Popular Rice Dishes of the Middle East and North Africa
Rice is King in the Middle East! We Middle Easterners love our rice! Like our friends farther east, from India all the way to Japan, we love rice! Arabs pride themselves in producing light, fluffy rice, with a nutty and rich flavor, well seasoned enough to stand on its own. We love to serve mounds of fluffy white rice, warmly plain or spiced with the flavors of allspice, turmeric, cinnamon or nutmeg, topped with buttery pine nuts or almonds fried in ghee.
Mujadarrah- The Levant
Mjedarrah or mujadarrah is an ancient meatless dish that is hugely popular throughout the Arab world, fragrantly spiced rice (but not spicy) with lentil beans combined with sweet crunchy onion and (optional) topped with nuts or raisins. Each region or even nation of the Arab countries have their own version but this dish is most popular or common in the Levant region (Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Jordan). Mjedarrah is also known as Koshary in Egypt.
Mansaf - Jordan
Mansaf is a traditional -Jordanian dish made of lamb cooked in a sauce of fermented dried yogurt and served with rice or bulgur. It is the national dish of Jordan and it is also common in Palestine, Iraq, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. The name of the dish comes from the term "large tray" or "large dish". Mansaf is the national dish of Jordan.
Mandi is a traditional Yemeni dish from Hadhramaut, Yemen. The word "mandi" comes from the Arabic word nada, meaning "dew", and reflects the moist 'dewy' texture of the meat. Mandi is usually made from rice, meat (lamb or chicken), and a mixture of spices. The main thing which differentiates mandi is that the meat is cooked in the tandoor (taboon in Hadhrami), which is a special kind of oven. The tandoor is usually a hole dug in the ground and covered inside by clay. To cook mandi, dry wood is placed in the tandoor and burned to generate a lot of heat turning into charcoal. The meat is then suspended inside the tandoor without touching the charcoal. After that, the whole tandoor is closed without letting any of the smoke out. Raisins, pine nuts, or peanuts can be added to the rice as per one's taste. Mandi is considered the main dish served during special events, such as Eid, weddings, and feasts.
Makloobah - Palestine
Makloobah or Maqlubah is the national dish of Palestine and also a traditional dish in Jordan. The dish includes meat, rice, and fried vegetables placed in a pot, which is then flipped upside down when served , hence the name maqluba, which translates literally as "upside-down". The dish can include a variety of vegetables, such as fried tomatoes, potatoes, cauliflower, eggplant, and chicken or lamb. When the casserole is inverted, the top is bright red from the tomatoes that now form the top layer and cover the golden eggplant. Maqluba is usually served with either yogurt or a simple Arab salad (salata Arabia) of diced tomato, cucumber, parsley, and lemon juice, often mixed with a tahina sauce.
Sayadiyah - The Levant
Sayadieh is fish and rice dish from the Levant. The rice is cooked in a fish broth with spices and fried onions that give the rice its typical brown color. It is topped with fish pieces and garnished with fried almonds, pine nuts and sliced crispy fried onions.
Kabsah - Saudi Arabia
Kabsa is a family of rice dishes that are served mostly in Saudi Arabia — where it is commonly regarded as a national dish — and the other Arab states of the Gulf. Kabsa, though, is believed to be indigenous to Yemen. In places like Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait the dish is popularly known as machbūs, but is served mostly in the same way
Machboos - Gulf region
Machboos is a popular rice and meat dish in Kuwait and other gulf countries. Machboos is similar to Biryani (from the Indian subcontinent) and Kabsa (from Saudi Arabia), all with varying cooking methods, ingredients, degree of spiciness, and assembly.
Muhammar - Bahrain
Muhammar is a traditional dish from Bahrain. It is a sweet, rice dish that imbued with spices and date palm. Usually eaten with fried or grilled fish. The rice is parboiled and then steamed. Caramelized sugar syrup gives the rice it's color and sweetness.
Bukhari Rice - Saudi Arabia
Bukhari Rice or Ruz al Bukhari is a very popular recipe in the Middle East, especially loved in the Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries, Bukhari Rice is an aromatic and flavorful rice dish that features numerous spices and has an interesting origin.
Basmati Rice Pilaf
A staple and simple rice dish of the Middle East. Rice pilaf is usually spiced (but not spicy) and various nuts and raisins are added to the rice depending on the region of the Middle East. Lebanese Rice Pilaf is made with vermicelli noodles toasted in clarified (rendered) butter.
Spicy Moroccan Rice
Spicy Moroccan rice -cooked with Moroccan spice seasonings- comes in different varieties with or without meats.
Arabic Rice Stuffing
Arabic-style rice stuffing is an easy dish that is used for chicken, lamb or turkey stuffing. It is also served as a side dish with traditional Arabic roasted leg of lamb or roasted chicken pieces. The rice stuffing is a also a great standalone dish and is usually made with ground lamb (or beef) and a variety of spices.
Ouzi (Baked Lamb and Rice)
Ouzi is a favorite Arabic rice and meat dish which consists of rice, peas, slow roasted or baked lamb (or minced lamb meat) with an assortment of spices, raisins and toasted nuts.
Biryani is an extremely popular Indian spicy rice dish. The Arabic version have less or no chilies and therefore not as spicy. While similar cooked meat and rice dishes (i.e. Maqluba, Kabsa) are common in the Middle East, Biryani in the region likely has roots in the longstanding merchant and cultural ties between the Arabian Peninsula and Iraq with South Asia. Thus, Biryani is more typically found in places like Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, UAE and Oman.
Qabuli pulao (Afghani Rice)
Qabuli pulao is the most popular dish in Afghanistan, and is considered the national dish. It is a made by cooking basmati or long grained rice in a brothy sauce (which makes the rice brown). This dish may be made with lamb, chicken, or beef. Qabuli Palau is baked in the oven and topped with fried sliced carrots and raisins. Chopped nuts like pistachios or almonds may be added as well. The meat is covered by the rice or buried in the middle of the dish.