Chicken Mandi is a Yemeni traditional dish. It is a combination of meat, in this case chicken, rice and a special spice mix. Mandi originated in Hadhramaut, Yemen. It is a very popular meal throughout the Arab nation.
Traditionally, Yemeni Chicken Mandi is smoked in a hole in the ground outdoors. The hole is dug, hot coals are added and a metal pan on top. But no worries, you won't have to dig up your backyard to enjoy this most loved authentic Yemeni dish as it can also be cooked right inside your oven.
❓Why This Recipe Works
Chicken Mandi is easy to assemble and combines all the best Middle Eastern flavors together to produce a fragrant, tender and flavorful dish. The chicken is marinated in the olive oil and Hawaij seasoning. The Basmati rice is prepared by combining the rest of the spices, ghee and peppers.
The chicken is then place on the top of a rack (or tin foil with holes) over the rice. This allows the juices of the chicken to cook and run down into the rice, creating a most delectable and tasty rice. A single charcoal is used to replicate the smoky chicken flavor like the traditional Yemeni Chicken Mandi.
📋 Ingredient Notes
- It is tradition to add the spices whole to the rice, I did not add the cumin seeds because I knew my kids would not like it and it is hard to pick them off afterwards.
- Optional seasonings are cumin seeds, whole cloves, dry limes (Loomi).
- If you do not have a rack to place over the rice and under the chicken, a piece of aluminum foil may also be used. Poke a few holes in it to allow the juice from the chicken into the rice as the both cook.
Note: This is an overview of the instructions. The full instructions are in the recipe card below.
- In a small bowl add oil, mandi spice Hawaij, and saffron mix well.
- Salt chicken on both sides then brush with all the mixture, cover and refrigerate for an hour and up to 24 hours.
- In a deep oven dish add the Basmati rice, all the whole spices, salt and any optional spices you choose to add. Place in the peppers and ghee, then pour in water.
- Place a wire rack on top or cover the dish with heavy duty aluminum foil poke several holes in it.
- Arrange marinated chicken pieces over.
- Cover with aluminum foil and bake until tender.
- Remove the top foil and put under the broiler for 5-10 minutes until the chicken is nicely browned and crisp.
- Heat a piece of charcoal over an open flame until it is burning hot. Place chicken right over the rice. With tongs carefully place the charcoal in a small heatproof bowl and put it in the middle of your dish. Pour a tablespoon of oil over the hot charcoal and quickly cover the whole dish tightly with aluminum foil. Let it rest.
- Remove the chicken and fluff the rice to mix in color, remove whole spices then spoon rice on a serving large plate topped with broiled chicken.
💡 Recipe Expert Tips
- In place of a heatproof bowl, you could also use a few layers of aluminum foil shaped into a small bowl. Place the foil bowl into the Mandi dish. Lay the coal inside.
- Dispose of the coal after running it under cold water to ensure it's completely cool. You may even want to leave it in an heatproof area for a couple days to be sure.
- Mandi meat is usually not very flavorful. That is why we serve it with a special spicy sauce called Zhoug.
Hawaij is a Yemeni spice consisting of black peppercorns, cumin, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. It is an all-purpose spice mix with so many wonderful Middle Eastern flavors. It can be difficult to find, so this is just one of the reasons why I suggest you make your own Hawayej seasoning and have it whenever you need an additional spice powder. Hawaij can be used in soups, salads, rice, and even a rub for meats to be grilled.
Fresh, not frozen is the way to go for best results. Chicken with skin, ideally should be marinated two or more hours, but not more than 24 hours. Honestly, it's more of a personal preference. If you are short on time, an hour is great, but several hours of marinating is better.
👨🍳 Serve With
We love to take our Chicken in Mandi to the next level by serving it with red Zhoug sauce. This spices up the meal a bit and adds an extra layer of deliciousness.
🍲 Related Recipes
- Chicken Kabsa is another one pot/pan meal of rice and chicken from the gulf area. Very flavorful and delicious, I have also included instant pot instructions to make it even easier.
- Chicken Shawarma fattah bowl with rice, toasted pita and an amazing quick shawarma sauce.
- 3-5 pounds chicken bone-in, skin-on
- 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 1/3 cup oil
- 1 tablespoon Hawaij spice mix
- 1 pinch saffron
For the rice
- 2 cups basmati rice 385g
- 3 cups water 710ml
- 1 each cinnamon stick
- 2 each bay leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorn
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 3-4 whole cardamom pods
- A mix of sweet and chili peppers to your liking
- 1 salt to taste
- 1 tablespoon ghee, butter or oil
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon whole cloves (optional)
- 2 medium dry limes (Loomi) (optional)
- 1 piece charcoal (optional)
Marinate the chicken:
- Place the chicken on a wide dish and sprinkle both sides with salt.
- In a small bowl add oil and Hawaij spice.
- With your fingers crush the saffron threads over. Mix everything well.
- Brush the chicken in and out with all the mixture, cover and refrigerate for an hour and up to 24 hours.
Make the rice:
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- In a deep oven dish add rice, cinnamon, bay leaves, cardamom, peppercorn, coriander, salt and any optional spices you choose to add. Mix well.
- Put in the peppers and ghee then pour in water.
- Place a wire rack on top and arrange chicken pieces. Or Double wrap your dish as in the video with heavy duty aluminum foil and poke several holes with a toothpick. Place chicken on top.
- Cover with aluminum foil and bake until done. You need to make sure that the internal temperature reached a minimum 165F measured with a meat thermometer.
- After it is done, remove the top foil and put under the broiler for 5-10 minutes until the chicken is nicely browned and crisp.
To smoke infuse the Mandi:
- Heat a piece of charcoal over and open flame until it is burning hot.
- Remove the chicken and remove the foil it was placed on.
- Place chicken right over the rice.
- With tongs carefully place the charcoal in a small heatproof bowl and put it in the middle of your dish.
- Pour a tablespoon of oil over the hot charcoal and quickly cover the whole dish tightly with aluminum foil.
- Let it rest covered for 10-15 minutes to make sure the rice and chicken are infused with the smoke.
- Remove the chicken and fluff the rice to mix in color, remove the whole spices then spoon rice on a serving large plate topped with broiled chicken.
- It is tradition to add the spices whole to the rice. I did not add the cumin seeds because I knew my kids would not like it and it is hard to pick them off afterwards.
- Chicken in Mandi is usually not very flavorful that's why it is usually served with red Zhoug sauce to spice things up a bit.
- Some people add ginger garlic paste and lemon juice to the chicken to spice it up too.
- You can place a rack over the rice then put the chicken over and cover everything with aluminum foil. Else use the method described above, a piece of aluminum foil may be used. Poke a few holes in it to allow the juice from the chicken into the rice as they both cook.
- In place of a heatproof bowl, you can also use a few layers of aluminum foil shaped into a small bowl. Place the foil bowl into the Mandi dish. Lay the coal inside.
- Dispose of the coal after running it under water to ensure it's completely cool. You may even want to leave it in a heatproof area for a couple of days to be sure.