Dejaj Salona | Emirati Chicken Stew

Friday, April 01, 2016

Another experience from MENA Cooking Club! This time the club explored UAE (United Arab Emirates) Cuisine. We received the club email on 8th of March and had almost a month to try and make any one or all three of the dishes that our host Tamar chose for UAE.

Soup/Stew: Dejaj Saloona (chicken stew)
Main: Ro-be-yann nashif (shrimp)
Dessert: Khanfaroush

I actually just got back from Dubai last month and met my brother and his two munchkins! It was my first visit to UAE but Dubai doesn't represent UAE, it is a global city with people and food from all over! UAE is one of the Middle Eastern countries with almost 80% of its population as expatriates. The same reason why their authentic cuisine is hard to differentiate as it is diluted with all the foreign influences. Even during my stay there, I had Afghan, Peruvian, Indian cuisine, and once they served dates with different fillings which were the closest to Arabian food! :-D That is how food world has become in Dubai!

Even though UAE's mainstay is seafood; meat and vegetables are cooked more often and mostly in one pot stews. Out of the three choices, Robeyaan nashif, a dish made with Shrimps was out as seafood is not welcome in my home and though the dessert seemed easy and tempting, I chose to first try the Dejaj Saloona and started looking for the recipe. 

Dejaj Salona | Emirati Chicken Stew

Dejaj Salona is a Chicken stew with a lot of vegetables. What makes it Emirati is the Spice mix called Bezar. Just like how there is no rule for any of the numerous spice mixes of India, there is none for Bezar too. I spent hours on the internet to find two matching recipes so that I can be confident in using it. Though I found similar recipes of the mix, they were from the same source! I also read that each family has their own magic mix. 

So I just went with the most sought-after bezar mix recipe listed in uaeforver but I cut short the quantity to make just a few tablespoons. Roasting the spices itself brought such good aroma that reminded me something very familiar of our Indian food too. I still cannot place that dish, but I guess it is because of the spices used in it. Cumin, Fennel, Cinnamon, coriander, pepper, red chillies and turmeric - now that does not read Arabian! 

Dejaj Salona | Emirati Chicken Stew

Dejaj Salona recipe too was not very common on the internet. I adapted Noor's recipe from yasalamcooking as her recipe required to boil the chicken first which will give me the broth to make the Salona which in turn will help to retain the veggies in shape. You can also check Fahad's version of uaeforever.

I made Dejaj Salona twice! the first time I made on a weekday for dinner and served with rice. F and I loved it so much with the rice that we ended up drinking the leftover off the plate like I do with Rasam! It was drinking well? Lol! And surprisingly he asked me to make it again on the weekend and I was more than happy to oblige as that means a daylight picture! Like most of the meat stews, the Salona tastes better the next day. 

The tallest building in the world - Burj Khalifa 

The second time I made, I added some whole spices while boiling the chicken just to get it aromatic. The Salona tasted even better this time and again served with white rice. This is one recipe that is already part of my menu and will be doing this more often. 

Dejaj Salona | Emirati Chicken Stew

Yields: 5 to 6 servings


For Bezar Spice Mix 

Yields: 3 to 4 tablespoons

1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds 
1/2 tablespoon peppercorns 
2 dried red chillies
2-inch cinnamon sticks
1/2 tablespoon turmeric powder

For Chicken Stock

6 to 8 pieces of chicken 
4 cups of water
1 cardamom 
1" cinnamon stick 
1 small bay leaf
1 loomi (dried lime/black lime)
1 small piece galangal root (optional)
1 small piece black stone flower (shaiba leaves) (optional)

For Dejaj Salona

3 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1/2 inch ginger grated
3 green chillis, slit
1 red hot pepper (optional)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
4 medium to small potatoes, peeled and cut into roundels 
1 carrot, cut into roundels 
1/2 green pepper (capsicum), cubed
2 tomatoes, cut into roundels
1 loomi (dried lime/black lime)

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/4 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon coriander powder
1/4 teaspoon cardamom powder
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1 and 1/2 teaspoon bezar spice mix

1 cup coriander leaves, chopped
Boiled chicken along with the stock
Salt to taste


Spice Blend: 

  1. Dry roast all the seeds and sticks until fragrant and let it cool. 
  2. Once cooled, add them into a spice blender along with turmeric powder and grind until a fine powder. 
  3. Store in an airtight container. 

Chicken Broth

  1. In a deep saucepan, add water, chicken pieces, and the whole spices and bring it to boil. 
  2. Skim out and discard the foam and impurities. 
  3. Once it boils, close and cook for 30 minutes or until the water is reduced to half the quantity.
  4. Remove the chicken pieces and keep aside
  5. Strain the broth and discard the whole spices 

Dejaj Salona

  1. Heat the oil in a curry pot over medium-high heat. 
  2. Add onions, and sauté until golden. 
  3. Stir in ginger, garlic and green chillies and sauté for a minute 
  4. Add the tomato paste, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, loomi. 
  5. Cook for 5 to 8 minutes.
  6. Add the chicken pieces along with the strained broth
  7. Add all spice powders and salt as per taste
  8. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes. 
  9. Just before switching off, add the green pepper (capsicum) and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes or until potatoes are tender. 
  10. Add fresh coriander leaves right before serving. 
  11. Serve with white rice.

Dejaj Salona | Emirati Chicken Stew
Clearly, no chicken pieces in the plate - :-D didn't realize until I posted here!

Note: The more you simmer, the better. You can thicken the stew by simmering for a longer period. Chicken in bone is better as it gives rich broth. Vegetables are totally your choice, you can add any vegetables like carrots, zucchini, etc. I had to keep it to minimum else F will tag it as a vegetarian dish which will become hard for me to sell. :-D 

Last night F brought home a box of chicken curry his colleague gave him for lunch as he couldn't eat. Now, I have to return it with something in it right? So I asked my man what he prefers and he said: "make salona!"That is how much we loved this dish!

The Miracle garden - my brother sent this picture! 

Check out what the other MENA Cooking Club members made: 

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