Mufattaka is a glorious rice pudding only familiar to folks who have lived in the oldest traditional Beirut neighborhood called Ras Beirut (Ras is the tip of Beirut or West Beirut, the oldest part of the city).
Hind had been living in this area for over fifty years, in the same home; she told me about it as a special treat she grew up with and of course, I wanted to taste it. She said everybody in her community loved this mufattaka (in Lebanese, the word describes something unraveled, as the rice pudding is cooked so long it becomes soft and chewy).
Like other popular street foods, it is made up of just a few ingredients; rice, tahini, sugar and turmeric; sprinkled with pine nuts, and served at room temperature. Makari and Hashem who still make this old-fashioned treat today do not skimp on the time and told me it takes them six hours of stirring.
I made it at home in under one hour; well, truthfully, theirs had a better texture, but I was pleased with the taste of mine. I have done risotto in stages before, no need to be intimidated; you can start over the next day, add more water and stir some more.
INGREDIENTS: 4 to 8 servings
- 1 cup of rice (Egyptian or Italian or sushi or any medium-starchy rice)
- 1 cup of tahini
- 1 3/4 cup of white granulated sugar
- 3 cups of water
- 1 Tbsp. of turmeric
- ½ cup of pine nuts, soaked in a bowl of cold water for one hour or longer
1. Place rice in bowl and soak in water overnight. Drain rice and transfer to a heavy-bottom saucepan (pick one large enough to hold at least 4 cups of liquid). Add 3 cups of water and bring mixture to a boil; lower the heat to the max and let the mixture simmer for 45 minutes, stirring from time to time.
2. Add the turmeric and stir; add the tahini and sugar and stir. Stir every few minutes for another 45 minutes. Add the ¼ cup of pine nuts and stir to spread them around the pudding. When the pudding is very thick, rice is soft and the tahini is completely melded into the rice, it is ready. The tahini can at this point separate with the oil coming up to the surface, but it is not absolutely necessary.
3. Transfer the mufattaka to a serving platter and garnish with the remaining pine nuts.
NOTE: Siham, beauty shop owner in Beirut, says that she adds a touch of anise to her mufattaka.
Side note: I am wondering if mufattaka will still be in demand ten, twenty, years from now? or is it just going out permanently? I have seen it in delis in West Beirut, sold next to plain rice puddings, muhallabieh or custards or spice puddings.
Hard at work, stirring the pudding.
Pick up a plate, eat it and return the next day emptied.
In this mufattaka, the pine nuts are cooked along with the rice at the end.