One Hundred and One Mezze: 27. Musakhan

Palestinian food shares most of its dishes with the surrounding Levantine countries. Few "national" dishes of Palestine like Maqluba (upside down rice dish) and Mahashi (stuffed vegetables) are common all through the Levant with, sometimes very distinct, local variations. Today's dish, Musakhan is on the contrary a true uniquely Palestinian dish. Musakhan in it is original format is a very rustic dish of layered bread, sumac and onion mixture and roasted chicken.

In Syria, Musakhan is fairly well known and frequently eaten dish although the Syrian version varies a lot from the Palestinian ancestor. The flavours remained the same but the cooking, ingredients and presentation has been refined in keeping with Syrian fondness with food finesse. Here goes thick Taboon bread and comes in paper-thin Saj bread. Chicken is shredded and Musakhan is served in individual portions.

Musakhan is hardly ever eaten as a main dish in Syria. It is usually served as a side dish or part of a large spread in dinner parties and big family occasions. In coffee shops and restaurants Musakhan is usually served as a small snack dish you can munch on in the few hours you spending there smoking Argeeleh. Another very popular version of Musakhan is tiny small pastries stuffed with the chicken and sumac mixture and served as part of finger food buffet in parties.

For this recipe I use Saj bread, a very thin Syrian bread that can be bought from large Middle Eastern supermarkets. Alternatively you can use Lavash bread which is a similar bread native to Iran, Armenia and Turkey. If you live in an area where you can have access to Turkish shops then you can use Yufka pastry. Finally if you are getting desperate use filo pastry.

Here is my Syrian style Musakhan recipe:

Cooked chicken 500g (boiled or roasted)
Three onions
Olive oil 1/2 cup
Sumac 4 tbsp
Pomegranate Molasses 1 tbsp (my own addition, optional)
Pine nuts 30g
Saj bread

Heat the oven to 200 degrees.

Start by frying the pine nuts until golden in the olive oil. Be very careful as pine nuts burn very quickly. Remove from the oil when ready.

Slice the onions thinly and fry on medium heat until they go translucent. Shred the chicken and add with the sumac, pomegranate molasses and the rest of the olive oil (keep some to brush the bread with at the end) to the pot. Taste and add salt as required. Remove from the heat.

Cut the saj bread into 20cm (8inch) squares. Spoon 3-4spoonfuls of the chicken mixture into the centre of the bread. Fold three corners in and roll the bread into a spring roll shaped pies (see below).

Arrange the rolls in a roasting tin. Brush generously with olive oil and back until golden brown.


Sarah said...

lovely looking Musakhan and a great addition to the mezze table. The recipe I use, given to me by an Arab man, consists of whole chicken pieces, with caramelized onions baked on flat bread. Afterwards it is sprinkled with sumak, instead of pomegranate syrup.

Kano said...

This is the traditional Palastenian musakhan you described.

Sana Hurzuk said...

This looks absolutely delicious.. I live in Dubai so I dont think I should have a problem finding this bread..problem is I dont know where to search for it :) But will surely try it as anything stuffed with chicken is good in my book!

Amanda said...

I have just made these and am officially in love with them.
I tweaked it just a little by caramelising the onions, adding some allspice and using lavash and they are just perfect - all ready to pop in the oven with the Cheese Fatayer when we get home later this evening after the daughter's piano recital.

Kano said...

@Sana Hurzuk
I hope you managed to find the bread. The dish is definitely worth trying.

Welcome to my blog!
I am so glad you liked musakhan. I hope you will have a chance to try other Syrian dishes.

Amanda said...

Piano recital a fizzer - she stubbed her toe playing before-hand and ended up at the doctors for stitches. :-/
Musakhan and Fatayer a big hit, though!!

Omar A. Siag said...

Muskhan is Always a delight to eat...

Thanks Doc.

Kano said...

Sorry to hear that. I hope she is feeling a lot better now.


Leila said...

I love Syrian food, i just descover your blog... it's so fantastic : really masha Allah.

Choukran jazilan for all yours recipes.
See you !

Chiara said...

I just discovered your blog too! A surgeon who can cook great Middle Eastern food! Must revise my thoughts on surgeons! ;) (joking, I'm a psychiatrist, and one of my best friends is a neuro-surgeon--we have the mind/brain dyad covered!)

Great blog! I look forward to catching up and following.

Kano said...

Thank you for the nice words. I look forward to try some of the recipes from your blog.

Welcome to my blog. Now whenever I need psychiatric analysis of the impact of a dish of mine I know where to turn :)

tasteofbeirut said...

Lovely version! I wonder why we don't find it more frequently here in Beirut, when it is the most delicious chicken food ever! I would have never thought of using already cooked chicken, great idea!

Kano said...


How do you make your Musakhan?

Joanna said...

Thought I had better say hello! I've been lurking on your blog for a while now, and I see you know a friend of mine, Gill the Painter! I've just fallen in love with Muhammara, having brought a tub back from London with me and I remembered your blog and thought I bet that cooking surgeon knows exactly how to make it. I was so right! Thank you :)

Kano said...


Welcome to my blog. I am so glad you like it. I hope I wil see back on the blog again and again.

Baroness Tapuzina said...

I love Musakhan and have made it as close as I could to the original. Unfortunately, I do not have an taboon to make the real deal, but someday. :-)

This is an interesting version that I will have to try.

Kano said...

@Baroness Tapuzina

Welcome to my blog. I now you visited before but this is your first comment.

Please let me know what you think when you try my version of Musakhan.

Anonymous said...

I am very excited about this recipe - when I get my hands on some pomegranate molasses, I'll definately be making this for my famiy - guarranteed! Thank you.

Kano said...

let me know how it goes.

Blonde Arabist said...

Having found this blog before, I'm terribly excited to find it again; knowing you're in London means that whatever you can get your hands on (in terms of products) I know I can too! Where did you get the saj bread? Somewhere on Edgware Road?

Kano said...

@Blonde Arabist

Welcome to my blog. I am really glad you like it.

You can get Saj bread from Green Valley on Edgware road or Damas Gate supermarket in Sheperds Bush

Claudia and Claire said...


Claudia and Claire said...


Kano said...

@Claudia and Claire

I think you can experiment with any type of flat bread. The thinner the better.

Alternatively you can use Filo pastry for a complete different but equally nice result

Unknown said...

I suppose most Syrian, Palestinian and Lebanese food should really be called Levantine since 80% of what is eaten in each is shared by the others and it is almost impossible to work out where their points of origin are. Here in the UK, Levantine food if always attributed to Lebanon. No doubt regional varieties also exist but when you understand the size of the area and consider how they all used to fall under one dominion, it becomes clear that to call most of this Syrian, Lebanese or Palestinian is nonsensical. I love the region and it's food. I've been lucky enough to have visited Jerusalem, Damascus, Aleppo and Beirut during happier times. I can also tell you that this more 'practical' version of serving it as individual portions with boneless chicken I I also had in Jerusalem.

Unknown said...

All falling under the ottoman empire, the region bares much inffluence but it would have been a two way street.

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