Musakhan - Levantine roast chicken on sumac onions & pita bread
My first encounter with musakhan was not so early in my childhood. My parents had never made this kind of fried chicken for us before, so my eyes were wide when a friend of my father's cooked for us once. The sight alone was almost majestic when suddenly a huge platter was hoisted onto the table. A feast!
Where do I start? Musakhan actually consists of not so many different components and ingredients. And yet it seems like you're getting something very special. But what am I talking about? The dish is actually very special! And it tells a very wonderful story. The visible ingredients are, of course, the chicken, the caramelised sumac onions, the roasted pine nuts (or blanched almonds) and the pita bread on which everything is nicely spread out. But one ingredient you don't see directly.
The story of Musakhan is a story of good olive oil
Right, the ingredient I am talking about is olive oil.
Musakhan comes from Palestinian cuisine and there, as in the rest of the Levant, there is a great tradition of olive cultivation and the production of the best olive oil. Palestinian olive growers have always used muskahan to test the quality of their olive oil. But not only that - they also celebrate their product with this fantastic dish, of course.
Good olive oil, for example, does not cause heartburn and can also be heated very well without compromising quality. This is where the name "musakhan" (to heat, make hot, heated) comes from. Besides olive oil, there is another ingredient that plays a very important role here: sumac!
Sumac is a spice that is extracted from the berries of the sumac bush and has a pleasantly sour taste. But "sour" alone cannot describe the taste. Sumac has its very own, full-bodied, fruity and also slightly tart taste. In combination with a very good olive oil and a little salt, the result is a taste explosion that you would not expect from so "few" ingredients - and without any artificial flavour enhancers. And so you then simply let onions caramelise in the best olive oil with sumac and a little salt.
Musakhan can therefore be considered one of the most important dishes in Palestine.
The Bottom of All Good Things: The Pita Bread
If you want to prepare musakhan authentically, you need taboon bread, which is still baked in clay ovens in Palestine. It is similar in thickness to Lebanese flatbread, but it doesn't split open and has lots of little bubbles on the surface. But don't worry, you can definitely make the dish with Lebanese flatbread or naan bread. At Musakhan, none of the good ingredients go to waste. Waste will not be tolerated! For the preparation of the chicken, I personally always resort to a whole chicken and roast it whole or cut it into the individual parts. The pita bread then absorbs the lovely gravy and is then topped with the caramelised sumac onions. Again, the olive oil and fantastic sumac flavour soaks into the bread. You can probably already imagine how incredibly good the bread tastes.
So it is not the mass of ingredients that makes musakhan, but their quality. The dish is not expensive and also very easy to prepare. You get juicy fried chicken, fantastic olive oil, sumac caramelised onions and delicious pita bread in no time. A meal that touches my heart and gets my fingers dirty every time - because you definitely don't need cutlery here.
Musakhan is a simple peasant dish that you could serve to a king at any time.
Recipe for Musakhan
Chicken & Marinade
Sumac onions & Co.
- 5 Onions
- 3 Tablespoon Sumac
- 100 ml Olive oil Extra Virgin
- 20 g Pine nuts or also blanched almonds
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 4 Lebanese flatbreads
- 1 small bunch Coriander
Chicken & Marinade
- For the marinade, peel the garlic and crush it finely in a mortar. Mix the garlic and all the spices, lemon juice and olive oil together.
- Wash the chicken and pat dry. Cut the chicken in the middle of the breast and open it up or separate the chicken directly into parts.
- Rub the chicken or chicken parts thoroughly with the marinade and leave to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, or preferably overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 180 °C and cook the marinated chicken on a deep tray coated with olive oil for about 1 hour.
Sumac onions & Co.
- Peel the onions, halve them and cut them into half rings.
- Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a high heat and fry the onions in it for about 5 minutes.
- Turn the heat to medium and add the sumac and salt and mix well.
- Let the onions caramelise for another 10 minutes on medium heat. then remove from the cooker.
- Coarsely chop the coriander. Roast the pine nuts in a pan until golden brown and remove from the pan.
- Remove the cooked chicken from the oven. Remove the chicken from the tray. Place the flatbreads on the same tray and let them absorb the juices.
- Then spread the pita bread on plates or a large platter. Arrange the caramelised sumac onions on top and spread the chicken or chicken pieces and garnish with toasted pine nuts and chopped coriander.
You can also try kafta or chicken skewers with sumac onions.
I tried it yesterday. I didn't know it from Aleppo. It's also more Palestinian. In any case, it tasted fantastic. Many thanks to your father's friend as the original bearer of this delicious recipe.
However, I still have a question, or rather a comment on the recipe: It is not clear from the description in which form the teaspoon of cardamom is added to the marinade. I decided to use ground cardamom because it seemed the most logical, but I was afraid that it might taste very bad, which wasn't the case after all, at least for my taste. Was my decision right? Even if it was wrong, it would be helpful if you adjust your recipe accordingly.
Thank you again for the wonderful recipe!
Hello dear Fares 🙂
Thank you very much for your great feedback. I am really pleased that you enjoyed Musakhan so much. You did everything right. The cardamom is added to the dish in ground form. I have adjusted the recipe accordingly. Thank you again 🙂
Yesterday afternoon, as the smell of chicken slowly drifted through the rooms, my husband asked me what I wanted to make for dinner. I told him there was a chicken in the oven. He said it smelled so good. And it tasted just as good to him. I can only praise your recipes. And I am glad that my husband likes it too. That's why I can always fit some into the weekly schedule.
Thank you so much! I'm really happy 🙂 I'm glad you liked it.
I'm glad you enjoyed it. Musakhan really smells super good. I wish you lots of fun cooking and enjoying.
Rafik, this is awesome. I was in Lebanon in 2012 and even then I learned to love not only the country and its people but also the heavenly cuisine of the Levant. Made my family shakshuka for breakfast today...using your recipe. The decision...our Lebanese kitchen week a la Bistrobadia is open...heaven on earth is coming....
Thank you very much for your fantastic feedback. I hope you have fun with your Lebanese kitchen week and of course bon appétit 🙂
I prepared this incredibly delicious chicken yesterday. My friend is from Kafranbel and he invited two other friends over. All 3 boys didn't know this dish yet and said that it was the best chicken of their lives even compared to home (prepared by an Alman 🤭 They even sent pictures to their mothers :D).
So thank you for the meeega recipe (& all the other great recipes! I've already tried quite a few from your blog and will definitely continue to do so).
Cooking connects worlds and with the Musakhan you definitely stay in the memory !
Maria ☀️ 🌸
Thank you very much for your mega feedback. I really had to laugh when I read about the "Alman" 😀 I'm really happy that you enjoyed the recipe.
I'm really happy that you had a lot of fun with the recipe. Have fun with your cooking 🙂
Hello! Do you cover the chicken when baking in the oven?
Also I am a bit confused about your measurement units. What is EL and TL?
I don't cover the chicken in the oven 🙂
EL and TL is the German short cut for TBSP (EL) and tsp (TL). I will correct it 🙂