Maqluba (Traditional Arabic Rice Dish)

  • Cook Time
    60 mins
  • Serving
    6
  • Difficulty
    Easy

Maqluba is an incredibly tasty Middle Eastern dish made of rice, meat and sauteed vegetables. All the ingredients of the dish are laid out in layers in a skillet or other deep dish, which is turned upside down before serving. This is where the name comes from, which in translation literally means “upside-down”. Maqluba is very often served at family feasts, at holidays or feasts, most often along with yogurt or fresh salad.

It is difficult to trace the exact origin of the dish. But it is known that in a Baghdad culinary manuscript, written in the 13th century, a whole section is devoted to the maqluba. Various vegetables are used for this dish, mainly tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants and cauliflower, a little less often – onions and bell peppers. Sometimes you can find all these vegetables in a dish, but more often – some combination of them.

You can also use various kinds of meat – lamb, chicken, beef or veal. I chose the latter option. I recommend taking long-grain rice, because during cooking it should not turn into mush, so round-grain rice will not do here. Spices also play an important role so that the dish is rich in flavors and aromas. I used the most typical mixture for this dish: cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, turmeric, cardamom and allspice. After it is flipped onto a table, the maqluba can be garnished with nuts or fresh parsley. But every home in the Middle East has its own way of preparing this incredibly delicious dish.

The uniqueness of the maqluba is in the way it is prepared. The idea of layering vegetables and meat under the rice allows all the flavors to intertwine. The bottom layer is usually made with tomatoes, which prevent other vegetables, meat and rice from burning. You need to cook the maqluba over low heat. It is better to use a cast iron pot for cooking, it is also better if the dish is wide. I decided to cook a maqluba in an Instant Pot – it is also perfect for this dish.

How to prepare maqluba

Ingredients

Maqluba (Traditional Arabic Rice Dish): Directions

Step 1

Prep all the ingredients for making a flavorful Middle Eastern maqluba. Wash the eggplant and cut it into slices about 5 mm thick. Cut 2 tomatoes into slices roughly the same thickness. Peel the onion and cut it into half rings. Julienne the red bell peppers.

Maqluba
Maqluba
Step 2

Heat up a skillet with 1 tbsp sunflower oil and fry the eggplant slices for a few minutes on each side until they are golden brown.

Maqluba
Maqluba
Step 3

In the bowl of an Instant Pot (or, alternatively, on the bottom of a cast-iron skillet), first lay down a layer of fresh tomatoes, salt, then put a layer of fried eggplants on top and add a little salt again.

Maqluba
Maqluba
Step 4

Cut the potatoes into the same slices as the rest of the vegetables. You can peel them or just wash them well, as I did. Fry the potatoes in sunflower oil until they are golden brown.

Maqluba
Maqluba
Step 5

Remove the silver skin from the meat, salt it well and chop into chunks. Fry the pieces of veal in a skillet with 2 tbsp sunflower oil until a golden brown crust forms.

Maqluba
Maqluba
Step 6

In the bowl of an Instant Pot, lay down a layer of eggplant, then put the potatoes and the fried meat on top.

Maqluba
Maqluba
Step 7

Saute the onion and pepper in 1 tbsp of sunflower oil, salt them and transfer to the Instant Pot. Arrange them on top of the sauted meat.

Maqluba
Maqluba
Step 8

In a cup, combine the tomato paste and turmeric, add some water and stir well.

Maqluba
Maqluba
Step 9

Add the remaining spices to the bowl of the Instant Pot (a cinnamon stick, 5 cardamom seeds, 2 allspice peas and 3 bay leaves).

Maqluba
Maqluba
Step 10

Add a cup of rice into the bowl of your Instant Pot. I recommend using basmati, but this time I went with regular parboiled rice, which works too as it doesn’t stick together and remains nice and fluffy. Pour in the turmeric and tomato paste and add more water to cover the rice by 5 about mm.

Maqluba
Maqluba
Step 11

Cook the maqluba using the "pilaf" setting on your Instant Pot. If you’re using a cast-iron skillet, first bring the mixture to a rapid boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 40 minutes.

Maqluba
Maqluba
Cooking is easy!

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