Fragrant Yemeni Mandi Rice With Spiced Chicken

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Mandi rice, a crown jewel of Yemeni cuisine, is more than just a dish; it’s an experience. Imagine fluffy basmati rice infused with warm spices, flecked with golden raisins and slivered almonds, all crowned with a perfectly roasted chicken or lamb. The aroma itself is a travelogue, transporting you to bustling marketplaces and starlit Arabian nights.

This recipe unlocks the secrets of crafting this flavorful masterpiece in your own kitchen. While seemingly complex, the steps are surprisingly straightforward, and the result is a show-stopping centerpiece for any gathering.

How to Make Chicken Mandi
How to Make Chicken Mandi


For the Rice:

  • 2 cups basmati rice, rinsed and soaked for 30 minutes
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 4 green cardamoms
  • 2 black cardamoms, cracked open (optional)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 2-3 strands saffron (optional)
  • For the Chicken (or Lamb):
  • 1 whole chicken (around 3-4 lbs), or 2 lbs lamb leg, cut into pieces
  • 2 tbsp yogurt
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground garlic
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

  • Directions:

    1. Marinate the Chicken (or Lamb): In a large bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice, ginger, garlic, all the spices, and salt. Add the chicken or lamb pieces and coat them thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or preferably overnight.
    2. Prepare the Rice: In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add the sliced onions and cook until softened and translucent, about 10 minutes.
    3. Add the whole cloves, cardamoms, cinnamon stick, and bay leaf. Sauté for another minute, allowing the warm spices to release their fragrance.
    4. Stir in the rinsed basmati rice, black pepper, cumin, turmeric, and coriander. Season with salt to taste.
    5. Pour enough water to cover the rice by about an inch. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover the pot tightly, and simmer for 15 minutes.
    6. While the rice simmers, cook the chicken (or lamb): In a separate pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Sear the marinated chicken or lamb pieces on all sides until golden brown.
    7. Transfer the Chicken (or Lamb) to the Rice: After 15 minutes of simmering, carefully spread the browned chicken or lamb pieces on top of the rice.
    8. Assemble for Steaming: If you have a steamer basket, place it on top of the pot. If not, create a makeshift steamer with a piece of aluminum foil folded into a tent shape, leaving a small opening for steam to escape.
    9. Steam the Mandi: Cover the pot tightly with foil or the steamer lid and continue cooking on low heat for another 20-25 minutes, or until the chicken or lamb is cooked through and the rice is fluffy.
    10. Finishing Touches: Once cooked, remove the pot from heat and let it sit for 10 minutes, undisturbed. This allows the flavors to meld and the rice to absorb any remaining moisture.
    11. Fluff the Rice: With a fork, gently fluff the rice, taking care not to break the grains. Stir in the golden raisins and almonds. If using saffron, sprinkle the strands on top of the rice.
    12. Serve: Transfer the fragrant Mandi rice to a large serving platter and arrange the cooked chicken or lamb pieces on top. Garnish with fresh herbs like parsley or cilantro, if desired.

    Nutrition Facts (per serving):

    (Please note that these are approximate values and may vary depending on the specific ingredients used.)

    Calories: 450-500

  • Fat: 20-25g
  • Carbohydrates: 50-60g