There’s something about eating food with one’s own hands that makes it so much tastier. Makes it personal. Lots of my favourites childhood dishes were the ones I dunked into with bread (like Kofta), formed into shapes before eating (Mansaf), or simply stuffed my face with using my own hands (Malfoof). But there’s one that has always sat above all…
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What is Musakhan?
Musakhan in the Arabic language means “heated”. But when it comes to food, it’s the ultimate Palestinian comfort dish!
It consists of caramelized onions and roast chicken, spiced with sumac, and served on top of oily Khobz Taboon (Palestinian flatbread). You dig in with your hands. Never with cutlery.
The dish was originally created by Palestinian farmers to test the quality of their olive oil.
Olive trees in Palestine are not only rooted in its land, but they’re tied to its culture too. Besides having been there for thousands of years, families tend to plant more and more trees, naming them after their newborn children. So they can then pick their own olives together when they’re older.
They’re also considered a great source of income for Palestinians. Which is why farmers always want to make sure they have the best produce. One of their quality checks is to see if the olive oil changes colour when heated to cook the onions and chicken. Hence the name. And by the way, it shouldn’t!
Why Roll Them?
Musakhan is traditionally served as an open-faced sandwich. With Taboon bread drenched in the sumac-infused olive oil, topped with caramelized sumac-y onions, and roasted chicken pieces. Often times at gatherings, you’ll see all the bread stacked up together, and the chicken served separately for everyone to choose their own serving sizes.
Another common bread that’s used for Musakhan is Khobz Shraak, a paper thin bread. While many serve it similarly to the Taboon bread method, some people (and local restaurants) turn it into a Musakhan Chicken Pie. Wrapping the filling into Shraak bread to bake for a crispier outside.
But it’s also easy to roll them!
I’m the only vegan in my very busy household, and I’ve always wanted to make it in the simplest way possible, while still maintaining all of its delicious traditional flavours. But it seemed to be a long process, despite it being a fairly easy recipe to make. So when I recently came across a non-vegan Musakhan recipe from my friend Maha (@MakeDeliciousHappen on Instagram), where she rolled the Musakhan into wraps for an easier version, I knew it was time to veganize it!
Since I’m using shredded tofu as a replacement to the chicken, I wanted to cook it together with the oily sumac-y onions to absorb all of its rich and sour-y flavours. So I mixed both into one filling to roll into wraps and finish off in the oven. I used tortilla wraps to get a flaky crunch, with tender juicy bites.
Appropriate Chicken Substitutes
To veganize it, I wanted to make sure I got the essence of the Musakhan flavours from the sumac and olive oil, along with the right texture, to substitute for the roasted chicken.
I decided to go with shredded medium firm tofu, baked to dry out the liquids and absorb the fragrance of the sumac and olive oil. I’m happy to report that my brother (non-vegan), has finally approved of tofu as food. The texture was pretty close to shredded roasted chicken, and the flavours were on point!
Besides tofu, king oyster mushrooms would make a great replacement to the texture of the chicken. Slice the mushroom in half, and carefully shred it using 2 forks, until you get thin chicken-like pieces. The key is to be generous with your spices. As well as having the best quality of spices; especially when it comes to olive oil and sumac.
Alternatively, you can opt in for plant-based chick’n grounds, generously spiced with sumac, olive oil, and maybe allspice for an extra kick. However, the texture might not be the same as the traditional chicken recipe – lightly charred sides, with tender bites.
Hope you give this recipe a try. I’m sure you will enjoy it! If you do, I would love to see your recreation and learn how it went. Leave me a comment here and tag me on Instagram/Facebook/Pinterest/TikTok @demeals.ca #demeals
Vegan Musakhan RollsCourse: Entree, Main CourseCuisine: Middle Eastern, Palestinian, ArabicDifficulty: Easy, Beginner
A tangy comfort dish with staple ingredients that has just the right flavours you need! Made with sumac-spiced caramelized onions and shredded chick’n tofu. Rolled in crunchy flaky wraps. Here’s a simplified veganized take on Palestine’s national dish!
- Sumac Onions
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 large onions, thinly sliced/diced
Generous pinch of salt
3-4 tbsp sumac
- Shredded Chick’n tofu
1 block medium firm tofu (454g), pat dry, carefully shredded
2-3 tbsp sumac
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- For The Filling
4 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
1 lemon, juiced
Salt to taste
2-4 tbsp sumac – adjust to taste
Reserved oils from Sumac Onions
4-5 tortillas of choice
More olive oil for brushing the wraps
- Caramelize the onions in a hot pan over med-low heat with the olive oil and salt. Cook until lightly browned, about 15 to 20 minutes. Finish off with a sprinkle of sumac, then drain out the oil – reserving it for later.
- Prepare the chick’n in the meantime. Carefully shred the tofu using a cheese grater. Mix in the sumac and olive oil and stir to combine. Lay in a baking sheet and bake in the oven at 350 F (or 177 C) for 15 to 20 minutes – stir halfway. Set aside in a large bowl.
- Add in the caramelized onions, pine nuts, lemon juice, salt, and more sumac to the bowl of shredded chick’n tofu. Drop in a couple of spoons of the reserved sumac oil. Gently mix everything to combine.
- On a tortilla wrap, add about 1/4 cup of the filling to the centre and roll tightly (but not too tight).
- Place them seal side down onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or oil spray. Brush more oil on top of the rolls, and bake for 15-20 minutes at 350 F (or 177 C), until golden. Brush more oil and sprinkle some sumac, then bake for an additional minute or two to finish off with tangy flaky bites.