Whenever Arabs get together for big gatherings, there is usually some variation of rice and chicken or rice and meat. This is probably for several reasons; most people like rice and meat, it is easy to make it for a crowd, and it is not time consuming or labour intensive. If you are trying to feed a crowd something quick and delicious, with minimal ingredients, then this is the dish for you!
Living in Saudi Arabia for a few years, this quickly became a staple street food. I know you are thinking, rice and chicken as street food? Yup! The rice came in a plastic lined paper bag, and the portion was huge! It is meant for one person, but can easily feed two or three. Then you had the choice of rotisserie chicken or chargrilled chicken. It was absolutely amazing and perfect for days you wanted homey food without having to cook!
This type of rice is very popular in the Gulf, with different countries calling it different names. I believe it is based on similar dishes from Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, particularly the city of Bukhara, where many believe the dish got its name. Nowadays, this is one of Saudi Arabia’s most popular rice dishes, along with Kabsa!
This dish is pretty straightforward and is truly a one-pot wonder, with the addition of a baking tray to brown the chicken on. You want to make sure your ingredients are all good quality, but it doesn’t have many ingredients and each one plays a big part in contributing to the overall flavour.
One important tip is making sure you taste the broth after you’ve removed the chicken and before you add the rice to make sure the seasoning is right, otherwise you’ll be left with bland rice. You want the salt level to be slightly saltier than you’d like, because the rice will absorb it. Also, when you add the rice, you want to make sure it is about half an inch above the rice. If you have too much, the rice will be mushy and too little and it won’t cook all the way through.
This is traditionally served with a side of radishes, rocket, and onions. I like to have it with olives, finely chopped salad and hot sauce. It also goes well with some yogurt. Whatever you choose to serve it with, I can guarantee you’ll be making it over and over again!
3 tbsp. oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 large carrots, shredded
4 tbsp. tomato puree
1-2 whole chillies, halved (optional)
2 tbsp. ground cumin
2 tbsp. cumin seeds
6 cardamom pods
Salt and pepper
1 chicken, cut into quarters
2 1/2 cups basmati rice, rinsed
- Add the oil to a large pot and when hot, add the onion. Sautee until soft and then add the carrots. Once the carrots begin to soften, add the tomato puree, chilli if using, cumin, salt, pepper, and cardamom. Mix until it comes together.
- Add the chicken and mix, making sure to coat the chicken with the tomato and carrot mixture.
- Add enough water to reach 1 inch above the chicken. Bring to the boil, cover and lower the heat.
- Once the chicken is completely cooked, place the chicken on a baking tray in order to brown the skin.
- Taste the cooking liquid and adjust seasoning to taste. Add the rice to the cooking liquid. The liquid level should be half an inch above the rice. If there is too much, remove with a ladle, or add water/stock if there isn’t enough.
- Cook the rice covered, on low heat, until cooked through.
- Brush the chicken with olive oil/butter and place under the broiler until the skin is browned and crispy.
- Tip rice into a serving platter and arrange chicken on top.
Need something for dessert? Try making Makroutah and Muttabaq!