (optional, but delicious)
- 1-2 cups chicken broth or water
-1 teaspoon salt

-1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
-1/2 cup dry toasted sliced almonds
-lemon wedges for serving

-Heat a large pot with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Add cut up chicken breast, all spice, coriander, salt, pepper and lemon pepper and saute about 5 minutes until chicken is browned on the outside but not cooked through.
-Remove chicken to a bowl and return pot to stove. Add another teaspoon oil and frozen greens. Saute 5-10 minutes until water starts to dry up. Add lemon garlic sauce, red pepper paste, 1 cup water and salt.
-Return chicken to the pot and simmer on medium low heat for about 35 minutes. Greens should be tender but not too mushy. As they cook, you may add more water as necessary to have a little bit of a sauce but not a soupy mixture.
-Once the greens are cooked and chicken is tender, stir in the fresh cilantro. Adding this at the end brings a brightness to the dish in terms of color and taste.
-Plate in a bowl and cover with sliced almonds.
-Serve with pita bread or rice with lemon wedges on the side to be squeezed individually on each plate.

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  1. I can't tell you how much I appreciated finding your recipe with accurate measurements. My mom used to make this for us but of course she eyeballs all the ingredients so her recipe wasn't helpful to me! We all really enjoyed this and I loved introducing my kids to food I ate growing up.

  2. YAY, so glad I found your page and this recipe! My husband's favorite dish and he just asked me yesterday to make it for him...guess I'll be shopping and cooking today after all...

  3. I've been making this since you posted it last year. We tried it with chicken and meat and my kids love it with chicken the most. I eat it with bread and they eat it with rice!

  4. My favorite recipe for mlukhiyeh!

  5. I use this recipe but make it with ground beef. I like that its the leaf version and not the soupy way