We have finally found the answer to one of life’s really important questions. Yes, it is true!
Which is better, Lebanese or Egyptian molokhiya?
Ask anyone with Middle Eastern origins and their childhood memories will be evoked. As soon as you walked through the door you knew that your mom was making it. The pungent aroma of garlic and spices being sautéed is unforgettable. It is the original chicken soup for the soul.
The soup or stew, molokhiya, is made from the leaves of the Jute plant. You also need to pair it with rice or bread to soak it up.
When we asked our friends which they liked more, everyone jumped in to defend their cuisine, it became a matter of national honor!
Lebanese friends thought that the difference between the two was that Egyptians added tomato sauce or paste either directly to it or as a side dish. Many Egyptians, though, argued that they had never had this classic that way.
Maybe the broth was different, no, not that either. Both countries mostly used chicken or meat. Rabbit was more of an Egyptian choice, while coastal cities in Egypt substitute it with shrimp or fish. Bouillon cubes are an alternative but the consensus was that this was a time-saving shortcut and is borderline blasphemous.
Next was the question of spices. Again, it seemed that no one could agree on the national spice that differentiated these two versions of molokhiya; but a mix of coriander, cinnamon, black pepper, ginger, clove & nutmeg is used in most recipes. At the end, it seemed to be a matter of taste more than anything else.
Some people prepare molokhiya with whole leaves, minced leaves, dry or fresh. Availability and convenience seemed to be the deciding factor for that choice not the country of origin.
We looked at dozens of recipes on the internet. We ended up with no real answers, just more cravings. They were all very similar, with slight differences in the choices of spice, whether to start with fresh, dried or frozen leaves and what they used for the soup.
Our conclusion is that the divide is just a myth, molokhiya is real and glorious. The variations just add to the dish.
The answer to the question? Well, the origin of the recipe doesn’t matter. Try them all, spice it up, pair it with something new. But at the end the best molokhiya is the one you grew up eating. It is the one that warmed your heart as a child and tasted of happiness, home and familiarity.
Featured image by bazaar Staff.