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The Curious Case of Egypt’s Favorite Dish

Molokhia.. an authentic Egyptian soup and plant that dates back to ancient times

Food is a major part and attraction of many countries’ cultures. Some people travel millions of miles to savor traditional dishes; it’s called food tourism: some fly to Italy for the best of Italian pasta, others devour Lebanese Manakish Zaatar, and some favor the taste of Egyptian cuisine. Our authentic cuisine is famed for many unique dishes, but most specifically Molokhia, a soup made from green leaves and broth usually served with a base of rice or Egyptian baladi bread alongside chicken, meat or even fish.

As delicious as it is, Molokhia is not just a dish favored by many, but also offers an interesting dinner table conversation starter. The thick green soup actually comes with two different story angles, one dating back to Pharaonic times and the other to the Mu’ezi era. Nobody can really confirm which is the real story!

PHARAONIC ERA

Ancient Egyptians used to believe that what we know as Molokhia today, was a poisonous, non-edible plant, referred to as Khia, which meant deadly in their language. Centuries later when the Hyksus conquered Egypt, they forced the Egyptians to eat the deadly plant, ordering them to Mol-Khia, meaning “eat the poison,” and hence the name Molokhia.

THE FATIMID CALIPHATE

As Egypt fell under the rule of The Fatimid Caliphate, the other known theory on Molokhia was born. It claims that Al-Mu’izz Li-Din Allah, the Fatimid Caliph, is behind the name. The Caliph was feeling sick and suffered from bowel spasms. After consuming Molokhia upon his doctors’ advice he immediately recovered. The Caliph deemed Molokhia a dish only reserved for the royal court, and called it Molokeya, meaning “belongs to the king.”

One thing Molokhia is special for is the final step of the recipe, when the cook gasps while pouring fried garlic sauce into the soup. This part of the recipe has a lot of stories, but none were ever confirmed.

The first recounts the story of a girl, not really into cooking. One day she gasped in shock when the Molokhia she was making was about to boil-over. It was said it was the only time she cooked something so delicious, and that’s when the myth of the gasping began.

The second story is a very dramatic one. It narrates the Caliph Al Hakim Bi-Amr Allah’s love for Molokhia. One day the royal cook was late serving the dish. The hungry Caliph ordered his immediate execution. When the cook saw the soldiers coming into the kitchen with their swords, he gasped in fear. Rated as the best Molokhia he ever had, the Caliph mandated that every royal cook must gasp when preparing Molokhia.

All left is to share the most authentic and delicious recipe of Egypt’s most famous dish, created by Abla Nikola, one of the Arab world’s most famous culinary authors and publisher of the iconic Abla Nazira cook book.

Ingredients:

½ kg of fresh Molokhia

Broth (bone’s, chicken’s, or meat’s)

Ghee (quantity according to personal preference)

1 onion

1 tbsp of garlic

Spices (salt, pepper, cilantro)

How to prepare:

Wash Molokhia leaves, let it dry, then mince it.

Drop Molokhia into boiling broth and stir.

Mince garlic then fry it in ghee, and add 2 tbsp of cilantro.

Add the fried garlic sauce to the Molokhia and stir and let it boil a little, then it’s ready!

Too Lazy to cook? Here’s our top three picks for authentic and delicious Molokhia in town: Abou El Sid, Qasr Elkababgy, and of course Kebdet El Prince!

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