“Once upon a time, in Yemen for sure and also in Israel at the beginning, we would prepare chouia in the hot coals of the taboon, after the fire went out, and leave it to cook in the residual heat, without adding a drop of water, until the coals were cold.” Mazal Madhala says that she prepares chouia with chicken or beef for Friday lunch, along with the red sauce on the side, so that no one comes to Kiddush hungry.
Mazal makes the hawaij for the stew – a mixture of Yemeni spices used for soup and other dishes – from cumin, cardamom, black pepper, red sorghum, chicken soup powder (“There, the chicken had a special taste to it – here has no taste” explains Mazal regarding this foreign presence) and dried turmeric (“I dry the root myself and grind it myself”).
Ingredients for Chouia
- 4 tablespoons oil
- 1 onion Large, peeled and sliced
- 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) chicken breast (butterflied) cut into bite-sized pieces, or beef (shoulder or muscle) cut into medium cubes
- 1 heaping tablespoon hawaij for soup
1. Put 2 tablespoons of the oil in a heavy, wide pot, add the onion and fry over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes until browned. Remove from the pot and set aside.
2. While the onion is frying, pat dry the chicken breast or cubes of beef with paper towels, and place in a bowl or a wide, flat box, sprinkle the hawaij on top and mix/massage until the meat is completely covered in spice. Set aside for at least 10 minutes (or until the onion is ready).
3. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in the pot, add the chicken or beef, cover and fry - the preparation time varies depending on the type of chouia you are making: if you are making chicken chouia, fry the strips over low heat for about 10 minutes until they are cooked and opaque. If you are making beef chouia, cook for an hour and a half (covered) until the meat is soft. There is no need to add water during cooking, just make sure the flame is low. If the meat still sticks to the pot, add as little water as possible.
4. Return the onion to the pot, mix and cook together over low heat for about 5 minutes.