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
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.