Authentic Yemeni Chicken Mandi Rice

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Chicken Mandi is a soul-satisfying dish originating in Yemen. It features succulent chicken nestled on a bed of fluffy, aromatic rice infused with warm spices and a hint of smoke. This vibrant dish is a staple for celebrations and family gatherings, and its popularity has transcended borders, captivating palates worldwide.

Here’s how to recreate this culinary masterpiece in your own kitchen:

How to Make Chicken Mandi
How to Make Chicken Mandi

Ingredients:

For the Chicken Marinade:

1 whole chicken (around 3 lbs), cut into 8 pieces (or use chicken leg quarters)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground garlic
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Salt to taste
  • A pinch of saffron threads (soaked in 2 tablespoons of warm water)

  • For the Mandi Rice:

    2 cups basmati rice, rinsed and soaked for 30 minutes

  • 4 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cloves
  • 3 black peppercorns
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 green cardamoms
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 inch ginger, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • 4 cups water or chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

  • For the Smoke Flavor (Optional, but highly recommended):

    Aluminum foil

  • A small baking sheet
  • A few pieces of charcoal
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil

  • Directions:

    1. Marinate the Chicken: In a large bowl, combine olive oil, lemon juice, yogurt, ginger, garlic, and all the spices. Add the chicken pieces and toss to coat evenly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or preferably overnight for maximum flavor.

    2. Prepare the Rice: Rinse the soaked basmati rice until the water runs clear. Drain well and set aside.

    3. (Optional) Create the Smoky Flavor: Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C). Scrunch a piece of aluminum foil into a small pocket and place it on a baking sheet. Drizzle a tablespoon of cooking oil onto the foil and light a few pieces of charcoal. Once the charcoal is glowing red, carefully place it on the foil pocket in the oven. Close the oven door for 5 minutes to infuse the oven with smoke.

    4. Cook the Chicken: In a large Dutch oven or oven-safe pot, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Sear the marinated chicken pieces until golden brown on all sides. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside.

    5. Flavor the Rice: In the same pot, add the bay leaves, cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, and cardamom pods. Sauté for a minute until fragrant. Add the chopped onion, garlic, and ginger, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

    6. Season the Rice: Stir in the ground coriander, cumin, turmeric, and black pepper. Cook for another minute, allowing the spices to release their aroma. Add the rinsed basmati rice and salt to taste. Stir to coat the rice with the spices.

    7. Assemble the Dish: Pour the chicken broth or water into the pot with the rice. Carefully arrange the browned chicken pieces on top of the rice. If you opted for the smoky flavor, carefully remove the baking sheet with the charcoal from the oven and place it on the bottom rack directly below the pot of rice. Cover the pot tightly with foil and a lid.

    8. Bake the Mandi: Transfer the pot to the preheated oven (400°F/200°C) and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the rice is cooked through and the chicken is tender and cooked through.

    9. (Optional) Fluff the Rice: Once cooked, remove the pot from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes. Fluff the rice gently with a fork and discard the bay leaves, cloves, peppercorns, and cinnamon stick.

    10. Garnish and Serve: Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro (optional) and serve the Chicken Mandi hot with your favorite accompaniments like chopped onions, raisins, and a yogurt sauce.

    Nutrition Facts (per serving):