This Mloukhia dish has traveled from India to the Middle East and North Africa where it became national dishes.
In Egypt, it is prepared with its leaves, while in Tunisia it is cooked in a very special way as the leaves are not used as such but rather transformed into a powder used in this generous stew.
If you want to taste it and would like to cook it then read further for a delicious Tunisian Molokhia easy recipe!
What is Mloukhia?
Mloukhia (Arabic: الملوخية), which is also spelled mlokhia, melukhia, molokhia, molokheya, or mlukhiya is a traditional dish of Tunisia and more widely of the Maghreb and the Middle East.
It is a beef or lamb stew that is cooked in a very rich sauce made from dried Jew’s mallow powder with olive oil or sunflower oil.
In Tunisia, traditionally, mloukhia is prepared with beef, sometimes accompanied by pieces of tripe, and cooked on the low heat of a kanoun (charcoal), for at least eight hours. It is also often served with merguez.
The name mloukhia comes from the Arabic word Malek or malik, which means “king”. It is for this reason that in Tunisia, this dish is called “the delicacy of the king”.
Benefits of Mloukhia
The mloukhia powder is the spice richest in magnesium with 6.9 mg of magnesium per 100 grams. It is rich in vitamins A and B, mineral salts (sodium, potassium, and iron), fiber, and carbohydrates.
Below are some of the health benefits;
- It stimulates the stomach, strengthens immunity, and protects the mucous membranes, the digestive system, and the spleen.
- It has calming benefits and acts as an analgesic. I
- t protects even the heart and the eyes. It treats toothache very effectively.
- It also fights anemia, preserves brain cells, delays osteoporosis, and it can also treat infertility problems.
- It is recommended for people suffering from anemia to consume mloukhia because it effectively fights against blood deficiency.
This Tunisian dish is a slow-cooking stew that can take up to 6 or 7 hours. It is not uncommon that the paste is made the evening before and the stew is finished over the next day but you don’t have to do this if you want to cook it during the day.
Jew’s mallow leaves are dried and reduced to a green powder, that is easy to keep. This powder, whose delicate cooking gives this dish all its flavor, requires several hours of cooking over low heat.
First fried in olive oil or sunflower oil, it is then diluted with hot water and then requires a certain strength for these two components, oil, and water, to mingle into a greenish liquid that will become dark brown, even black, after a long-simmering. Its taste is halfway between sorrel and spinach.
Cooked especially during the holidays in Tunisia, Muslims consume it on the day of Ras-el-am, the new year of the Hegira so that the year is placed under the sign of its green color, promising hope.
Indeed, thanks to the green color of the powder which is the color of Islam, hope, and therefore good fortune, the mloukhia is prepared so that the new year is “green”, or prosperous. In many parts of Tunisia, it is also prepared at the end of mourning and the first day of Eid-el-Fitr.
The Jews of Nabeul, Tunisia, have kept the same traditions and now cook the mloukhia for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.
Be Sure to Try These Other Authentic Tunisian Dishes!
I will warn you, there is no middle way with this dish, you either love it or not. Which side are you on? Let us know! Enjoy!
- 1 packet of mloukhia (100g)neutral cooking oil
- 3-4 bay leaves
- 1.25 lamb shoulder chop (bone-in)
- 2 tablespoons tabil
- 1 tsp caraway
- 1-2 tbsp homemade harissa (harissa arabi) and/or 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 3 garlic cloves
- Take the packet of mloukhia and place the contents in a large cooking pot on the stove. Add about 2 cups of neutral cooking oil. Mix and stir to get the lumps out. Then add about 2 liters of hot/boiling water but leave room at the top of the pot. Bring to a boil on med/high heat. Add bay leaves, then turn down pot to a low simmer and cover for about 2 hours.
- Prepare the meat. (You can also do this the night before.) In a small bowl, mix tabil, caraway, harissa/tomato paste, ground pepper, and a pinch of salt. Then mash the garlic cloves to a paste in a mortar and pestle (or finely chop with a knife) and add to the other spices. Place lamb in a larger bowl and rub the spice mixture into the meat with a spoon. Cover and refrigerate (you can prepare this the day ahead and refrigerate overnight).
- After two hours, turn mloukhia pot back up and let it boil, then add the lamb in. Let it boil for a bit then turn down heat and let it simmer on low (for ~1.5-2 hours).
- At this point, the meat should be tender and starting to fall off the bone. The minute the water hits the mloukhia, it has a slimy consistency. The only way to get rid of this is to let it cook for a long time. (Total cooking time: ~3.5-5 hours) Serve with baguette and enjoy!