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Shish Barak (Meat Dumplings)

Shish barak is a very interesting Middle Eastern dish that seems to be cooked rarely by households. It's certainly not as popular as your traditional maklooba and mansaf dishes but it's a delicious meal that's loved in the Middle East. I think some Syrians might be offended when reading this post because they love shish barak. Let me just say that I used to hate when my made shish barak because I was a shallow boy who thought the meal was appalling. I felt like the meal was sloppy so I used eat labenah or zatar for breakfast, lunch and dinner when my mom decided to cook shish barak. When I found out that the shish barak sauce tasted like mansaf, I decided to give it a try and until this day, I regret the fact that I judged the meal by its cover.

Shish barak is made from homemade flour dough. The dough is cut into small circular parcels and laid flat on the cooking board to prepare it for the stuffing. The stuffing consists of ground meat, salt, and chopped onions. The stuffing is placed into each parcel and the parcels are shaped like pieces of ravioli. The meat dumplings are either fried or baked depending on each household's preference. In the mean time, a hot yogurt sauce is prepared that consists of plain yogurt, chicken stock, garlic and salt. The yogurt sauce is like a thicker version of the sauce used to prepare mansaf. Once the yogurt sauce is prepared, the dumplings are placed in the sauce. Its best to eat this meal when it's hot because the meal loses its taste when it's cool and the yogurt sauce dries up.

Country of Specialty:

Shish barak is very popular in the Sham (Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria). Syria and Lebanon are well-known for making amazing shish barak.

Yellow Rice with Chicken (Oozi)

Another popular Arabic dish is yellow rice with chicken or otherwise known as Oozi. Oozi can be made in different ways depending on the Middle Eastern country you're in. I am going to talk about how the Palestinian version of Oozi is prepared. Very similar to Kabsa, the main ingredients in Oozi are basmati rice and roasted chicken. The chicken can be roasted as a whole or in pieces. The roasted whole chicken is usually stuffed with either rice, vegetables or potatoes or a combination of the three.

When preparing the rice, chopped onions, garlic, ground meat and almonds are stirred in a pot. Tumeric is added to the rice to give it that strong yellow color. There are certain areas in Palestine that also add peas, carrots, and corn to the rice. Popular side dishes served with Oozi are yogurt or Arabic salad.

Personally, I love it when my mom or my wife makes Oozi with a whole chicken stuffed with yellow rice. The rice inside the chicken is more juicy and so delicious to eat. When I visit my family in Palestine, I noticed that most families, at least most families in Silwad, serve this meal during family gatherings (azoomas).

Country of Specialty:

Oozi is an authentic meal of Saudi Arabia. Oozi was actually derived from the Arabic dish known as stuffed lamb (Kharoof Ma3shi). The Saudi Arabian Oozi is prepared differently from the Palestinian Oozi since it is eaten with lamb instead of chicken. Various vegetables including peas, carrots and corn are also added to the rice when preparing the Saudi Arabian Oozi.

Maftoul (Couscous)

If anyone is thinking to themselves, "do people in the middle east eat any food that doesn't include rice?" The answer is um, "sometimes."
Maftoul,also known as couscous, is one of the few main Arabic dishes that doesn't include rice. Maftoul or couscous consists of wheat granules that are rolled up into small pellets. A special two-in-one steamer is used to prepare this dish. The bottom steamer includes the water, salt, spices(cumin,cinnamon)and chick peas while the top steamer includes the maftoul. Olive oil and onions are added in the top steamer with the maftoul.Once the maftoul has been cooked, it is placed into a large plate and olive oil is rubbed onto the maftoul.

Maftoul is usually prepared during special occasions since the preparation of this meal is very time-consuming. This dish is also very difficult to prepare so not all households know how to prepare this meal. When my mother-in-law makes this meal, she invites her whole family for dinner because she is one of the few people in the family that knows how to cook maftoul.

Depending on area of the middle east you reside, maftoul can be served in various ways. There are 3 main ways to serve maftoul.

1. The maftoul is served in a large plate and chick peas are placed over the maftoul. Boiled chicken is also prepared and served with the maftoul. A light chicken broth is poured over the maftoul to add some flavor.
2. The maftoul is served in small plates and a tomato sauce is prepared that includes chick peas and fried cauliflower. This sauce is poured over the the maftoul. Fried chicken served alongside the maftoul.
3. The maftoul is served in small plates and chick peas are placed over the maftoul. A chicken broth soup and roasted chicken are served along with the maftoul.

Country of Specialty:
Maftoul is highly recognized in Palestine. The wheat granules used to prepare the maftoul in Palestine are rounder and larger than the wheat granules used in other middle eastern countries. Couscous is a very popular dish in Morocco.