From my Plated Heirlooms

“…Of all that makes the collective Palestinian memory, taboon is the one recollection carved in every Palestinian’s heart. Every time I talked to any woman about Palestinian cuisine they always started with taboon bread as a base from which they would go on to other foods. To the men, taboon associates with their memory of mothers, the strong village women and always a yearning to the simplicity of life back then.

In some remarkable way, taboon and the absence of is always described as the melancholic disruption of these people’s lives in 1948 and the consequent shift to a new reality from which the collective feels very disconnected.

It is in the descriptions narrated about taboon, that Al Nakba was explained to me, and through the stories of the taboon oven, the village women and the actual bread that I understood the Palestinian essence and later on learnt the true meaning of hope….”

Plated Heirlooms, chapter 2, p.88


For me, Musakhan means Grandma, roots, early childhood, and home.

Musakhan is a very simple dish to prepare, yet produces an elaborate and absolutely delicious food to eat. Musakhan belongs to the Palestinian cuisine, where originally it was prepared by the villagers and farmers to test the quality of the olive oil of any given season, and to celebrate their produce – mainly olive oil. They say that a good grade olive oil Musakhan can never cause heartburn. If it does, then the quality of Olive Oil isn’t good. Also important to Musakhan preparation is the quality of Sumac, which lends a sour flavour. The Sumac and olive oil are the ingredients that make Musakhan what it is and therefore, it is essential that you choose excellent quality for making this dish.

Musakhan is usually made using ‘Taboon Bread’, a thick and bubbled bread (very similar to Tanour Bread) that the villages used to prepare at home. The bread is meant to be simple to prepare using the ‘Traditional Taboon Oven’ that was available at most houses back in the day. The taboon oven is a very interesting story that I explore fully in my book Plated Heirlooms, along with the taboon bread recipe and how the bread became known by the name of the oven. Do grab your copy and read through the many beautiful stories, you will love going on that journey.

Nowadays, industrial bakeries prepare this bread, which people buy ready to eat. Although it is ideal to use Taboon bread, it is not found everywhere; like here in Dubai it is hard to get hold of Taboon Bread, so you can substitute with ‘Shrak Bread’  a wafer thin bread, found in most supermarkets, and occasionally at Lebanese markets. Shrak Bread is traditionally used with Mansaf as well. If you do use shrak bread, it is best to roll into Rolls as it will be very difficult to serve musakhan with shrak otherwise.


Serves: 4

For preparing Chicken

  • 1 whole Chicken, Cut into 2-4 pieces
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 bay Leaves
  • 3 Whole Cloves
  • 3 Cardamon Seeds, lightly crushed
  • 5 Black peppercorns
  • Salt & Black Pepper to taste
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 tbsp DS Premium Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil

For Preparing Musakhan

  • 500g Onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup DS Organic Sumac
  • Salt & black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup DS Premium Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 4 taboon bread rounds or shrak bread

Start by cooking the chicken to make some broth as well. You can either roast the chicken, and collect the juices (which is my preferred way for preparing chicken for Musakhan) or you can use the same method for making chicken broth to get the broth and cook the chicken.

Here is how you can make the chicken broth, Clean your chicken pieces, and rub them with lemon juice. Set aside.

Sweat the onion and garlic in a drizzle of olive oil, until translucent but not browned. Add chicken pieces, and stir. Add spices and seasoning and stir all to coat. Top with water and cook until the chicken is cooked through.

Remove from heat. Separate the meat from broth (reserving the broth).

Place chicken pieces in a baking dish, brush tops with a little olive oil and set aside.

In a large pot, put 1/4 cup olive oil and cook over medium heat stirring occasionally until the onions are tender, but not browned. Lower the heat if necessary. Add the Sumac and stir to mix, then add broth. Cook until onions are cooked through (very soft, but not browned) and liquids have reduced by 1/2.

Meanwhile, add 1/3 cup of prepared onions to the chicken pieces, and broil the chicken in a preheated oven until golden.

It is traditionally served by dipping full bread rounds in the onion oil, then pouring some of the onion mixture atop the bread – but you can cut your bread in any size you like. Dip the edges of the bread lightly in the Musakhan liquids, place rounds on serving platter and top with a large spoon of musakhan onions, then sprinkle generously with sumac and toasted pine nuts.

Traditionally, the breads topped with onion are stacked on top of each other in a large serving platter, topped with the chicken pieces. But you can place each serving in guest’s plate topped with chicken. Or you can place bread in one serving platter and chicken in another. It is really a matter of what you prefer and the feel you are going after.

Once all done and stacked sprinkle the whole with some sumac and the toasted pine nuts.


A Thought

I remember, many years ago, I decided to serve Musakhan in rolls to reduce the mess and to make for a more elegant presentation. Nowadays, Musakhan Rolls are a staple snack & party item. I have also offered Musakhan Pizza to my catering clients, which was also very popular. I always like to add a twist to the traditional, make it a bit more modern, more interesting. I even call it Reviving Old Traditions where I like to bring back a very good, old recipes that tend to become pushed aside, and put a twist on presentation,  make them look more modern instead of old and tired, in order to revive them and keep them alive.

I tell my Arabic cooking trainees all the time that we should all work on bringing back Arabic cuisine classics, as they are delicious and would be a shame for them to become just a piece of forgotten history! I extend this to you too, why not rediscover old recipes, revamp them and offer them to your guests, they will love the food and the artistry behind the new and improved dish 🙂

This is how we can keep Arabic cuisine alive, and evolving!


This recipe is from the repertoire of over 280 recipes in my book Plated Heirlooms. The book contains recipes from all sections of the Palestinian cuisine, starting with Mooneh (pantry recipes) to dessert and everything in between. Plated Heirlooms is a documentation of recipes and cuisine rationale as well as the compiled story of the cuisine.

All Plated Heirlooms recipes come with background information and thorough descriptions that in the end tie up with the rest of the book’s narrative to explain to you the formation and makings of Palestinian cuisine.

You can order “Plated Heirlooms” here and we will ship it to you anywhere in the world.



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