Sunday, October 23, 2011

Kabsa - A Traditional Arabic Cuisine

Kabsa is a rice dish served mostly in Saudi Arabia. It is regarded as a national dish. Kabsa is believed to originate from Yemen. In the other GCC States like Qatar, UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait; Kabsa is popularly known as Machbus.

A traditional chicken Kabsa

A traditional meat Kabsa

Machbus - A popular cuisince in GCC States 

The dish is mainly made from mixture of spices, rice, meat and vegetables. It can be prepared in different variety and each possesses its own distinction.

The spices use to prepare the delectable Kabsa are largely responsible for its savory taste; they include black pepper, cloves, cardamom, saffron, cinnamon, black lime, bay leaves and nutmeg.

The main ingredient that enhances the spices is the meat and it is usually choice of chicken, lamb, goat, camel, beef and even shrimp.

The meat for Kabsa can be cooked in various ways. A popular way of preparing meat is called Mandi. The ideal meat is usually from young and small lamb or goat. The meat is cooked in a Tandoor, which is a special kind of oven. It is actually a pit dug in the ground where the inner lining is coated with clay. Dry woods are placed inside the Tandoor and set ablaze to generate lots of heat in order to turn the woods into smoldering charcoal.

A traditional Mandi dish

Chicken, Lamb and Beef cooked inside a Tandoor

A typical bread Tandoor

The meat is suspended inside the Tandoor without touching the charcoal. The Tandoor is sealed, not allowing any smoke to escape. Another way of preparing the meat is called Al-Mathbi, where seasoned meat is grilled on flat stones that are placed on top of burning embers.

A typical Al Mathbi Dish - Grilled Lamb

Kabsa dish prepared using chicken meat is regarded as the main staple and commonly served in everyday dining in both household and restaurants. Kabsa dish prepared from lambs, goat, camel and beef are mostly preferred during memorable occasion like weddings and exclusive festivities like Eid.

Kabsa is usually garnished with almond nuts, cashew nuts, onions and raisins. And after the hearty meal, a fine serving of fresh and nourishing Labneh will definitely complement this wonderful gastronomic delight.

Fresh Labneh

Here is a simple Kabsa recipe I'd like to share with you in case you might want to try-out and cook this unique dish.


          •  2 - Chickens, cut into half or quarter
          •  ¼ cup - Vegetable Oil
          •  2 medium - Onions, sliced
          •  1 (12 ounce) Can – Tomato Sauce
          •  2 medium – Tomatoes, chopped
          •  4 cloves – Garlic, crushed
          •  2 medium – Carrots, grated
          •  4 – Cloves
          •  4 – Cardamom pods
          •  3 – Cinnamon sticks
          •  ½ Kg. – Long-grain rice, Basmati rice is the preferred choice
          •  ¼ cup – Raisins
          •  ¼ cup Cashew Nuts
          •  Grated Orange Rind
          •  Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Soak long-grain rice in water for about 15 minutes.
  2. Drain the water after soaking period. Set it aside.
  3. Using a roasting pot, sauté onion and garlic in oil until golden brown.
  4. Add chicken pieces, chopped tomatoes and stir-fried over low heat.
  5. Add three cups warm water, bring to simmer.
  6. Add tomato sauce, stirring occasionally until a consistent broth is visible.
  7. Add grated carrot, orange rind, spices (cloves, cardamom, and cinnamon stick).
  8. Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste. 
  9. Cook over medium heat while keeping covered for about 20-25 minutes until chicken is cooked and tender.
  10. Remove the chicken pieces from the broth.
  11. Add the soaked rice into the broth. Stir occasionally; keeping pot covered, simmer in low heat for about 35 - 40 minutes. Allow broth to be fully absorbed. Verify if rice is cooked.
  12. Set heap of rice in a serving platter with all chicken pieces on top of the heap.
  13. Toss raisins and cashew nuts over rice and chickens.
Ahlan Wa Sahlan and enjoy the Middle East's exciting gastronomic experience!

Bon Appétit

Photo Credit: WIkipedia

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