Scroll down for the YouTube video.
Chicken Mandi is a smoky roast chicken and rice dish that is originally from Yemen. Like so many foods of the region, Chicken Mandi is now to be found all over the Middle East, and is just one of many similar rice and meat recipes in the region. You have Maqluba, Chicken Kabsa, Mansaf, just to name a few.
Traditionally, chicken mandi is cooked in an underground oven called taboon,and the resulting rice and chicken has a smoky aroma and flavour from the use of the coals. If you have a charcoal powered pizza oven, that would be perfect for this.
For those of us not blessed with a taboon nor a pizza oven, there is still a way to mimic that smoky aroma. All you need is a piece of coal and some oil, and you’re smoking! The recipe here is started on the stove, then finished off in a regular oven.
Yemeni Chicken Mandi Recipe
You know how you have a favourite recipe, and every time you visit a new restaurant that serves it, you have to check it out? Like many people like to try out bolognese at Italian restaurants, not only to get a measure of the establishment, but also on a perpetual hunt for the perfect bolognese!
I’m like that with Chicken Mandi and a few other Arabic recipes. I’ve tried it in Europe, in Asia, in North Africa and in the Middle East! Naturally, the best ones have been in unassuming eateries in the Middle east.
However, one of the best Chicken Mandis I’ve tasted is at this Yemeni restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, called Hadramawt.
Hadhramaut, also spelled Hadramout, Arabic Ḥaḍramawt, is a region in east-central Yemen, on the Gulf of Aden. Historically, large numbers of Hadhramaut’s people have immigrated to East Africa, Indonesia, and Saudi Arabia. Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica
How to Cook Chicken Mandi
These are the steps involved:
- Marinate the chicken
- Start the rice on the stove
- Place the rice in the oven, on the bottom shelf
- Place the raw, marinated chicken in the oven above the rice. As the chicken cooks, the fat and juices will drip onto the rice.
- Finally, we place a small piece of burning, smoking charcoal in the oven and smoke everything.
How to Serve Chicken Mandi
The Chicken Mandi rice is pretty flavoursome, with the spices, aromatics and chicken dripping. And for good measure, I also cook it with a little chicken stock. So you really don’t need a whole lot to go with it.
I serve chicken mandi with:
- yoghurt, this can be plain or you can add some za’atar (Middle Eastern spice mix)
- Zhoug, the Yemeni Green Chilli Paste (below)
Chicken Mandi Ingredients
You can use a whole chicken or chicken legs, whatever you fancy. If you have a small oven, chicken portions are probably a better way to go, so everything will fit in the oven.
Basmati rice is your best bet here. The rice will cook away in the oven, along with the chicken. The top part of the rice will get crispy, but we compensate for this by fluffing the rice up while the chicken is cooking, allowing the crispy bits to gain some moisture.
Saffron, the world’s most expensive spice, is a popular ingredient in so many cuisines of the world. In my kitchen, I turn the pistils into liquid saffron before using it, the way we use it in Persian recipes. That way, no part of the saffron is wasted, we are using all of it.
It’s a simple case of pounding it and adding water. You can read more about it here, as well as see a video of me making it.
Variation on Chicken Mandi Rice
As you will see on the video, I sometimes add vegetables to the rice, just to jazz it up slightly. You can use any vegetables you like, here are just some examples:
- courgettes (zucchinis)
- capsicums (bell peppers)
- potatoes (cubed, for quicker cooking)
And that’s probably as much as there is to look at. Shall we go take a look at the recipe? But before that, you might be interested in an old favourite:
Maqluba (Palestinian Upside Down Rice):
Chicken Mandi Recipe on YouTube
♥ Do you like this recipe? Please give it a 5-star rating below! And when you make it, share it on any social medium and tag me @azlinbloor. Shukran! … Lin ♥