Mulukhiyah (also mloukhiya, molokhia, molohiya, mulukhiyya, malukhiyah, or moroheiya (Arabic: ملوخية)) is the leaves of Corchorus olitorius. It is more commonly known as Nalta jute, tossa jute, jute, Egyptian spinach, Jews mallow, Jute mallow, or saluyot and is used as a vegetable like spinach.
It is popular in Middle East and North African countries. Molokhiya is rather bitter, and when boiled, the resulting liquid is a thick, highly mucilaginous broth; it is often described as “slimy,” rather like cooked okra. Mulukhiyyah is generally eaten cooked, not raw, and is most frequently turned into a kind of soup or stew, typically bearing the same name as the vegetable in the local language.
According to some sources, molokhiya means the “vegetable for King” because – around 6000 BC – a sick Egyptian King asked a bowl of hot soup made from the herb, and found it tasty. After taking the hot soup every day, the King’s illness was healed. Cleopatra also enjoyed the same soup. The soup was the Egyptian spinach called molokhiya and we believe that this miracle vegetable originated in India and Egypt.
The leaves are rich in beta-carotene, iron, calcium, Vitamin C and more than 32 vitamins, minerals and trace elements. The plant has a potent antioxidant activity with a significant α-tocopherol equivalent Vitamin E.
Molokhiya is also known as the “king of vegetables”. Its carotene contents are 4.6 times more than spinach and 19 times more than broccoli. Its calcium contents are 9 times more than spinach and 10 times more than broccoli. Even vitamins B1 and B2 are five times more than spinach contains. It also contains much more Vitamin E, C, potassium, iron, and fibre than any other vegetable.
Anecdotally, molokhiya possesses properties that can boost our immune system to help prevent diseases such as cancer, osteoporosis, fatigue, high blood pressure and anaemia. Its vitamin contents moisturise our skin and make it soft and smooth, and resist early ageing. Egyptian spinach is considered demulcent (relieves pain in inflamed or irritated mucous membranes), diuretic (increases the passing of urine), febrifuge (reduces fever) and a tonic (increases vigour).
In addition, molokhiya’s viscous texture is rich in soluble fibre. This dietary fibre has a cholesterol-lowering effect, relieves constipation, and prevents obesity and diabetes, including colorectal cancer and other lifestyle-related diseases.
100 grams of Molokhiya leaves contain:
- Carotene – 10,000 µg
- Calcium – 500 mg
- Potassium – 650 mg
- Iron – 3.8 mg
- Vitamin B1 – 0.24 mg
- Bitamin B2 – 0.76mg
Egypt is the birthplace of molokhiya, so we’ll start by outlining how they eat it there.
First, the stems are removed and the leaves finely chopped with garlic and coriander. Meat is usually added which is chicken or beef, but rabbit or lamb are preferred when available, especially in Cairo. Cooks in Alexandria also opt to use shrimp in the soup, while Port Said is famous for using fish. The resulting soup is then served over rice and often served with a tomato, onion, and vinegar-based topping.
Again, the leaves are de-stemmed but are then placed on a large sheet of cloth and left to completely dry. They are then packed for later use, and some southern traditions freeze them also.
The leaves are fried with coriander, garlic and sometimes chilli peppers or capsicum, accompanied often with cucumber pickles (kabis). This cooking process prevents them from becoming slimy. It is then boiled with meat, such as large boneless chicken chunks or beef and lamb (with bone) and served on white rice with diced onion and brown vinegar and toasted Arabic bread.
A whole chicken is cut open, the intestines removed, and the innards stuffed with herbs, spices and raw rice then sewn shut with thick thread. The chicken is then boiled to create the broth for the Molokhia soup which, after preparation, is served as five separate components: The molokhia soup, Arabic flat bread, the chicken (stuffed with flavoured rice), additional plain rice and a small bowl with a mixture of lemon juice and sliced chilli. The soup is mixed with rice and lemon juice according to taste, while the chicken is eaten on a separate plate.
Throughout the rest of the Levant, the leaves are usually left whole and the result is a very different textured dish which can often be more soup-like as it can contain more broth.
Our Molokhiya is the family recipe enjoyed by Rita, our master Lebanese executive chef, throughout her childhood and borrows a little from each of these traditions. As with both Egyptian and Lebanese traditions, we still keep the leaves finely chopped with garlic and coriander as the base. We add a few delicate spices (we find chilli can easily overpower the subtle flavours of the herbs) and this creates the thick green sauce which gives the dish its name.
Then we serve this over a bed of Lebanese rice (vermicelli and rice combined) and add our broasted chicken on top. Lamb or rabbit can be used instead, though most people prefer chicken. We then serve this with the baked Arabic bread and chopped onion in white wine vinegar alongside. You then add these on top to taste and voilà, you get the dish in the picture above!