Rice is an essential part of the midday meal in Oman, but it doesn’t always appear as fluffy, spice-infused basmati topped with protein. There is an entire cannon of savory Omani rice porridges, as well, the most flavorful which is madrouba or “beaten” rice. To prepare the dish, chicken, long grain rice, and spices simmer for hours until the ingredients begin to melt into one another and can easily be mashed and stirred with a wooden spoon. Despite its long cooking time, the dish is simple to make, perfuming the house with the smell of cardamom and starch as it simmers. Be sure not to skip the final, luscious drizzle of cardamom ghee and topping of fried onions.
(makes 6-8 servings)
2 cups long-grain white rice
4 dried limes
3 medium red onions, minced
¼ cup ghee, plus ¼ cup for garnish
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 plum tomatoes, cored and minced
1 ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
⅛ teaspoon ground cardamom, plus ½ teaspoon for garnish
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
⅛ teaspoon cayenne
Pinch of nutmeg
1 ¼ pounds boneless, skinless chicken, such as breasts or thighs, cut into 3-inch pieces
2 tablespoons kosher salt
½ cup vegetable oil
2 small red onions, halved and thinly sliced
Place the rice in a bowl and fill with water. Swirl with your hand to rinse, then drain. Repeat a few more times, until the water becomes clear. Cover the rice with clean water and soak 30 minutes. Drain when ready to use.
Remove the flesh of the dried limes by cracking the lime with the bottom of the handle of a heavy knife. Then cut the lime in half where pierced, pull out the thin, papery flesh, and discard the seeds and dried outer rind. (If the inside of the dried lime is dry and hollow or moldy, discard and use a new one.) This should yield about 4 teaspoons flesh.
Sauté the minced onions in ¼ cup ghee in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat until brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the garlic and tomatoes, cook a few minutes, then add the dried lime, turmeric, cumin, coriander, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, ⅛ teaspoon cardamom, cloves, cayenne, nutmeg, and chicken. Stir to mix well. Add 8 cups water and the salt, increase the heat to high, and boil until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes.
Add the rice to the pot and bring back to a boil. Decrease the heat to low and cook, covered, 1 ½ to 2 hours, until the rice is mushy and begins to break down, being sure to stir frequently to prevent sticking, adding additional hot water if necessary.
Meanwhile, make the frizzled onions. Heat the oil in a medium skillet or saucepan over medium to medium-high heat and fry the thinly sliced onions, in two batches if necessary, until deep golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove the onions using a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel–lined plate to drain.
When the rice is cooked through and mushy and the chicken has broken down into threads, whip and mash the mixture with a sturdy wooden spoon until it becomes smooth and porridgelike.
Melt the remaining ¼ cup ghee in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Stir in the remaining ½ teaspoon cardamom, and let infuse until fragrant, about 2 minutes, then remove from the heat.
To serve, garnish with the cardamom, ghee, and frizzled onions.
Courtesy of “The Food of Oman” (Andrews McMeel, 2015)