Dejaj Salona | Emirati Chicken Stew

Another experience from MENA Cooking Club! This time the club explored UAE (United Arab Emirates) Cuisine. We received the club email on 8th of March and had almost a month to try and make any one or all three of the dishes that our host Tamar chose for UAE.

Soup/Stew: Dejaj Saloona (chicken stew)
Main: Ro-be-yann nashif (shrimp)
Dessert: Khanfaroush

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! 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 during my stay there, I had Afghan, Peruvian, Indian cuisine, and once they served dates with different fillings which were the closest to Arabian food! :-D That is how the food world has become in Dubai!

Even though UAE's mainstay is seafood; meat and vegetables are cooked more often and mostly in one pot stews. Out of the three choices, Robeyaan nashif, a dish made with Shrimps was out as seafood is not welcome in my home and though the dessert seemed easy and tempting, I chose to first try the Dejaj Saloona and started looking for the recipe. 

Dejaj Salona | Emirati Chicken Stew

Dejaj Salona is a Chicken stew with a lot of vegetables. What makes it Emirati is the Spice mix called Bezar. Just like how there is no rule for any of the numerous spice mixes of India, there is none for Bezar too. I spent hours on the internet to find two matching recipes so that I can be confident in using it. Though I found similar recipes of the mix, they were from the same source! I also read that each family has their own magic mix. 

So I just went with the most sought-after bezar mix recipe listed in uaeforver but I cut short the quantity to make just a few tablespoons. Roasting the spices itself brought such good aroma that reminded me of something very familiar with our Indian food too. I still cannot place that dish, but I guess it is because of the spices used in it. Cumin, fennel, cinnamon, coriander, pepper, red chillies and turmeric - now that does not read Arabian! 

Dejaj Salona | Emirati Chicken Stew

Dejaj Salona recipe too was not very common on the internet. 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. You can also check Fahad's version at uaeforever.

I made Dejaj Salona twice! the first time I made on a weekday for dinner and served with rice. F and I loved it so much with the rice that we ended up drinking the leftover off the plate like I do with Rasam! It was drinking well? Lol! And surprisingly he asked me to make it again on the weekend and I was more than happy to oblige as that means a daylight picture! Like most of the meat stews, the Salona tastes better the next day. 

The tallest building in the world - Burj Khalifa 

The second time I made, I added some whole spices while boiling the chicken just to get it aromatic. The Salona tasted even better this time and again served with white rice. This is one recipe that is already part of my menu and will be doing this more often. 

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 normally won't include in the actual dish. The bone is what renders the stock flavour so I highly recommend trying this method.

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
700gms 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)

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
A mix of potatoes and carrots, peeled and cut into roundels ( 1 or 2 of each)
A handful of french beans and bell peppers 
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 garam masala
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:

Bezar: 
  1. Dry roast the seeds until fragrant and let it cool
  2. Grind until a fine powder
  3. Mix in the turmeric powder 
  4. Store in an airtight container
Chicken Broth:
  1. Take a deep pot, add water, chicken pieces, and the whole spices and bring it to boil
  2. Skim out and discard the foam and impurities
  3. Cover and cook for 30 minutes or until the water is reduced to half the quantity
  4. Remove the chicken pieces and keep aside
  5. Strain the broth and discard the whole spices
Dejaj Salona
  1. Heat the oil in a curry pot over medium-high heat
  2. Add onions, and sauté until golden
  3. Stir in ginger, garlic and green chillies and sauté for a minute 
  4. Add the tomato paste, tomatoes, and the veggies along with a loomi
  5. Cover and cook for 5 to 8 mins stirring occasionally 
  6. Add the chicken pieces along with all the spice powders 
  7. Pour the strained broth and add more water if required 
  8. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes
  9. Add fresh coriander leaves right before serving
  10. Serve with white rice

New Image updated on 23rd June 2019

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. I had to keep it to minimum else F will tag it as a vegetarian dish which will become hard for me to sell. :-D

The leftovers can be made into thareed. Just tear and add any leftover kubz or chapatis and cook until all is soaked. :-)

Last night F brought home a box of chicken curry his colleague gave him for lunch as he couldn't eat. Now, I have to return it with something in it right? So I asked my man what he prefers and he said: "make salona!"That is how much we loved this dish!

The Miracle garden - my brother sent this picture! 

Check out what the other MENA Cooking Club members made: 

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