Made with red lentils (yellow lentils) and rice, Mujadarah Safra is a soft porridge can be served hot or room temperature and is served with many onion toppings.
As my podcast guest, Mai Kakish, says: this is a humble dish, but nothing could be more delicious. Indeed, my kids asked for this for lunch 2 days in a row after I first made it!
I am even more thankful to Mai for sharing all about her Teta, who made this dish. Mai's grandmother was born, raised, suffered, loved, sacrificed, and died in Palestine. This dish was one way she nourished her family and preserved Palestinian culture in the midst of great hardship.
Questions About Mujadarah Safra:
Is this a recipe for Musalwa'a or Mujadarah Safra?
As Mai explains, "It has different names in the region. In Lebanon they call it mujadarah safra."
Mai is Palestinian, and in Palestine they called this dish Musalwa'a.
When writing this blog post, I chose the Lebanese name because more people were searching for that - actually, quite a few more. Very few seemed to know it by the Palestinian name.
Is it important to use red (or yellow) lentils for this dish?
YES! Very important. In order to achieve the porridge-like consistency that Mai enjoys, you must use red (yellow) lentils. They'll break down completely. Only the rice will retain some of its original texture. The consistency is similar to rice pudding
How should I garnish Musalwa'a?
The garnishes are essential to this dish, especially if you make it "Teta's Way" - the way that Mai loves and cherishes it. The most important garnish is onions of all kinds- carmelized onions, sumac onions, and green onions. You can also enjoy Mujadarah Safra with pickled vegetables, bread, and tomato/cucumber salad.
Where does Mujadarah Safra get its gold/yellow color?
Not from the lentils, as I expected. The color actually comes from the turmeric.
How do you make sumac onions?
Simply, you sprinkle sumac on onions and set them aside for a little while. Mai says to soften the sharpness a bit by adding olive oil and marinating them longer.
What surprises people about this Musalwa'a recipe?
People are often surprised that this porridge like dish can be eaten straight out of the fridge. Just how my grandmother enjoyed it. It has different names in the region in Lebanon they call it mujadarah safra.
About Mai Kakish, Contributor of this Mujadarah Safra
Mai’s grandmother was born in Palestine long before 1948, when the international community took it upon themselves to declare that parts of Palestine as the new nation of Israel. She was a young woman when she saw the suffering of 1967, and already a grandmother many times over by the first Intifada of 1987, when both of her sons were arrested. One of those sons, Mai’s father, was imprisoned for a year, without charges or evidence in the Negev desert. At night, he and fellow prisoners took shifts watching for dangerous wild animals. Later, Teta Um Hanna’s grandsons, Mai’s brothers, were arrested in the second Intifada. Although they were juveniles, they were tried and imprisoned as adults. Victimized by the occupation until the very end, Teta Um Hanna’s ambulance was stopped and searched by Israeli’s soldiers as she was rushed, dying, into Jerusalem. This is a difficult thing for any family to accept.
However, we do not join Mai in honoring Teta Um Hanna because she suffered these things. Rather, we honor Teta Um Hanna because of the things she did with her life: She raised her siblings, her children, her grandchildren with love and patience. She joined countless other Palestinian women in preserving their culture & recipes, becoming breadwinners, nurturing children made fatherless through resistence, and feeding their entire worlds. How did she manage to do these things? She did them all through her garden, her cooking, and the joy she took in both.
Regardless of our politics (which may or may not be influenced by Mai’s powerful story), today, Listener, you and I are coming together to honor this small but mighty woman and the many other women she represents.
What Palestinian Lentils and Rice
Means to Mai
This was one of my grandmothers favorite recipes. She would make it in large batches and distribute it among family members. She garnished it so beautifully and it’s one of the last meals we ever cooked together.
Learn More About Mai of Almond & Fig
Episode 136: Honoring the Women of Palestine