Chicken Mandi

Servings : Serves 4

Mandi is an intensely flavourful, smoky and aromatic Yemeni/Arabic meal comprising mainly of rice that is topped with either meat, chicken or fish. This recipe is for the chicken version, but you may substitute it with goat meat or lamb. Just ensure that the cuts of meat are somewhat big for an authentic presentation and the cook time will be a little bit longer.

Ingredients for Mandi Spice

  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 4 green cardamoms
  • 1 tsp whole black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 dried red chillies
  • 1 tsp ginger powder
  • 1 pinch saffron threads
  • 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp paprika powder

Other Ingredients

  • 1 small chicken with or without skin, halved
  • 2 cups long grain basmati rice
  • 3 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped (optional)
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • mandi spice, as needed
  • 4 tbsp oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • water, as needed
  • salt to taste
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 loomi/dried lime (or 1/2 tsp lime zest)
  • 1 piece of coal for smoking the meal


First, prepare the mandi spice. Roast the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, green cardamoms, black pepper, cloves, cinnamon stick, bay leaf and dried red chillies. Turn off the heat and add in the ginger powder, saffron, grated nutmeg, paprika and turmeric. Grind into a fine powder and store to use as needed. Any left over spice can be stored in an airtight container for the next use.

In a small bowl, combine 1 tbsp of the mandi mix with 1 and a half tsp salt and the juice of 1 lemon. Apply this on both sides of the chicken halves and then set aside for about 30 minutes or up to overnight.

Before you begin to cook, ensure the chicken is out of the fridge at least half an hour before you start. Also, wash the rice well and soak for about 30 minutes.

In a large pan heat the oil and add the chopped onions. Saute until aromatic and transluscent. Next add the garlic paste and chopped tomatoes (if you are using them). Stir fry until they soften. Then add 2 tbsp of mandi spice and stir until well combined. Add the chicken halves and allow them to brown on both sides. Then add enough water to cover the chicken, sprinkle 1 tbsp salt and add in the loomi/dried lime or lime zest. Turn the heat down to low and cover the pan. Allow to simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Then remove the chicken pieces onto a tray and set them aside.

Check how much liquid/stock is remaining in the pan. You will need approximately 1 and a quarter to 1 and a half cups of liquid for each cup of rice. Adjust by adding water if it is less and taste/adjust for salt. Bring to a simmer and then add in the rice. Cook over medium low heat giving an occasional stir until almost all the water is gone. Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and place on very low heat to continue steaming for about 10-15 minutes.

In the meantime, melt the butter and add 1 tsp of the mandi spice to it. Brush this all over the chicken pieces. Place under a very hot grill to get a crisp outer coating and a nice golden brown colour to the chicken.

Once the rice is done, open the pan and place the chicken pieces on top. Light a coal and place it on a piece of foil right in the centre of the dish. Drizzle a few drops of oil onto the lit coal and quickly cover the pan as it begins to smoke. Allow the smoke to infuse the meal for about 5 minutes or longer for more intensity. Then open the pan and discard the coal. Serve the meal on a large platter with the chicken pieces on top. The meal goes well with a sauce of some kind, like salata hara or tomato chutney. You may garnish with roasted slivered almonds or raisins if you like.


Leave a Reply