There are McDonald’s billboards everywhere in Beirut and the caption says: “YOU DON’T WANT TO EAT MUJADDARA EVERY DAY, DO YOU?”. The photo on the billboard is of a breaded (fried) shrimp sandwich.
Call me contrarian, but that billboard immediately made me long for mujaddara or its sister, mudardara. Simpler to make, it is just a pilaf of lentils and rice, crowned with fried caramelized onion rings. A recommended side with this is simply a tomato salad or raw veggies and some yogurt.
INGREDIENTS: 6 servings
- 2 cups of lentils (preferably the large green ones)
- 1 1/2 cups of long-grain rice (Uncle Ben’s or similar)
- 4 large yellow onions
- Salt, as needed
- 2 1/2 tsp of seven-spice mix or 1 tsp of cinnamon, 1 tsp of allspice, 1 tsp of cumin, 1/4 tsp of white pepper
- vegetable oil, as needed
- Slice the onions into rings, place in a bowl and sprinkle the onions with 2 tablespoons of salt, tossing them a bit to spread the salt evenly; set them aside for at least 20 minutes or longer.
- Place the lentils in a large pot, add 6 cups of water and bring to a simmer; simmer the lentils for 20 minutes or so until they are cooked but still firm.
- Squeeze the onions and drain them well; heat 3 cups of oil in a skillet and fry the onions until golden-brown. Drain the onions and take half of the fried onions and add to the lentils. Add the rice and bring the mixture to a simmer, adding the spices. Cover and let the lentils and rice cook for another twenty minutes or so until the rice is cooked. You may need to add one cup or more of water before cooking the rice if the lentil mixture looks too dry. Keep in mind that there should be 3 cups of liquid to cook the rice in. (Alternatively, you can cook the rice separately and add it to the lentils, which can be drained of water).
- Serve the mdardara warm with a garnish of the rest of the fried onions.
- Some people like to use Italian rice or Egyptian rice to cook the mdardara; personally I find that these rice with their high-starch content make the mdardara too heavy. I prefer long-grain like Uncle Ben’s or jasmine rice.
- Traditionally, half of the oil was added to the rice and lentil mixture; I find that two tablespoons of oil (which will be part of the fried onions) is plenty and delivers that smoothness characteristic of this dish.
- The reason I sprinkle the onions rings with salt is so that the salt drain them of their water and they become crispier when fried.
- As mentioned by Samir (see comment), the lentil water does take on a bit of color and some people drain the lentils and add fresh water to cook the rice in; it works either way.