Sunday, November 23, 2008

Mujaddara (Lentils and Rice with Fried Onions)

I've fallen for this lentil and rice plate, known as mujaddara, mujadarah, mejadra, mudardarah (yes, thanks wikipedia) and probably a few other names across the Middle East. It only stands to reason that a dish with such elemental ingredients - lentils, rice, onions, and spices - would pick up a few names along the way. Anyway, I'm crazy about the stuff, largely thanks to the stellar version offered at Cafe Aladdin in Fargo. I used brown basmati rice, brown lentils, and a big yellow onion. The red spice on top is sumac, which adds a distinctive lemony taste and aroma to the affair. Here's my take on a very old recipe, great with hummus, warm pita bread, and salad.
1 cup cooked brown basmati rice (any rice is fine, but I like brown basmati in any pilaf or salad because it doesn't get mushy unless you really overcook it, and I think brown rice just tastes better).
1 cup cooked and drained brown lentils
1 large yellow onion, in quarter inch slices
1 tbsp. canola oil
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper powder
1 tbsp. sumac
salt to taste
1. Because the cooking time on any kind of rice and just about any kind of lentil is a little different, I like to cook them separately until each is just tender. Cook rice and lentils and set aside.
2. While the lentils and rice are cooking, it's time to carmelize some onions in the canola oil. If you're impatient, fry them on high heat and keep stirring until they're nice and golden brown. I took my time, giving the onions a quick fry on high heat for the first few minutes, then letting them slowly cook over medium-low heat, 20 to 30 minutes, until they are meltingly soft. Season with a little salt as they cook.
3. I use a big cast iron frying pan for things like this, so when the onions are done remove them
and put the frying pan back on a medium-low flame. There should be enough leftover oil for the rice and lentils, but if not add a little more. Add cooked lentils and rice, and all of the spices except the sumac, and heat up, stirring frequently. If it seems a little dry, add a few tbsp. water, which will soak into the lentils and rice and help incorporate the dry spices.
4. That's it! Top the lentils and rice with the fried onions, and sprinkle with a liberal amount of sumac. If you can't find sumac, paprika and a squeeze of lemon juice or hot pepper sauce would be nice alternatives.


Amanda said...

This is a perfect recipe for these days towards the end of the month where the bank account is dropping dangerously low! haha! I think I can handle some rice, some lentils and an onion, though, thankfully! Looks great!

Lisa (Show Me Vegan) said...

sounds delicious. I've never tried sumac and will have to check it out!

Bianca said...

Oh shit! You had me at "fried" — the best way to enjoy onions, or really any vegetable. I've been majorly craving Indian food lately.

Shawn Michel de Montaigne said...

That looks so good ...

I've featured this blog on my own.


aredcardigan said...


I've never had that before. I love middle eastern stuff but I always stick to the same ol falafel & hummus combo.

Thanks for sharing!

jd said...

OMG, I'm completely obsessed with mujaddara, too!

I tried it at a fantastic Middle Eastern restaurant when I was visiting Portland last Spring, and I've been in love ever since...

Thanks for the recipe!


Anonymous said...

You definitely are doing something wrong if you have ever cooked besmati rice and ended up with it being mushy. Other wise, nice take on this traditional Palestinian dish.

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