Palestinian sumac chicken, or musakhan, could probably be labeled as the national dish of Palestine. Originally, Palestinians used to make to celebrate the olive harvest. But you'll definitely find it as a main dish at all events.
Traditionally, you'd serve it as layers of thick, fresh flatbread called taboon. They're then drenched in olive oil and sandwiched between generous beds of onions and sumac. And you'll usually find a couple of whole chickens on top. I remember being so excited to grab a piece of bread so I can slather it with the heavenly onion mixture. I can't describe how amazing it is.
Although this is probably one of the most delicious dishes you'll ever have (trust me on this one), it can also get really messy. Here's where the rolls come in. Perfectly packed into crispy rolls, I love how easy to serve this version of musakhan is. Trust me, you won't be able to stop after just one.
Ingredients You'll Need:
- Onions: Get your goggles out, because we're chopping LOTS of onions (around 9 to be exact). They're the base of the whole dish. To save time, I just like to slice them instead of chopping them up really small as you'll usually find in musakhan.
- Chicken: You can use a whole chicken, or any parts you prefer because it will be boiled and shredded anyways.
- Olive oil: Personally, I use authentic Palestinian olive oil that my mom gets from Palestine, but your next best option will be some good old extra virgin olive oil.
- Flatbread: The key to this recipe is in the bread. You want to find a really thin flatbread like markook, shrak, or saj bread. They'll give you the perfect ratio between bread and the insanely delicious sumac chicken stuffing. The thinner the bread, the crispier your rolls will be.
- Sumac: This is what gives musakhan its beautiful red color and its bold and tangy flavor (think a little bit like lemon but more fruity). I like adding even more on top.
- Pine nuts: You can add some toasted pine nuts in the filling itself, but I like to sprinkle some right on top of the rolls so they stay crunchy. You can also use toasted almond slivers.
- Spices: Since the chicken will be boiled, it's important to use the correct amount of spices to keep it juicy and flavorful. The combination in this recipe is my all-time favorite!! It includes: cardamom, allspice, cinnamon, whole black pepper, and white pepper. Also, make sure to save the broth, I like to use it in soups, curries, etc. And also to brush on top of the rolls before I bake them.
You will also need:
- 2 medium-sized stovetop pot
- a spatula or something to stir with
- a baking tray
What is Sumac?
Sumac is one of the most famous spices in the Palestinian kitchen. It's a bright red/magenta colored powder that comes from the dried and then ground berries of the wild sumac flower.
It has a very distinct tangy and almost sour taste, and you'll usually find it added to meat, chicken, fish, salad dressing, etc. It's also used as a garnish because it adds the perfect kick to any dish. I like to add it to almost everything!
Where to Find Bread for Palestinian Sumac Chicken Rolls
You'll usually find markook, shrak, or saj bread at your local bakery or supermarket. I would look for large flatbreads that are paper-thin. If you can't find any, here's a simple recipe for homemade saj bread.
If you can't find anything similar and don't want to make your own, you can always use pita bread. I suggest pulling it apart into two halves so you'll get a thinner bread that's easy to roll.
Tips for Making the Best Palestinian Musakhan Rolls
- For both the traditional Palestinian sumac chicken and these musakhan rolls, you need to cook your onions on medium heat. You don't want crispy onions, so be patient. Make sure the olive oil isn't too hot, and let the onions slowly cook until translucent. I like to stir it every couple of minutes to ensure it cooks evenly.
- Roll the bread tightly around the sumac chicken stuffing, and tuck in the sides so the stuffing doesn't fall out. (shown in photos)
- Don't forget to brush the tops of your rolls with olive oil or chicken broth to get them perfectly crispy.