Next on this list is Bahrain! An archipelago of islands, it is located in the Persian Gulf off the coast of Saudi Arabia. Dates, which are a native crop to Bahrain, play a large role in their cuisine, and there is generally a large influence from neighboring middle eastern countries.
I quickly found two recipes that I wanted to make–chicken machboos, which uses an abundance of spices and flavorful ingredients mixed with chicken and rice, and muhammar, which is a sweet rice that is often flavored with dates. HOWEVER, I didn’t think I could handle two rice dishes in one meal…
We went with the chicken machboos, which just looked too delicious to pass up. I saw several comments with recipes for chicken machboos that it is often served with a salad and with a warm sauce called daqqous. The muhammar/sweet rice is going on my list of recipes to revisit sometime in the future.
Chicken Machboos (recipe)
Like with the curry for Antigua and Barbuda, we prepared a spice mix for this recipe. This mix is called baharat, and it is a wonderful smelling mix of cloves, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, pepper, cardamom, paprika, and nutmeg.
Everything except the paprika and nutmeg was cooked in a pan for a few minutes–just until it became fragrant and started to smoke a bit. As I expected, this smelled great.
After that cools, it is ground up with the nutmeg and paprika. At this point, I had no doubt that this was going to be an awesome meal.
Next, I prepared another set of ingredients. One of which was new to me–loomi, also known as black limes. These are limes that have been boiled in salt water and then set out to dry in the sun. I was worried we would have to come up with a substitute, but the local international grocery store had them!
I set out the loomi, cardamom, ground cloves, cinnamon, garlic, pepper, onion, turmeric, baharat, ginger, onions, and tomatoes. Seriously, with all of these delicious foods and spices going into it, how could this not be delicious?
While I was doing this prep work, Tyler cooked the chicken pieces so they were golden brown on both sides, then set them aside until later. We used about a 2 1/2 lb package of bone-in chicken pieces.
The onions were fried in butter, then the ginger, garlic, and peppers were added. Then the turmeric and baharat.
Next, all of the above ingredients, plus chicken broth, were added to the pot and brought to a boil. Then it simmered for an hour and filled the house with wonderful smells.
We were worried about the chicken getting cooked all the way through, so I ended up adding water until the chicken was covered.
The Basmati rice, cilantro, and parsley were added for the last 20 minutes or so. The rice absorbed all of the liquid during that time and came looking nice and yellow (thank you, turmeric!). I sprinkled rose water on top before serving.
Daqqous (recipe below)
I read through several comments and descriptions of this sauce and decided to wing it. I cooked two cloves of diced garlic in oil for a minute or two, then added 16 oz. of diced tomatoes, 2 Tbs. tomato paste, some hot pepper (I used a half of a small Thai pepper, and I think I could have used more since I didn’t notice the kick), and salt. I simmered this for 15-20 minutes, let it cool for a while, then pulsed it in a small blender to break up the bigger tomato chunks.
Middle Eastern Shirazi Salad (recipe below)
I merged several recipes and descriptions for this one too. It is pretty straightforward–dice the tomatoes, onion, and cucumber into small pieces (I read somewhere that it is traditional/important to cut it into very small, evenly sized pieces). Then I roughly chopped the parsley and fresh mint. I mixed together some lemon juice, olive oil, and salt, and then tossed all of the ingredients together.
YUM. The smells and piles of delicious looking ingredients and spices while cooking the chicken machboos had me convinced that this would be a winner right away, and it did not disappoint. I was starting to get burned out on these rice based dishes, but this turned that around! There was just so much flavor. It was a very different set of flavors than I’m used to–especially the use of cinnamon in a savory dish. But every time I ate the leftovers I noticed different flavors coming out. The consistency was thick, creamy, and moist. I would give this 5 out of 5 stars, and it definitely gets me excited to make more dishes from this region. As an added bonus, we threw some of the extra baharat seasoning in a batch of chili the other day, and I thought it was a great addition. It was a nice mellow contrast to the spiciness.
The daqqous was good, but nothing too unique or exciting. I wasn’t thrilled with it when we first made this, but I found that it was a great addition to the machboos chicken throughout the week as we ate leftovers, since it counteracted the slight dryness from microwaving the rice.
The salad was also good. I really enjoyed the cool and refreshing flavor–I’m still so surprised every time I see mint paired with things like tomato and lemon juice! I’m not a big fan of cucumbers or raw onions, so the crunchy texture wasn’t as enjoyable to me. Tyler, on the other hand, liked the texture but wasn’t crazy about the flavor. So I guess that evened out somehow. Overall, it was nice to have a light side salad with the chicken machboos. I don’t think I would have had room left in my stomach for a dessert after eating all the rice and chicken.
We’re going to be out of town the rest of this week, so we’ll be back sometime next week with Bangladesh! In the mean time, we will be reminding ourself what American food tastes like for the next few days…
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 Tbs tomato paste
- olive oil
- hot pepper
- water and salt as needed
- Cooked the diced garlic in about 1 Tbs olive oil
- Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, pepper, and salt to taste, then simmer for 10-20 minutes.
- Pulse in a blender to break up tomato chunks
Middle Eastern Shirazi Salad Recipe
- 2 tomatoes
- 1 cucumber
- 1 red onion
- mint leaves
- 2 Tbs olive oil
- 2 Tbs lemon juice
- salt to taste
- Chop the tomatoes, onion, and cucumber into small pieces.
- Roughly chop the parsley and mint.
- Mix the lemon juice, olive oil, and salt to taste.
- Toss all ingredients together.