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Aleesa | Wheat berries with Chicken in Coconut Milk

Aleesa a delicious wheat porridge with meat, cooked in coconut milk and seasoned with fried shallots, nuts and ghee is served as a starter with sugar in the side in Malabar Moplah weddings. But you can avoid the sugar or have this as the main dish like we do! 😄 Jump to Recipe
Aleesa | Skinless White Wheat with Chicken

I always associated Aleesa or Alsa to a dessert, because it used to be served with sugar. Though they serve it first before the biryani, I used to save it and have it at the end. 😆 Only after my marriage, I learnt Aleesa is made with chicken or meat and so it actually is an appetizer dish! 

Alsa is yet another dish inspired by the middle-eastern Jareesh or Harees that is prepared during the month of Ramadan in most of the Arab houses. When Aleesa is made at home, I have only relished it oblivious to how it is prepared. I heard that it was a huge task and needs a lot of energy to churn etc. Even then, I never imagined it was prepared with meat.

It was at my in-laws where my mil (umma) said she will make Aleesa for dinner. I was like "eh! Dinner?" and because I was newly married, I was not too comfortable to ask or say anything. I was busy with something else when she came to me with a bowl which had chicken bones and all and asked me to taste and check salt. I was taken aback! I will never forget that day! That was the best Aleesa I had and the day I learnt the fact that it is made with chicken. I was so surprised, I called my mom to cross-check if that is how indeed it is made and she confirmed and stated that for weddings due to the large scale requirement it is made with less meat and more wheat. What a revelation! 

Aleesa | Skinless White Wheat with Chicken

During one of the grocery shopping here in Yanbu, I saw a pack of white wheat (I had no idea which wheat was used to make Aleesa) and asked my mom to send the recipe for Aleesa (Thanks to WhatsApp) She made the whole process sound so easy but I was doubtful with the preconceived notion about the hard work. 

Update July 2019: The pack in supermarkets of Yanbu mentioned "White Wheat" so I never had to doubt. I was looking for the same white wheat in Abu Dhabi markets and I found that apparently, I have been using "pearl barley". facepalm.  Quick research I learnt that even harees sometimes can be made with pearl barely so I hope I am forgiven and this recipe can stay as it is... because it works charmingly and deliciously! 

Aleesa | Skinless White Wheat with Chicken

How to make alsa? 

With the pressure cooker and blender method, we can recreate this traditional aleesa recipe with zero hand workout. But for those who don't want to use the cooker, you can cook in a pot and use an immersion blender to breakdown the cooked wheat. The method stated here requires time. Soaking, pressure/pot cooking, and blending. If you have a hand blender, then it takes lesser time. Else, we need to cool it and break it down in a processor. 

I ditched the pressure cooker method only because my cooker has its own mind of late. And ever since I tried the pot method I am stress-free and alsa is on the menu more often. Whatever method you use, make sure to add a dash of ghee or oil which will reduce the chances of burnt bottom - a tip my umma shared recently. 

Just dump all the ingredients and cook stirring every now and then until the wheat berries are plumped and cooked through. Serve garnished with fried onions, cashews and raisins. 

Aleesa | Wheat berries with Chicken in Coconut Milk

Aleesa | Wheat berries with Chicken in Coconut Milk

Aleesa | Wheat berries with Chicken in Coconut Milk

Aleesa | Wheat berries with Chicken in Coconut Milk

Aleesa | Wheat berries with Chicken in Coconut Milk

Pot Cooking takes 1.5 hours (may increase or decrease depending on the type of wheat/barley used)
Serves 2 to 3 people


For Porridge
1 cup pearl barley or wheat berries soaked for 5 to 8 hours or overnight
300 to 500gms Chicken boneless skinless (I use thighs)
4 large garlic cloves, crushed
4 cloves
3 cardamoms
1-inch cinnamon stick
2 cups thick coconut milk
2 to 4 cups of water 
1 teaspoon of ghee
Salt to taste

For Garnish
4 tablespoon ghee
1 medium onion thinly sliced
2 tablespoons raisins
15 split cashews

Sugar while serving (optional)
Ghee (optional)


Prepare the Porridge:
  1. Add all the items listed under "For Porridge" into a deep saucepot or pressure cooker.
  2. Pressure cooking method: Pressure cook on low to medium flame for 2 to 3 whistles. Let the pressure cool on its own. Check if the chicken and wheat are cooked, adjust salt, add more water if required and pressure cook again for 2 to 3 whistles and switch off. Saucepot Method: Bring the mixture to boil on high and then reduce the flame to low. Cover and cook for next 1 and 1/2 hour making sure to stir every 10 minutes. Do keep a heat diffuser or flat pan underneath the pot for even heat distribution and prevent from burnt food. 
  3. Remove and discard any bones and whole spices (my mom had mentioned to tie the whole spices in a cloth and drop it in the pot to cook so it can be removed once done.)
  4. Use a hand blender or wait for it to cool down and pulse the content in a mixie to a coarse paste.
  5. If the mixture is too thick, add a cup of very hot water and bring to boil before switching off.
For Garnish: 
  1. Heat ghee in a small saucepan and fry the raisins until puffed. Remove and keep aside.
  2. In the same pan, fry the cashews and keep aside.
  3. Add more ghee if required and fry the thinly sliced onions. (do not step away and get them burnt)
  4. Mix these together in a bowl and use it to garnish each plate.
  5. Stir in the remaining ghee after frying into the aleesa pot.

How to serve aleesa?

Scoop a ladle of Aleesa and spread on a plate, pour a teaspoon of ghee, top it with garnish mixture and generous sugar and dig in!

Can Aleesa be prepared without a pressure cooker?

Yes! I had to make a big batch and I don't own a big pressure cooker so dumped all the ingredients in a deep pot and cooked covered on a low flame for an hour stirring occasionally. I did use a heat diffuser to prevent burnt bottom. I highly recommend getting one or keep a flat pan instead. To finish off, you can use an immersion blender to coarsely grind or use mixie once it cools down. Then reheat with some water and serve warm with suggested toppings. 

Aleesa | Wheat berries with Chicken in Coconut Milk
Aleesa made with whole wheat grain in Abu Dhabi kitchen

Love warm drinks? Do checkout my Gothambu Kachiyathu recipe which is a three milk warm drink for cold weather!

Tried this recipe? I would love to hear from you. If you have made this recipe then please do leave a comment below. If you like this recipe then please do share the recipe with your friends and family on Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Please do follow me on Instagram and mention @butfirstchaai or tag #butfirstchai so that I can see your creations!