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Molokheya: an Egyptian National Dish ملوخية

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Molokheya: an Egyptian National Dish ملوخية

Molokheya, also known as Jew's Mallow, is one of Egypt's national dishes, as well as other countries in the Middle East region. 

Names

The Arabic name ملوخية is transliterated to various forms, such as Moulokheyya, Mulukheyya, Moolookhieh, Mouloukhia, Mloukhia, Melokiyah, Meloukhia, Melokiyah, Milookhia, Milookhiyya, M'Loukhia, Molohia, Molokhiya, Molokhiyya, Molukhyia, Mulukhia, Mulukhiya, Mulukhiyah and other variations.

The english names for it are Jew's Mallow, Jute Mallow, Nalta Jute.

History

It is said that the original name for Molokheya is Mulukeyya ملوكية meaning ("of the kings"), and that the public turned the K to the present KH.

A thousand years ago, the mad Fatimid Caliph, al-Hakim bi Amrillah banned the public from eating Molokheya, among many other irrational things. You can see the details under the Historical Quotes section below.

Scientific Facts

Molokheya is an annual herb. In the Middle East, it is grown for its leaves. In India, it is grown for the fibres in its stem.

The latin name for Molokheya is Corchorus olitorius. Linnaeus was the first to classify this plant, as you can see from his own collection and documents including drawings and photos from his herbarium.

Plants For A Future have an extensive entry on Molokheya, and so does Purdue's New Crops.

There is a lot of academic research on Molokheya, as you can see in this list.

The US Department of Agriculture has an entry for it as well.

Recipes

There are many ways to cook Molokheya, but they are all variations on a it being the familiar green soup. There are variation of it from Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Tunisia.

The perferred way to make Molokheya is with rabbit, using the soup for Molokheya. But, since rabbit is a delicacy, and often pricey, one can use other meat, such as beef, or more commonly chicken. There is even a dish of Molokheya with shrimp in coastal areas. Molokheya is served with plain rice, or with full wheat flat bread. It is also customary to have a red tomato sauce (دمعة dem'a).

Here is a recipe for Molokheya with Ful Nabet (Germinated Fava Beans, another native Egyptian dish).

ملوخية بالفول النابت
المقادير:
‏1‏ كيلو ملوخية
‏2‏ كوب فول نابت
‏1‏ بصلة متوسطة
‏2‏ ملعقة صغيرة كزبرة جافة
‏5‏ ـ‏6‏ فصوص ثوم مفري
‏3‏ ملعقة كبيرة زيت نباتي
‏1‏ ملعقة كبيرة صلصة طماطم
ملح‏,‏ فلفل‏,‏ حبهان
الطريقة‏:‏
تقطف الملوخية وتغسل وتخرط
‏*‏ يقشر الفول النابت ويسلق في كمية من الماء تكفي لغمره مع اضافة بصلة وتتبل ويترك علي النار حتي يتم نضجه
‏*‏ تضاف الملوخية وتقلب بالمقصوصة حتي تتفكك وتضاف صلصة
‏*‏ يسخن الزيت في طاسة ويضاف الثوم والكزبرة ويقلب المقدار علي نار هادئة حتي يصير لون الثوم ذهبيا محمرا‏,‏ يضاف المقدار للملوخية ويقدم مع خبز محمص‏

Historical Quotes

Molokheya has been mentioned in Arab medieval historical texts. Here are some of those most interesting quotes:

al-Maqrizi in Itti'ath al-Hunanfa' أتعاظ الحنفا للمقريزي in 395 AH, in 7th of Muharram an order from al-Hakim bi Amrillah was read in all mosques forbidding eating molokheya, because Mu'awya ibn Abi Sufyan, the arch-enemy of the Shia used to like it!

وقرئ سجل في الأطعمة بالمنع من أكل الملوخية المحببة كانت لمعاوية بن أبي سفيان والبقلة المسماة بالجرجير المنسوبة إلى عائشة رضي الله عنها والمتوكلية المنسوبة إلى المتوكل‏

In 399 A.H. a few people were caught with contraband food, molokheya and lupin (a favorite snack in Egypt) among them, and they were flogged and paraded for all to see.

وشهر جماعة وجد عندهم فقاع وملوخية وترمس ودلينس بعد ضربهم‏

In 418 A.H., al-Zahir allowed molokheya to be consumed again:

وفي سنة ثمان عشرة شرب الظاهر الخمر وترخص فيه للناس وفي سماع الغناء وشرب الفقاع وأكل الملوخية وسائر أصناف السمك فأقبل الناس على اللهو‏

Also, al-Maqrizi in al-Mawa'ith wa al-I'tibar المواعظ والاعتبار في ذكر الخطط والآثار المقريزي quotes similar things:

وفي سنة خمس وتسعين أمر النصارى واليهود بشد الزنار ولبس الغيار ومنع الناس من أكل الملوخية والجرجير والتوكلية والدلينس وذبح الأبقار السليمة من العاهة إلا في أيام الأضحية ومنع من بيع الفقاع وعمله البتة وأن لايدخل أحد الحمام إلا بمئزر وأن لا تكشف امرأة وجهها في طريق ولا خلف جنازة و لاتتبرج ولا يباع شيء من السمك بغير قشر ولا يصطاد أحد من الصبيا دين وتتبع اناس في ذلك كله وشدد فيه وضرب جماعة بسبب مخالفتهم ما أمروا به ونهوا عنه مما ذكر

Ibn Kathir in al-Bidaya wa al-Nihaya البداية و النهاية لابن كثير also lists some strange things attributed to al-Hakim:

وكان قد منع النساء من الخروج من منازلهن، وقطع شجر الأعناب حتى لا يتخذ الناس منها خمراً، ومنعهم من طبخ الملوخية، وأشياء من الرعونات التي من أحسنها منع النساء من الخروج، وكراهة الخمر

‏Like today, some people were called Molokheya in the past. Hence, Ibn Taghri Bardi's al-Nujum al-Zahira إبن تغري بردي النجوم الزاهرة and al-Qalqashandi in Subh al-A'sha صبح الأعشى للقلقشندي say that al-Hakim had a slave called Molokheya who was in charge of his stirrups. This slave had a darb (a narrow street) named after him.

درب ملوخية ينسب لملوخية صاحب ركاب الحاكم

In this darb, there were colleges founded by more than one person.

For example, al-Qadi al-Fadil القاضي الفاضل (d. 596 A.H) who was a vizier for Salah al-Din al-Ayubi صلاح الدين الأيوبي built a college there, as mentioned by ibn Khallikan إبن خلكان in Wafayat al-A'yan وفيات الأعيان (as per alwaraq web site, page 372).

In this college, reknown scholars from around the world taught. Ibn al Jazari in Ghayat al-Nihaya إبن الجزري في غاية النهاية في طبقات القراء says about al-Shatibi الشاطبي who was from Jativa in Muslim Spain:

ولمادخل مصر أكرمه القاضي الفاضل وعرف مقداره وأنزله بمدرسته التي بناها بدربالملوخية داخل القاهرة وجعله شيخها وعظمه تعظيماً كثيراً

Ibn Hajar al-'Asqalani in al Durar an Kamina إبن حجر العسقلاني في الدرر الكامنة في أعيان المئة الثامنة mentions (as per alwaraq web site copy of that book, page 640) one Mughultai al-Jamali مغلطاي الجمالي saying

وله مدرسة بدرب ملوخية

Molokheya also played a part in folklore, as al-Abshihi in al-Mustatraf الأبشيهي في المستطرف من كل فن مستظرف mentions (page 35 on alwaraq web site) common sayings:

أنا حصاد ملوخية وعند الخبز آكل مية وعند الشغل ما لي نية

Even romantic legends had something to say about when Molokheya is bad, it is "yellow, full of veins, as the ones sold in Bab al-Luq" in Cairo. In ألف ليلة و ليلة Arabian Nights, (Tale 43: The Man of Yemen and his Six Slave Girls), some concubines of different skin colors are teasing each other. So one praises herself and says to the "yellow" one "You are like the Molokheya of Bab El Luq, yellow and full of veins" (Bab El Luq is a downtown middle class neighborhood in Cairo):

فشكلي مليح وقدي رجيح ولوني ترغب فيه الملوك ويعشقه كل غني وصعلوك، مليحة ظريفة ناعمة البدن غالية الثمن وقد كملت في الملاحة والأدب والفصاحة مظاهري ولساني فصيح ومزاجي خفيف ولعبي ظريف وأما أنت فمثل ملوخية باب اللوق صفراء وكلها عروق فتعساً لك يا قذرة الرواس ويا صدأ النحاس وطلعة البوم وطعام الزقوم

John Payne, in his translation of Arabian Nights, rendered this paragraph as such:

My form is beautiful and my shape slender; kings desire my colour and all love it, rich and poor. I am pleasant, nimble, handsome, elegant, soft of body and great of price. I am perfect in beauty and breeding and eloquence; my aspect is comely and my tongue fluent, my habit light and my sport graceful. As for thee, [O yellow girl,] thou art like unto a mallow of Bab el Louc, yellow and made all of sulphur. Perdition to thee, O pennyworth of sorrel, O rust of copper, O owl's face and food of the damned!

Burton's translation says:

My form is all grace and my shape is built on heavy base; Kings desire my colour which all adore, rich and poor. I am pleasant, active, handsome, elegant, soft of skin and prized for price: eke I am perfect in seemlibead and breeding and eloquence; my aspect is comely and my tongue witty; my temper is bright and my play a pretty sight. As for thee, thou art like unto a mallow growing about the Lúk Gate; in hue sallow and streaked-yellow and made all of sulphur. Aroynt thee, O copper-worth of jaundiced sorrel, O rust of brass-pot, O face of owl in gloom, and fruit of the Hell-tree Zakkúm

The "sulphur" part is not accurate, unless both Payne and Burton had a manuscript that is different from what I have read on Alwaraq.com web site.

Other Links

not only it taste good but

not only it taste good but also it contains all the important nutrients needed by the body:

If you have ½ cup Molokheya (45g) for your lunch and dinner, you are assured with 20 kcal for energy, 1.3 g for protein, 0.3 g for fat, 3.1 g for carbohydrate, 0.4 for fiber, 87.3 mg for calcium, 22.5 mg for calcium, 1,334 for beta carotene, 1.0 mg for iron, 0.02 for thiamin, 0.04 mg for riboflavin, 0.3 mg for niacin, and 10 mg for Vitamin C.

Didn't knew what it was

I hate to read manuals....I go every time on my own instincts *LOL*

I am so curious in other countries food and products and saw Molokheya in a freeze at a Turkish store, here in Sweden.

It was slimy but it didn't smell any weired so I put it in my youghurt I should have in my salad but the youghurt get hard as a fresh cheese !!!! *LOL*

But later it come out as a sauce when I had fine cut tomatoes in the salad.

Too late did I read it should be cooked so I hope I will not be killed to eat it raw ???? huh ??? *LOL*

I could eat it every day

As a young Egyptian who did not eat much of anything, Molokheya is one of a very small number of plants I eat. I could eat it every day, except my wife would probably divorce me. She is already having a tough time with the 4-5 "plant" dishes I eat (green beans, peas, potatoes, Koshari, molokheya)

molokheya is healthy?

I heard that molokheya had no nutritional value whatsoever. Does it really have all of this? Do the leaves have iron?

Check the links

The links I provided has some info on medicinal use. As for nutrition, it should not be any less useful than, say, lettuce, or other greens.

Even if it has no nutritional value in itself, is often accompanied by protein (chicken, rabbits).

Regardless, it tastes so good ...

nutrition

This stuff is VERY nutritious. Much higher than lettuce or even most other greens, and extraordinarily high in folate. In Japan, it is put into tea bags and much made of its health benefits. Their scientists have discovered that it is very high in antioxidants. In the Philippines it is very popular and thought to prevent aging and promote nice skin.

NICE!

Thank you so much for this great post about this really delicious vegetables! i love it and thanks for posting the recipe with dry ful...we call that Bisara. :)

I'd like to order some boxed mix

Haven't seen it anywhere for sale. I used to have it as a kid. It usually came in a box.