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Underground food: Palestine's answer to Mandi

This dish was exported across the Gulf and to the Levant, with each area adding its own spices and flavours to the blend.

If you attend a function in the Middle East you are likely to be served Mandi, a traditional dish that originated from Hadhramaut, Yemen, consisting mainly of meat and rice with a special blend of spices, cooked in a pit underground.

This dish was exported across the Gulf and to the Levant, with each area adding its own spices and flavours to the blend.

Ahmed, a specialist in Palestinian Mandi in Gaza, says the idea is to create an underground pit and line it with metal plates or bricks designed to withstand fire and high temperatures.

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A woof fire is then lit, preferably from lemon and citrus trees, or olive and almond trees to give a special flavour to the meat.

After lighting the fire for two hours, the wood turns into embers and turns red. This is when it's ready for the marinated meat. Once inside, the pit is covered and sand is laid on top to stop heat escaping. It takes about two hours for the meat to become tender and when it's ready it falls off the bone.

If rice is also cooked with the meat, it is placed on a lower shelf so the meat juices can drip directly into it giving it extra flavour.

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