But What The Heck Does Mandi Mean?!
Pakistani food is hugely influenced by Middle Eastern and Persian flavours. So it’s really no surprise that Arabian food is naturally close to our tastebuds and hearts. Lebanese Shwarma is as popular on the streets of Lahore as alloo wala naan or samosa. Arabian restaurants have mushroomed everywhere in the last two decades and Arabian Chicken Mandi Rice are fast becoming a dinner superstar for special occasions.
But what exactly does the word ‘Mandi or Mandhi’ means? For us Pakistanis, Mandi means ‘marketplace ‘ but, ofcourse, in Arabic it has a totally different meaning. The origin of the word mandi is believed to be’ nada’ that means ‘dewy or ‘moist’ in Arabic. Hence, the fall off the bones, very tender texture of the meat and flavour soaked rice.
Can We Make Authentic Arabian Chicken Mandi At Home?
Food connoisseurs debate that Arabian Chicken Mandi cannot be cooked at home. It is something that you have to go to a specialised restaurant for. They state that the unique method of cooking cannot be replicated at home. Since that would require digging a pit in your backyard to cook the meat long and slow, apparently, it seems not very doable.
But it’s not very easy to dissuade us, food bloggers and homecooks, from pursuing the seemingly impossible in our kitchens. We have worked bigger wonders than Arabian Chicken Mandi Rice within limited space and available resources. So YES, we can do it! Let’s see how.
How To Cook Restaurant Level Moist & Smoky Chicken:
The restaurants serve Mandi over a bed of rice with meat moist, falling off the bone and rice flavourful from the juices that drip down from the meat. The skin on the chicken is not supposed to be crispy in the authentic version so that it’s easy to break with hands.
To achieve this texture and flavour, I marinate the chicken for atleast four hours in the special spice mix for Mandi, called Hawaij. Then I roast the chicken sealed with foil in the oven low and slow. The juices that gather in the pan are used later on to cook the rice with. Then I place, both, the cooked rice and the chicken together on the serving dish and add smoky flavour with a burning piece of coal.
Hawaij – The Special Spice Blend:
Hawaij spice mix, also known as Hawayej, Hawaj, and Hawayij, means “mixture” in Arabic. It’s a spice blend with, basically, cumin and black pepper and often contains cardamom, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. There are two blends of hawaij – one for savory dishes, like the one used for Mandi, and one used in coffee and desserts.
The spice blend is not overpowering or hot, very different from the garam masala spice blend that we use in the Indian subcontinent. It’s warm, fragrant and enhances the flavour of the meat. The spices are mostly kitchen staple and easy to find.
How To Serve Arabian Chicken Mandi Rice:
Arabian Chicken Mandi Rice is a communal meal – meant to be shared with family and friends. Traditionally it was cooked on weddings and family gatherings. They served mandi in a large plate and everybody sat in a circle around to eat it with their bare hands. Still some restaurants, that serve authentic Arabian food, have a a few areas reserved for such floor sitting arrangement.
Chicken Mandi Rice is a complete and rich meal in itself. But if you are looking for side dishes to serve alongside, light clear pepper soup and dakoos sauce with some Arabic bread and salad would be wonderful with it. Dakoos is a blend of tomatoes, garlic, green chilli peppers, fresh coriander, lemon and salt. Finish your delicious meal with some fragrant mint kehwa.
If You Liked This Recipe, Also Try
- Balochi Chicken Sajji with Rice
- Lahori Chargha, Twice Fried Chicken
- Nathia gali Patakha Chicken Roast
- Kabuli Pulao
Ingredients For Hawaij Spice Mix:
- 4 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons ground green cardamoms
- 3 teaspoons black pepper
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ginger powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Chicken Mandi Marinade Ingredients:
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- half of ready hawaij spice blend
- 1 to 1.5 kg whole chicken with or cut ups
- Salt to taste
Chicken Mandi Rice Ingredients:
- 3 cups Basmati Rice
- 1 medium onion, diced.
- Remaining half of hawaij spice blend
- 3 teaspoons salt
- 2 Bay leaves
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 4-5 green chilli peppers
- Leftover chicken stock from roasting the chicken
- 1/4 cup olive oil or ghee (clarified butter)
- A pinch saffron (soaked in warm milk or water)
For Smoky Flavour:
- Charcoal (just a small is all you’ll need)
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil or ghee
- An onion peel or a tiny cup
This Is What You Do:
- As we know this dish is cooked in taboon or a special kind of underground oven. At home most cooks make it in the oven entirely by placing the chicken over the rice so that the juices would drip into the rice to flavour them.
- Some of the beginners in the kitchen find this method rather confusing and end up either with under-cooked or mushy rice. So I’ve made the recipe even easier and more doable by cooking the chicken and rice separately. But I use the juices in the pan, after the chicken is roasted, to add to the rice. And then smoke them together in the serving dish with charcoal.
- So to begin – Combine all the ground spices for Hawaij together in a bowl. You can choose to lightly toast whole spices as well and then grind them together to enhance the fragrance and flavour.
- In a bowl combine half of hawaij spice mix, salt, lemon juice, olive oil and melted butter. Make a paste.
- Thoroughly coat the chicken with this paste. Cover and refrigerate for atleast 1 hour. For best results, marinate overnight.
- Preheat oven to 200°C. Lightly grease a baking dish. Place the chicken in the dish, seal the dish with a foil sheet. Bake for 45-50 minutes or till the chicken is tender and cooked through. It might take a little less time for cut ups and longer for whole chicken with skin.
- When done, remove from the oven. Pour the juices in the dish in a seperate bowl. Return the chicken uncovered to the oven, place it under the broiler for 8-10 minutes to give it a lovely golden colour.
- Keep the chicken warm and covered once it’s completely done so that it stays moist.
- Heat oil in a deep pan. Sauté onions till golden (not brown as we usually do for pulao).
- Add the remaining hawaij spice mix, salt, cinnamon, bay leaves and green chilli peppers with the leftover juices from the roast. Fry for 2-3 minutes.
- Add basmati rice (after rinsing) to the pan and continue to Fry for another 2-3 minutes.
- Add enough water to come an inch over the rice. Cover the pan and cook for 12 to 15 minutes or till there is no more water left in the rice.
- Drizzle the soaked saffron over the rice and reduce heat to lowest. Cook covered another 5-7 minutes.
- Fluff the rice with a fork.
- Take your single charcoal and place it on a ring of your gas stove until it’s red hot. Takes around 5 minutes. You can also place it under the broiler on high.
- Add the cooked rice to your serving dish (choose a large dish that can be covered). Make a well in the middle.
- Put the hot coal in a small bowl or over an onion peel and then place it in the center of the rice.
- Drizzle a spoon of oil on the hot coal.
- Quickly place the cooked chicken on top of the rice and charcoal, then seal the pot with a tight fitting lid or aluminiumfoil. Leave it for 10 minutes to absorb the smoky flavour.
- Remove the coal and serve the dish immediately.
- Serve with cumin yogurt and tomato garlic chutney on the side.