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 Moplah weddings.

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 post 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

With the pressure cooker and blender method, we can recreate this traditional rich food with zero hand workout. If you prefer to work out your arms, please go ahead and keep stirring and mashing! 😅😅

The method stated here requires time. Soaking, pressure 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 mixie or processor. 

Aleesa | Wheat berries with Chicken in Coconut Milk

Aleesa | Wheat berries with Chicken in Coconut Milk

This recipe yields two servings for two.


For Porridge
1 cup pearl barley or wheat berries soaked for 5 to 8 hours or overnight
4 large garlic cloves, crushed
2 cups thick coconut milk
1 to 2 cups of water (add more water if using harees wheat, kuthiya gothambu, etc.)
Salt to taste
350 to 500 gms Chicken - with bone is better to taste.  
4 cloves
3 cardamoms
1-inch cinnamon stick

For Garnish
4 tablespoon ghee
1/2 medium onion thinly sliced
8 to 10 raisins
8 to 10 cashews

Sugar while serving 


Prepare the Porridge:
  1. In a Pressure cooker add the soaked white wheat, coconut milk, water, garlic cloves, chicken pieces, whole spices, and salt 
  2. 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. 
  3. Once the pressure is released on it own, open and carefully remove and discard the 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: (Prepare the garnish while the wheat and chicken are cooking.)
  1. In a pan, heat 1 tbsp of ghee and fry the raisins until puffed - keep aside
  2. In the same pan, fry the cashews and keep aside
  3. Add some more ghee 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

How to serve aleesa?

Scoop a ladle of Aleesa and spread on a plate, pour a teaspoon of ghee (from after frying the cashews and onions), 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!


Popular Posts