“…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.