Dejaj Salona | Emirati Chicken and Vegetable Stew

Dajaj (Arabic for chicken) Salona (stew), a traditional stew filled with seasonal vegetables flavoured with a unique spice mix blend called Bezar which makes this a traditional Emirati recipe.
Dejaj Salona | Emirati Chicken and Vegetable Stew
Back with MENA Cooking Club! This time the club explored UAE (United Arab Emirates) Cuisine and I chose to try Dejaj Saloona. I just got back from Dubai last month where I got to meet my brother and his two munchkins! It was my first visit to UAE but Dubai doesn't represent UAE, it is a global city with people and food from all over the world! UAE is one of the Middle Eastern countries with almost 80% of its population as expatriates. The same reason why their authentic cuisine is hard to differentiate as it is diluted with all the foreign influences. Even though UAE's mainstay is seafood; meat and vegetables are cooked more often and mostly in one-pot stews.

Dejaj Salona is a chicken stew with a lot of vegetables. What makes it Emirati is the Spice mix called Bezar. I  chose the most sought-after bezar mix recipe on the internet which is listed in uaeforver but I cut short the quantity to make just a few tablespoons. 

Dejaj Salona | Emirati Chicken Stew

I adapted Noor's recipe from yasalamcooking as her recipe required to boil the chicken first which will give me the broth to make the Salona which in turn will help to retain the veggies in shape because stew gets better when cooked for long but I don't want the veggies to disintegrate. You can also check Fahad's version at uaeforever.

F and I loved it so much with rice that we ended up drinking the leftover off the plate the way I do with Rasam! He asked me to make it again on the weekend and I was more than happy to oblige as that means a daylight picture!

Dejaj Salona | Emirati Chicken Stew

How to make Dajaj Salona?

Now, my method is time-consuming for a good reason. Tastes better. The faster method is dumping all into a pot or pressure cooker and cook until done. But making the stock first will give you a chance to remove the impurities and foam off the stock and here you can include all the chicken pieces that you would not normally include in the actual dish. The bone is what renders the stock flavour so I highly recommend trying this method. Anytime you cook stew you should use chicken with the bones for that added flavour, and you will be making your own chicken broth that way and will have no need to use any store-bought.
  1. Prepare the bezar spice mix
  2. Prepare the chicken stock
  3. Chop the veggies
  4. Prepare the stew
Dejaj Salona | Emirati Chicken and Vegetable Stew

Dejaj Salona | Emirati Chicken Stew

Yields: 5 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS

For Bezar Spice Mix 
Yields: 2 to 3 tablespoons ( You won't be using all of it)
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds 
  • 1/2 tablespoon peppercorns 
  • 2 dried red chillies
  • 2-inch cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2 tablespoon turmeric powder
For Chicken Stock
  • 800gms whole chicken, cut into pieces (keep the backbone for the stock)
  • Enough and more water to cover the chicken 
  • 1 cardamom 
  • 1 cinnamon stick 
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • 1 loomi (dried lime/black lime)
  • 1 small piece galangal root (optional)
  • 1 small piece black stone flower (shaiba leaves) (optional)
  • 1 garlic clove
For Dejaj Salona
  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1/2 inch ginger grated
  • 3 green chillis, slit
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and cut into chunky roundels 
  • 2 to 3 carrots, peeled and cut into chunky roundels 
  • A handful of french beans and 
  • A small bell pepper
  • 2 to 3 large tomatoes, cut into roundels
  • 1 loomi (dried lime/black lime)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom powder
  • 1 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoon bezar spice mix
  • Boiled chicken along with the stock
  • Salt to taste
  • Fistful of coriander leaves, chopped

METHOD

  1. Prepare the Bezar spice mix: Grind the whole spices until almost fine. Stir in the turmeric powder. Store in a dry airtight container.
  2. Prepare Chicken Broth: Take a deep pot, add water, chicken pieces, and the whole spices and bring it to a full boil. Skim out and discard the foam and impurities using a spoon. Reduce the flame to low and simmer for 30 minutes or until the chicken pieces and cooked. Remove the chicken pieces using tongs and keep them aside. Strain the broth and discard the whole spices.
  3. Prepare Dejaj Salona: Heat the oil in a curry pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, and sauté until golden with a dash of salt. Stir in ginger, garlic and green chillies and sauté for a minute. Add the tomato paste, tomatoes, and all the chopped veggies along with a loomi. Season with salt as you go. Cover and cook for 5 to 8 mins stirring occasionally until tomatoes are cooked down. Add the boiled chicken pieces along with all the spice powders. Pour the strained broth and add more water if required. Taste and adjust the salt. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes or until all the vegetables are cooked through. Stir in fresh coriander leaves. 
  4. Serve saloona: Serve warm with a sprinkle of freshly chopped coriander leaves and serve with white rice or Emirati bread, ragag. The leftovers can be made into my version of Thareed. Just tear and add any leftover khubz or chapatis and cook until all is soaked. :-) I was happy to just drink them as warm soup and eat those chicken pieces! An ideal dish for low carb-ers.
Note: The more you simmer, the better. You can thicken the stew by simmering for a longer period. Chicken in bone is better as it gives a rich broth. Vegetables are totally your choice, you can add any vegetables like carrots, zucchini, etc.

Dejaj Salona | Emirati Chicken and Vegetable Stew


Dejaj Salona | Emirati Chicken and Vegetable Stew

The content and images were updated in Nov 2019

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