Yemeni Chicken Mandi is a traditional and super popular Arabian dish where you carefully cook the chicken, rice and spices to create a perfectly seasoned and aromatic dish. Mandi is packed with flavor and is truly a wholesome dish that your family is going to love!
What is Chicken Mandi?
Yemen is a beautiful country, and its people are generous and kind. It is called (Al Yaman Al Saeed) which means Happy Yemen.
Unfortunately, Yemen is not happy right now, not with all the killing that’s taking place there, but I thought in celebration of the kindness of its people and the beauty of that country, let me share with you a delicious and popular Yemeni delight Chicken Mandi Recipe.
Chicken Mandi is aromatic and perfectly seasoned chicken and rice meal. The flavor is unlike anything you would have tried before and is definitely something you need to make at least once in your life (but trust me you’ll end up making it all the time!).
Mandi means ‘dew’ in the Arabic language, which lends to the dewy, juicy texture of the chicken once it’s cooked.
It is by far one of the most popular Arabian dishes around the world, and you’ll find it in many restaurants globally as well! It’s also popular in many Arab countries as well. There are so many Arabian rice dishes that we know of, but Chicken Mandi is one of the most special ones out there for sure.
If you would like to cook an Arabian meal, then try this Yemeni Chicken Mandi. Follow my recipe to make your own great tasting chicken meal at home.
How is Mandi Traditionally Prepared?
Mandi is traditionally cooked under the ground. In Yemen, they dig a hole in the ground, fill it with hot coals and place a big pan of mandi on top, cover the hole with sand and leave it slowly cook for hours. It gives the dish a delicious smoky flavor. This underground tandoor oven is known as Taboon.
As you can imagine, this is an elaborate and strenuous technique to cook this beautiful dish. For this reason, Chicken Mandi is usually served on special occasions such as weddings and Eid.
But don’t worry, I will not ask you to ruin your backyard to make mandi.
There is a simple way to make it, although, no one can beat the taste of underground cooked Yemeni Chicken Mandi, but we are going to use the stove and oven. The method I’ll teach you in the recipe will replicate the dewy, juicy texture for the chicken in the easiest way possible at home!
There are three main components to this recipe: a special Yemeni spice blend, marinated and baked chicken, and beautiful mandi rice.
As I just mentioned, this recipe is known for a special Yemeni spice mix, which we will use to marinate the chicken. Then we’ll make the Mandi rice using basmati rice and some other delicious ingredients. Trust me, this dish is one of a kind!
What is Hawaij Mandi Spice Mix?
Hawaij means “The things you need” or simply "Things" in Arabic. This is the special Yemeni spice mix that is used to make Chicken Mandi. You don’t need to roast whole spices and grind them for it; if you have spices in powder form, just mix them all up!
Here are the spices you’ll need to make this delicious mandi spice blend:
- Cumin Powder: Cumin has got to be one of my favorite spices! And it adds such a beautiful flavor to this recipe. I’ve chosen ground cumin powder, but you can also use cumin seeds. Just roast them and grind them before using it in the Hawaij spice mix.
- Coriander Powder: This spice adds a beautiful aroma to the dish and is subtle, yet perfect. Like mentioned above, I’ve gone for ground coriander, but you can also roast some coriander seeds and then grind it to a fine powder if that’s what you have at home.
- Black Pepper Powder: This adds a nice little kick to the dish and is an essential part of this spice blend.
- Cardamom Powder: A beautiful aromatic spice, it’ll add that something special to your dish!
- Cinnamon Powder: I’ve again gone for ground cinnamon, since most of us have it readily at home. But you can also grind a cinnamon stick to a fine powder form.
- Cloves Powder: Another delicious aromatic that you’ll love in the final dish!
- Turmeric Powder: Not only will this add an amazing flavor to your recipe, but it will also give a beautiful color to the chicken!
- Red Chili Powder (Optional): You can add half teaspoon of red chili powder for an added kick if you like, but this is totally optional!
You might come across recipes that use other spices such as ginger powder, nutmeg, bay leaves and saffron in this dish, but it’s definitely not required or what’s traditionally used. Stick to my recipe, and you’ll have the most perfect Chicken Mandi at home in no time!
How to Make Yemeni Chicken Mandi at Home
Step One - Make the Yemeni Spice Mix:
Combine the Mandi Spice (Hawaij): Start off by mixing all the Hawaij spices together and store them in an airtight container. You won’t need all of it, and it’ll store well for up to 6 months if you’re using ground spices like I have used in this recipe.
Step Two - Make the Mandi Chicken:
Marinate the Chicken: Start off by seasoning the chicken with salt. Next, mix butter with the Hawaij spice blend and brush it on the chicken. Set the marinated chicken aside for 10 mins.
Bake the Marinated Chicken: Next, preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit or 190 degrees Celsius. Cover the chicken with aluminium foil and bake for 35 minutes. After that, remove the foil and bake for an additional 25 minutes. You may bake the chicken longer if the chicken is bigger in size.
Step Three - Make the Mandi Rice:
Fry onions: Start off by taking a pot and heat some olive oil in it. Now add onions and fry them until they’re translucent.
Add tomatoes and green chilis: Add the tomatoes and green chilli, stir on medium heat for 4 minutes.
Adding Hawaij Spice Mix: Now add the Hawaij (Yemeni spice blend), and stir for two minutes. Then pour water into the pot and season with salt.
Cook the rice: Once the water has come to a boil, add the rice. When it starts to boil again, cover tightly. Reduce the heat to the lowest possible.
Stir the rice: After 15 minutes, uncover the rice and gently stir, just to bring the bottom rice to the top. Cover tightly and cook for another 15-17 minutes.
Ready to serve: When serving, place the chicken on top of the rice and garnish it with almonds and raisins.
Other Recipes You'll Love
- Kunafa with Cream Arabian Dessert: What to have after this delicious Chicken Mandi meal? A delicious Arabian dessert of course! Kunafa is a traditional Arabic dessert made from Phyllo dough filled with either pastry cream or sweet Arabic cheese, you’re going to love it!
- Arayes Pita Bread Stuffed with Lamb Meat: Looking for a great Middle Eastern appetizer? I have you covered! Try my delicious Arayes recipe, which is a beautiful pita bread stuffed with seasoned ground lamb meat.
- Arabian Lamb Stew: Craving a delicious stew? Try my Arabian Lamb stew recipe (also known as Saloonat Laham in Arabic). This is a super popular dish that’s cooked three to four times a week in most Arab households! You can’t get bored of this one, trust me!
Yemeni Chicken Mandi
Yemeni Spice Mix (Hawaij)
- 2 ½ tablespoon cumin powder
- 2 tablespoon coriander powder
- 1 tablespoon black pepper powder
- 1 tablespoon cardamom powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
- ½ teaspoon cloves powder
- 1 tablespoon turmeric powder
- ½ teaspoon red chili powder Optional
For the chicken
- 1 chicken with skin cut in half
- 2 teaspoons Yemeni mix spice
- Salt to taste
- 2 tablespoon melted butter
For the rice
- 1 onion chopped
- 1 tomato chopped
- 1 green chili
- 3 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 ½ teaspoon Yemeni mix spice
- 1 cup long grain rice – Basmati is the best Washed and soaked
- 2 ½ cups boiling water Read the notes
- 2 teaspoon Salt, or to taste
- Raisins and sliced almonds for garnish (optional)
For the spice
- Mix them all up and keep in airtight container.
For the chicken
- Season the chicken with salt. Mix butter with 2 teaspoons from the spice mix and brush the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for 10 minutes. You can skip the 10 minutes if you don't have much time.
- Preheat oven to 190C/375F. Cover the chicken with aluminum foil and bake for 35 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 25 minutes. If the chicken is bigger you will need to bake it a little longer. Keep aside.
For the rice
- In a pan add the olive oil, when hot add the onion and fry until translucent.
- Add the tomatoes and green chili, stir on medium heat for 4 minutes.
- Add the Yemeni spice mix, stir for two minutes. Pour the water and season with salt.
- When the water comes to a boil, add the rice. When it starts to boil again, cover tightly. Heat should turned down to the lowest.
- After 15 minutes, uncover the rice and gently stir, just to bring the bottom rice to the top. Cover tightly and cook for another 15-17 minutes.
- When serving, place the chicken on top of the rice and garnish with almonds and raisins.
- Depending on the weight of the chicken it might take a longer time to cook in the oven.
- If you want to use more spices on the chicken add a tablespoon and a half to the melted butter and then brush the chicken.
- It’s best to use Basmati rice in making mandi recipe, but you can get good results using parboiled rice or short grain rice.
- You can use 2 cups of boiling water to cook the rice if you want it to have a bite to it.
- This post was published in 2016 but is updated with more text, new photos, and a video.