Monday, August 26, 2013

Musakhan Rolls

A memory of a unique, rich eating experience led me to exclaim, "This is it!" when I tasted it again, many years later. What had been to me the Holy Grail of Arab Cuisine led me once again on this pilgrimage to a platter of rice, onion, sumac and chicken dish of my early Middle Eastern years. Once the name was retrieved, I went in search of those who knew the ritual that created this long cherished tasting experience. Musakhan, (not to be confused with the Greek Mousaka) owes its deep, rich flavor to piles of slivered onions, gilded with olive oil and fried to a rich, deep brown, that which we call caramelized today. 

This humble Palestinian Bedouin dish belies its heritage, so rich and deep are the flavors of the chicken braised and infused with onion. It is then elevated to sophisticate with the subtle bite of citrus provided by the granular sumac. The chicken mixture is then piled on a crust of thin towel like bread called "shrak" in Syria, or when not available, split pita and served on a large platter in the middle of the table, family style. An ingredient which might give some pause is the generous amount of oil required which makes for a slippery, finger-licking mess. Not one that I'm opposed to wallowing in but this version is lighter and the ingredients wrapped in a neat and crispy wrap of Arab bread. And I thought I was so clever. On my recent trip to Jerusalem a wonderful cafĂ© on the Via Delarosa served my musakhan rolls. I was outraged to think they had stolen my recipe but then decided to let it go as they have proprietary rights to anything Palestinian!

Mousakhan Rolls:
  • 6 skinned and boned chicken breasts 3 tab. sumak
  • Freshly ground black pepper salt to taste
  • 1/3 cup olive oil shrak – dish towel bread
  • 3 medium onions, slivered 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. allspice & cinnamon, combined

-Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt, pepper, allspice, cinnamon. Brown in 1/3 cup olive oil then place in oven dish with oil, cover with foil and bake for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees until chicken is tender.

-Saute onions in 1/3 cup olive oil until browned and soft (almost caramelized). Chop cooked chicken into small pieces and mix with onions. Sprinkle with 3 tab. sumac. Allow to sit for at least 1 hour.

-Drain mixture of oil and season with salt and pepper.

-Cut bread into 8-inch long and 4-inch wide strips. Place chicken filling at end of each strip and roll securely, not folding in edges.

-Slightly brown each roll in small amount of oil in frying pan, pressing with spatula. Cut in half at a diagonal and serve.


  1. :) I loved reading your post. My mum makes mushakhan rolls sometimes and you are right, they are indeed lighter and neater.
    Thank you for stopping by my blog so that I can discover yours
    you have a unique voice and I look forward to following your food journey

  2. Thank you for stopping by my blog, and sharing your recipe with me. It looks really good. I could go for one right now :)
    (sorry it took so long to respond, I only just noticed that there was a comment on it)