Molokhia

Molokhia, or jute, is a leafy green plant that is traditionally cooked in a meat broth. Every country in the Middle East cooks molokhia differently. The most popular way in Palestine is minced molokhia, cooked with chicken or beef stew, and garnished with lemon juice. Uncooked molokhia tastes extremely bitter. Once you cook it, the bitterness goes away and it turns into a slimy stew.

Historically, this dish was only served to Egyptian Pharaohs because of its many health benefits. Molokhia is known for its high levels of fiber, potassium, iron, calcium and magnesium, containing more than 30 vitamins and minerals. It is a dish meant for "muluk" or kings! And that's how Molokhia got its name! Over the years, this dish made its way to every Middle Eastern table.  

It's very difficult to find fresh Molokhia leaves in the United States. You can try to look for it at any international food market or at farmers markets.

Growing up, the international food market by our house carried fresh molokhia when it was in season. I remember my mom coming home with multiple bags of molokhia, ready to be picked, washed and dried. She always freezes her own molokhia. I have a lot of respect for that because it takes hours to pick a huge bag of leaves, resulting in enough leaves to only serve 2 people! 

Now, I wouldn't buy fresh molokhia, even if I found it! Don't get me wrong. I do prefer fresh ingredients over frozen, but... it's way too time consuming and I don't have the patience to go through the process of picking and washing it. This is totally fine because every Middle Eastern grocery store sells the frozen variety. There are two options: minced and whole leaves. For this recipe, make sure to get the minced version. 

The funny thing is when I was younger, I always knew when we were having molokhia for dinner. I could smell the garlic the second I walked through the front door after school. This dish has so much garlic in it! 

Traditionally, molokhia is served with rice or pita bread and garnished with fresh lemon juice. It doesn't require that many ingredients and it comes together quickly! 

Molokhia 

Servings: 4 

Prep Time: 20 minutes 

Cook Time: 60 minutes 

Ingredients: 

2 bags frozen minced molokhia (400 grams/14 oz each, total 800 grams/28 oz) 

1 pound chicken breast, or 4 pieces of bone-in chicken thighs or drumsticks*

1/2 onion, sliced 

3 bay leaves 

8 garlic cloves, minced 

1 Tbsp vegetable oil 

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste 

Juice from 1 lemon 

Directions: 

1) In a pot, add chicken, onions, and bay leaves. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Cook until chicken is tender, about 40 minutes. Skim any excess fat that rises to the top. 

2) Once the chicken is fully cooked, set the meat aside and reserve 2 cups of the chicken broth. 

3) In a medium sized pot, add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and heat on low. Add the minced garlic, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds, or until cooked. Make sure the garlic doesn't burn! 

4) Add the frozen molokhia, chicken, and salt to the pot. Slowly add the reserved broth, about 1 cup. Depending on your preferred consistency, you can add more or less broth. I find that for 2 bags, I usually use about 1.5 cups of broth. 

5) Cook the molokhia for about 10 minutes on medium heat. 

6) When ready to serve, transfer to a serving bowl and add with fresh lemon juice. Enjoy with my white vermicelli rice or warm pita bread. 

Notes: 

- If you're using chicken breast, you can shred the chicken after you cook it. If you're using bone-in chicken, keep it as is and add it to the molokhia. 

- If you're short on time, you can use low sodium chicken broth and shredded rotisserie chicken.