Updated: Aug 13
A simple chicken and rice dish called as Mandi, originated in Yemen but has a strong presence in the region with many having their own versions, each equally delicious.
Traditionally Mandi is cooked in a pit with hot charcoal below, rice on top of it and marinated chicken on top of rice. The pit is covered and cooked for hours. Chicken, fish or meat are very common offerings. The whole process has very limited spices and the rice is cooked with the skin fat dripping in the rice. Rice is loaded with flavour and the chicken or meat very tender and moist.
I was introduced to Mandi, 15yrs back when I lived in the UAE. Across the creek on Deira side there was a lovely restaurant called as 'Aden'. It served some delicious Mandi. Even now around here in Oman, lunch at Mandi serving restaurants are very popular. They are easily available and a quick lunch with mountain of rice and a big piece of chicken or meat costs very little.
I cook Mandi without the pit in an oven. A recipe that I had picked up from a very close friend from Yemen. The whole dish literally takes no time to cook and as long as the chicken is marinated well, the job is 70% done.
Along with my chicken Mandi, I have made the a typical side dish called as Zahawiq. A Yemeni salsa 😊
Let me take you through the recipe
Ingredients: (serves 2 persons)
Half chicken with skin on
1 tsp turmeric powder
2 Tb Mandi spice( check the notes at end)
Less than half tsp of saffron color powder
Salt as per taste
3 tb olive oil
One cup basmati rice
3 cups water or water touching just above index finger from the surface of rice (you may adjust water as per the rice)
Half cup birista (optional for garnish)
One medium sliced onion
1 - Mix in bowl turmeric, Mandi spices, salt and saffron color along with 1tb olive oil
2 - Rub the above mix to the chicken on both side. Set it aside for 3-4hrs in refrigerator
3 - wash and soak rice for an hour
4 - in a pan add 2tb olive oil. Once heated, fry the onions until the turn brown
5 - transfer the onions with the oil in a cast iron pot or an oven save pot. Add rice salt and mix. Add 2 cups water (double of
6 - pre heat the oven at 200C (gas)
7 - place a pizza rack that have holes or an oven safe mesh over the rice pot. Place the chicken on it and bake for an hour , plus or minus 10-20mins.
8 - using oven gloves remove the pot out, remove the mesh and place the chicken on the rice.
9 - for the smoky taste, Make a small bowl using aluminum foil, and place in one side of the rice pot. place red hot heated charcoal in the foil and pot a tsp of olive oil. Immediately close the lid and keep it closed for a minute or two. *This step is optional *
1 - We get ready made mandi spice mix and the picture is below.
2 - Cooking rice in oven is bit tricky and you may add little less water because from the rendered fat, the rice tends to get little extra moist.