Saturday, February 28, 2009

ملوخية - Molokhia at Mint Cafe

Ever run across a food that you have never tried -- never even heard of -- and it blows you away?

That is exactly what happened last night at Mint Cafe.

Mint Cafe

Mint Cafe is one of Houston's best Middle Eastern restaurants. The young guy who manages the floor is one of the nicest folks in the Houston restaurant business. He once explained that his family is from all over the Middle East, including Egypt.

Last night, I asked him about the daily special - a dish I had never heard of. He said that it is one of his favorite foods. He usually eats it every Friday, the only day that the kitchen makes it. But he can't eat it now, because it's Lent.


This dish -- named after its main ingredient -- is ملوخية in Arabic. But in English, there are at least 18 different ways to spell it. Mint Cafe uses different spellings on their specials sign and the receipt. Google seems to prefer this spelling: molokhia.

Molokhia is one of Egypt's national dishes. (The other is ful mudammus, which is also one of Mint Cafe's best dishes.)

Mint Cafe's molokhia is basically chicken, water, garlic, and the finely chopped molokhia plant. It may have a little spice -- most recipes use corriander. At the table, you add rice and a vinegar sauce with chopped onion, which enhances the flavor even more.

So, you ask, how good can a chicken & rice soup be? Chicken and rice usually don't excite me. But this was something completely different.

Molokhia is often described as similar to spinach. It may look like spinach, but does not taste like it.

The flavor is very distinctive. I don't have a good flavor reference point. It tastes less green and vegetal than it does earthy and almost meaty. Of course, that may be the interaction with chicken and spices. But the flavor is completely unlike any chicken stew or soup I have ever had. It also is quite addictive.

Keep in mind that Mint Cafe only serves molokhia on Fridays. And they don't sell beer and wine. So bring your own.


solopoesie said...
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Dianne said...

THANK YOU!!!!! My husband and I moved here from Washington DC and I have searched for Molokhia for two years! My husband is Egyptian, and this is his favourite meal . . . I cannot make it very well (even though I try and frequently ask some of the oldr ladies for help at the arabic market when I get supplies). I cannot wait to take him for some as soon as lent it over!

[though the molokhia we make is with lamb, I am sure he will still appreciate this variation.]

Anonymous said...

I've had this before in Egypt - interesting to see that there is a good version in Houston. My brother affectionately refers to it as "weed soup" for some reason. Though, it is supposed to be an aphrodisiac.

eRiN said...

Hi, I know my comment comes LONG after your initial post but I just googled. Egyptian Food in Houston and got your blog, which is great by the way!

I am heading to Houston soon and just returned from Cairo. I would LOVE to find Koshari. Not sure about the spelling but it's a traditional Egyptian food with rice, vermicelli, lentils, tomatoes and a lemon sauce. It's incredible!!!

Any idea where I can find it in Houston? Thanks in advance :)

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