Recipe: Bahraini Machboos (Chicken with Rice)

What to do when your favorite cuisine doesn’t have any restaurants that serve it? Make it yourself.


Apparently there’s no such thing as a Bahraini restaurant in L.A., which is why in this month’s ethnic food-focused “Food Lover’s Guide”  (“Around L.A. in 80 Cuisines”), we had to look elsewhere to get our machboos and sayadiyeh fix. Enter Abba Al Meftah, the 35-year-old fashion marketing manager who was kind enough to invite us into her Venice home to show us exactly what sorts of deliciousness the island nation has to offer.

Two hours is the minimum time Meftah allots for the spices to fully marinade into the chicken for her Machboos Dijaj – a spiced rice dish made with chicken, dried black limes, chickpeas, and onions – though her recipe also suggests leaving the mixture overnight. It’s a careful, homey affair Meftah learned to make from her father, and perfect for mixing up for a traditional holiday potluck.

Machboos Dijaj


1 teaspoon ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
5 cardamon pods
1 1/2 teaspoon paprika
Salt to taste
1 chicken (about 3-4 lbs), cut in half
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves crushed garlic
1″ piece ginger, crushed
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 dried black limes with a couple of holes poked in each
1 serrano or jalapeno chili
2 cups basmati long grain rice
2 1/2 cups water
Vegetable oil
Fresh cilantro


Mix the black pepper, salt, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, curry, turmeric, nutmeg and paprika to make the spice blend.

Use half of the spice blend to season the chicken, set aside for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Saute the onions in the oil until starting to brown. Add crushed garlic and ginger, the rest of the spice mixture and cardamom pods. Saute for a couple of minutes and add the tomatoes, chili, dried limes and chicken halves. Turn the chicken pieces a few times to coat with the mixture. Add water, bring to boil then cover and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.

Wash the rice in several changes of cold water until excess starch is removed, drain well. Remove chicken halves from the broth and set aside on a baking sheet. Add rice to the broth, cover and let steam over low heat for 30 minutes.

While the rice is cooking, roast the chicken halves for 15-20 minutes in a 400 degree oven to brown and crisp skin. Serve rice on a platter topped with chicken halves and sprinkled with fresh cilantro.

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