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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Musakhan: Middle Eastern Chicken Rolls

These are pretty much the Middle Eastern version of taquitos :) Musakhan chicken wraps are based on a classic Palestinian dish that has gained in popularity all over the Middle East in sandwich form. Traditionally whole chicken pieces are seasoned and cooked in a clay oven then placed on top of fresh flat bread. Classic musakhan (msakhan/imsakhan) is a special meal shared with a group of  family and close friends where everyone gathers around and gets their hands dirty eating the chicken and bread...often times straight from the large platter it is served on. It is truly a delicious meal to eat and one that I will share with  you sometime. This version is for a beginning or busy cook, looking for something fast, delicious and e.a.s.y. I love to prepare a batch of these and keep them unbaked in the freezer, ready to be grilled at a moment's notice for a quick lunch or on the go meal.

Using rotisserie chicken is a huge time saver, and this is also a great recipe for leftover chicken. Simply scale back on the portions to make as much as you need, my general rule is 1 cup onions/1 cup shredded chicken/ 2 tablespoons sumac seasoning and you can take it from there. The measurements I've listed make about 18 tortilla wraps. and usually each tortilla is cut in half or in thirds. If I'm making them as a main meal I leave them whole, otherwise I do cut them. The pictures in this post show the rolls cut in half.

Typically there is no lemon juice added to musakhan but I like to include it to provide juiciness to the filling while cutting back on the oil and enhancing the sour tang of sumac. If you're not trying to make this as healthy as possible, go ahead and use more olive oil. I add a tablespoon at the end of the cooking process because I've found that it enhances the olive oil flavor without having to use too much in the beginning. Many people will just saute onions, add chicken and sumac and call it a day...but that's not the way we roll at SavvyChef. Our food has texture, flavor, complex layers of subtlety, and you just can't get that without spending a little extra effort on the filling. This dish is almost guaranteed to be present at any Middle Eastern dinner party because of its simplicity and popularity, but I promise you: all musakhan rolls are not created equal.

The main flavor in the filling is the sumac, a seasoning that comes from sour berries that are dried and ground into a spice. It is purple in color and has a tangy flavor similar to lemons. You can buy sumac from any Middle Eastern market or online. The spices that are listed as optional are not traditional and many people leave them out, but I never do as they really provide for a flavorful filling, I encourage you to use them. My children like to dip these in plain yogurt, which is a little blasphemous for traditional  musakhan eaters, but hey...whatever provides for a peaceful meal around here is fair game...

Makes about 18 full wraps (feeds 6-8 for dinner or 20 for an appetizer)

-2 tablespoons olive oil
-4 cups thinly sliced red onion (or other variety)
-4 cups cooked, shredded chicken (Rotisserie chicken is a GREAT short cut)
-4 tablespoons lemon juice
-1 cup sumac seasoning
-1/2 teaspoon black pepper
-1 teaspoon allspice
-optional: 1 tablespoon lemon pepper seasoning
-optional: 1 tablespoon ground coriander
-optional: 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

-optional: 1 cup toasted nuts (usually pine nuts, but slivered almonds are a good substitute)
-1 tablespoon olive oil
-about 18 flour tortillas

To make
-Heat oil in a large pot then add sliced onions. Saute until caramelized, about 15 minutes, stirring frequently. This is a good time to shred your rotisserie chicken.
-Add shredded chicken, lemon juice, sumac, black pepper, allspice, coriander and ground cardamom. Break up the chicken as you cook and mix the ingredients together, letting the chicken soak up the flavors and seasonings. Cook mixture on low heat for about 5 minutes. Add optional toasted nuts and then remove the pot from heat.
-Place the pot aside to cool the mixture and add final tablespoon olive oil. Use the best quality you have.
-Preheat your oven to 450 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil. Spread between 1/3-1/2 cup of chicken filling along the longest length of your tortilla in a horizontal line, starting 1/2 inch up from the bottom. Make sure your filling is spread evenly across, then bring the bottom edge of the tortilla up over the filling and wrap tightly. Place the rolled tortilla seam side down on the baking sheet. Continue this process until you have finished your chicken filling.
-Optional: Brush the wrapped rolls with olive oil to enhance crispiness when toasting. (You can cook these in a skillet, griddle, panini press or in the oven. When I make them for a crowd I always place them in the oven because I can do them all at once. Sometimes I'll skip preheating the oven and just place the tray on the middle rack of my oven on broil, watching CAREFULLY for a few minutes while the tops toast). Bake on the middle rack of a pre-heated oven for about 10-15 minutes or until toasted to your liking.  Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before you cut them in half or in thirds. Another option is to cut them before toasting as this will give you toasted edges on all the pieces.
-Serve and enjoy!

Evenly spread 1/3 cup chicken filling across tortilla
This is a perfect starter recipe for beginning cooks
Brushed with olive oil and ready to bake
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My daughter shared her finished musakhan with friends


  1. love this, tastes amazing thank u so much

  2. We grew up eating msakhan and its go great to have actual measurements for how to make it. I tried it for dinner tonight and we all loved it. Thanks for the easy instructions and I really like your take on the extra flavors.

  3. Can't wait to try this-- I've only had my mother's, but never tried because directions in the form of "put a little of ___" aren't that helpful! Thank you for posting this :)

  4. Cant wait to make this for dinner tonight iA.

  5. Awesome!! Nice food at affordable price!!!nice blog and thanku for this chowringhee in satya niketan

  6. The best placefor Tandoori chicken momos , i just love the food here.
    Tandoori chicken momos

  7. so easy to make and we love it

  8. made this for my Jordanian neighbors and they actually asked me for the recipe! SCORE!

  9. Thank you for all the photos you provided. The instructions were detailed just right and helped me as I'm a mess when it comes to cooking. Somehow I managed this one and it was sooo yummy. Now I'm encouraged to try out your other stuff. My family thanks you big time!

  10. I helped my son make these for International Day at his school. We were representing the Middle East and this seemed like a good portable recipe. I thought it would be hard to find the Sumac but I lucked out from the first store I tried and I was pleasantly surprised at its flavor! I have been using it to season salads too now. The rolls were a hit with the kids and all the other parents who tried them, and I had fun getting my boy into the kitchen with me. The rotisserie chicken was a huge time saver, def going to make this again.

  11. Did you use the small tortillas or big ones?

  12. What is the dip you use, pictured in some of the photos (it is white in a dish...sour cream?)

  13. And if I don't have sumac, can you suggest a good substitute?