Molokhia, or jute leaf stew (Jordan)

Jordan is a small country in the Middle East, known for its hospitality in e.g. receiving refugees from nearby countries (Iraq and Syria). It is a fairly rich country with a very high life expectancy and is considered the safest arab/Middle Eastern country, and even one of the safest in the world. Muslims form the majority, but Christians are a visible minority and the attitude towards e.g. alcohol is liberal. Jordan is a popular tourist destination, including high levels of medical tourism. Many are also attracted by the wealth of archeological sites and museums. Jordan is a major producer of e.g. phosphate and olives.

Jordanian cuisine is similar to other Middle Eastern cuisines, including well-known dishes like hummus, falafel, tabbouleh, baba ghanoush, baklava and halva. Za’atar is a popular spice which can refer to either a mix of herbs, sumac and sesame seed or Syrian oregano alone. Yoghurt (including yoghurt cheese labneh and dried yoghurt cheese jameed), bulgur wheat, freekeh (toasted green wheat), rice, beans, chickpeas, lentils, pine nuts, olive oil, parsley, garlic, onion, tomato and lemon are common ingredients. Casseroles, salads, sauces, stuffed vegetables, soups and flatbreads form typical dishes. All kinds of pickled vegetables are very popular, from cauliflower to eggplant. Tea is often flavored with mint or sage. Both Arabic and Turkish coffee are enjoyed, the former is milder and seasoned with cardamom.

Molokhia, which may be written in a dozen different ways, may refer to the finished dish or just the main ingredient jute leaves (mallow leaves). They’re said to be a bitter green vegetable, but I didn’t find them to be bitter, mostly like spinach but slightly more flavourful, and super slimy. It is said to resemble okra in its sliminess, but I think it’s on a whole different level. It doesn’t taste slimy, but if you pour the soup it’s like a goop, if you touch it it leaves a slimy film on your hands. It may even stretch a bit like natto. But it’s tasty. I don’t really understand the raves you see about molokhia online, how Middle Eastern people swear they could eat only this dish for weeks. It’s good, but nothing that special, IMO. Probably very healthy.

Molokhia is eaten in Levant and especially Egypt. I tried to find a particularly Jordan recipe and I hope this is one, I consulted several blogs but based my recipe on this one. You sholuld be able to find it in Turkish, Middle Eastern or African groceries, perhaps some Asian stores too.

Molokhia

Molokhia

1 package (0.9 lbs/400 g) frozen chopped molokhia
3-4 crushed garlic cloves
2 cups/4.8 dl vegan “chicken” broth
1 tbsp olive oil
tiny sprinkle black pepper

White rice and/or toasted pita bread

Bring the broth to boil and add the frozen molokhia, preferably unthawed. Let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile cook some rice or toast pita bread in the oven. On a separate pan heat the oil and fry the garlic until golden brown. Add the pepper. Deglace the garlic pan with the molokhia stew (=add some of the stew to the pan and scoop it back into the main stew.

Serve hot, with rice or toasted pita bread. Makes 3-4 portions. Reheats well.


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