Saleeg is Saudi Arabia's favourite chicken and rice dish. Rice is overcooked in chicken stock and full-fat milk and is served with roasted chicken.
September is a special month because F and I got engaged and it is his birthday month too! But every year I get confused if it was on the 22nd or 23rd. I am the worst person to remember dates. This time, I checked F’s passport to confirm his birthday so the confusion is put to rest. LOL!
Now there is a third event – Saudi National Day – a day for all the expatriates to remember why we are here and not anywhere else in the world! For last year's National Day, I had prepared Kabsa eferring to some random blog. Those days I was not into food blogging et al and so never bothered to check the authentic ways it is prepared. Now, having lived and travelled around KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia), I know that the Kabsa I had prepared was far from authentic. Cringe.
Keeping in mind the three special events, I had shortlisted Kabsa or Mandi considering it will keep the carnivore happy. But F rejected both because he underestimated me, I guess. I then came across Saleeq in a Saudi-related news article. Imagine rice cooked in broth and milk. I was intrigued by the concept which made me finalize on Saleeg.
What is Saleeg?
Saleeg is one of the traditional dishes of the Kingdom of Saudi, especially around Makkah and Tabuk region which is prepared for special occasions. Originated in the Hejaz region, which is the west of Saudi Arabia where it is regarded as a national dish. Almost all the articles I read stated that it is a kid's favourite too, as they eat Saleeg without any tantrums.
How do you make Saleeq?
Saleeg is super easy to prepare as there is no chopping or grinding involved! Only two steps, make broth and overcook the rice! Yes, no fear of overcooking either! This rice dish is usually prepared by boiling the chicken with whole spices to get the stock and then cooking the rice in the prepared stock. Once the rice is cooked, milk is added and cooked further until creamy. If you have mastic, add to the rice for flavour. Traditionally, Saleeg is served hot on large plates called Tabasi and the roasted chicken or meat is placed on top of the rice. You can serve it with some Salata Hara like I did for a hint of tanginess but it is good as is too.
What kind of rice is used?
Unlike most Saudi rice dishes that use long grain or basmati, Saleeg is cooked with a combination of Egyptian and American rice. In other words, short-grain rice gets cooked quickly and becomes creamy. I have made Saleeg a few times using Calrose rice and Egyptian rice but we loved it even better when I made using Jeerakashala (short grain aromatic rice of South India). So whatever glutenous rice you like should work.
How to store and reheat?
You can refrigerate any excess in a closed container. To reheat leftover Saleeg, add more milk or water and cook on a low heat until warmed through. You can serve with any other chicken or meat roast if you don't have any left from the actual dish.
For the Chicken Stock
- 1 kg chicken whole legs 4 to 5 whole legs
- 8 cups water
- 3 green cardamom
- 3 cloves
- 1 inch cinnamon stick
- ½ teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 small piece galangal root (optional)
- 1 small piece black stone flower black stone flower (optional)
- 1 medium onion peeled and quartered
- salt to taste
For the Rice
- 6 cups chicken stock
- 2 cups hot water
- 2 mastic beads crushed (optional)
- 2 cups short-grain rice rinsed and soaked (mix of Egyptian or Calrose rice and American rice or jeerakasala rice)
- 1 cup full-fat milk
- 2 tablespoons ghee or butter
To roast the boiled Chicken
- 2 tablespoons ghee or butter
- 1 tablespoon Arab spice mix (bezar or baharat etc.)
Prepare the stock
- Place chicken pieces in a stockpot along with the whole spices, onions and enough water.1 kg chicken whole legs, 8 cups water, 3 green cardamom, 3 cloves, 1 inch cinnamon stick, ½ teaspoon black peppercorns, 1 small piece galangal root, 1 medium onion, 6 cups chicken stock, 1 small piece black stone flower
- Bring the water to a full boil and then carefully skim the froth that appears on the top and discard it until the stock is clear.8 cups water
- Reduce the flame to medium and allow to cook for 30 minutes or until the chicken is done.
- Remove the chicken pieces with the help of a tong and keep them aside in a skillet.
- Strain the stock to get rid of the whole spices and onion. You can either strain it into another pot in which you intend to make the Saleeg or into a bowl and transfer it back into the same pot.
Prepare the rice
- In the same pot, add the chicken stock, crushed mastic tear, rice, hot water and salt to taste.6 cups chicken stock, 2 cups hot water, 2 mastic beads, 2 cups short-grain rice
- Bring this to a full boil, reduce heat to low and cover the pot. Cook for 20 minutes stirring every now and then.
- Open and add the milk, and butter and give it a good stir.1 cup full-fat milk, 2 tablespoons ghee or butter, salt to taste
- Check and add salt and cook on low stirring every now and then.salt to taste
- Cook until the rice is creamy and thick not dry and sticky! If you feel it is dry, add some more hot milk and stir again. You may add some cream cheese for more creaminess.
Roast the chicken
- Roast the chicken on the stovetop or in a preheated oven. You may mix any Arabic seasoning with butter to rub on the boiled chicken and roast until browned.1 tablespoon Arab spice mix, 2 tablespoons ghee or butter
- On a wide plate pour the prepared Saleeg, smooth the top and place the roasted chicken in the middle. Serve with Salata Hara and some salad.
Recipe adapted from Arab News