Mulukhiyah, mloukhiya, molokhia, molohiya, mulukhiyya, malukhiyah, or moroheiya (Arabic: ملوخية) is the leaves of Corchorus species used as a vegetable in Middle Eastern and North African cuisine. Mulukhiyyah 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. Mloukhiya is also the Moroccan term for okra.
The dish’s origins lie in Egypt, where the dish is most popular today. The method of making the mulukhiyyah varies from region to region.
As used in Egyptian cuisine, molokheyyah, (Egyptian Arabic pronunciation: [moloˈxejjæ]) is prepared by removing the central spine from the leaves, and then chopping the leaves finely with garlic and coriander. The dish generally includes some sort of meat; in Egypt this is usually chicken or beef but lamb is preferred when it is available, particularly in Cairo. Cooks in Alexandria often opt to use shrimp in the soup, while Port Said is famous for using fish. The resulting soup is then served over rice. It is also often served with a tomato, onion, and vinegar-based topping.
Molokheyyah was consumed in Ancient Egyptian cuisine, where the name “Molokheyyah” originates.
Many Egyptians consider molokheyyah to be the national dish along with Ful Medammes and Koshari.
The Lebanese version of this dish is different in texture and preparation. The mulukhiya leaves are picked off the stem,often communally with the women sitting and picking it, placing the leaves on a large sheet for later use. The leaves are then fried with coriander, garlic and often red chillies and 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). Served with diced onion and brown vinegar and toasted Lebanese bread.
The Palestinians have a tradition of cooking a more elaborate version of the dish. 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.
In Kenya, the dish is known as Mrenda, or Apoth. It is a popular vegetable dish among communities in the Western and Nyanza provinces. The jute leaves are separated from the stems, washed and then boiled in lightly salted water with magadi soda (bicarbonate of soda) or munyu (traditional salt). The leaves are boiled with other leafy vegetables such as rikhuvi (cowpeas) or miroo (chipilín) to reduce slipperiness. After boiling for about thirty minutes, the vegetables are stewed with tomatoes and onions in oil. Spices such as curry, pepper, royco, or coriander are optional. Mrenda is served with Ugali and can be accompanied with meat or chicken.
Algerian and Tunisian Cuisine
In Algeria and Tunisia, the dish is generally prepared quite differently from the Egyptian method. The leaves, already separated from the stems are dried then ground to produce a very fine powder and stored in jars or other tightly closed containers. In Tunisian cooking, Mulukhya, or Mloukhiya, takes 5 to 7 hours to prepare, which is often done to halfway in the evening and completed in the morning. The powder is prepared with olive oil and some tomato paste into a sauce, not soup, and big chunks of chuck beef are often added halfway through cooking. The dark green sauce simmers on low heat and is left to thicken to the consistency of tomato sauce. The sauce is served in small deep plates with a piece of beef and eaten with preferably white hardy French or Italian bread. In certain regions where beef is not common, lamb is used but cooks for a much shorter time.
In Cyprus the dish is known as Molohiya. It is popular among the Turkish Cypriots living in the Cyprus. The Jute leaves are cultivated and grown in the spring months leading up to the summer wherein they are harvested and the leaves are separated from the stem and dried whole. Cooked in a tomato based broth with onions and garlic. Lamb on the bone or Chicken with bone may also be added. For optimal results lemon and potato are also used to help keep the consistency from becoming too mucilaginous or slimy. It is served with a nice broth consistency with sour dough bread.
Levantine cuisine differs from the remaining style in that the leaves are generally used whole, lending a different texture to the dish.
West African Cuisines
The leaf is a common food in many tropical West African countries. It is believed that the “drip tips” on the leaves serve to shed excess water from the leaf from the heavy rains in the tropics. It is called Kren-Kre in Sierra Leone, and is eaten in a palm oil sauce served with rice or cassava fufu, or is steamed and mixed into rice just before eating a non-palm oil sauce.
The leaves are rich in betacarotene, iron, calcium, Vitamin C and more than 32 vitamin and minerals and trace elements. The plant has a potent antioxidant activity with a significant α-tocopherol equivalent Vitamin E.
Availability and Substitution
- The ingredient is rare if at all available in Australia fresh but it can be found canned and sometimes frozen in Middle Eastern grocery stores.
- Substitute with kale or spinach