50 Shades of Molokhia: How the Iconic Dish is Made Around the Globe

We take a trip around the world with one of our favorite Mama’s dishes 

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No Egyptian, or Arab for that matter, is foreign to molokhia. Known for its fragrant aroma and thick consistency, it’s almost a part of the cultural heritage of anyone who considers themselves an Egyptian. In fact, so far back does molokhia date that it is postulated that the name comes from the Ancient Egyptians.

Therefore, this piece represented a challenge, because sharing a generic molokhia recipe would be disrespectful to every Egyptian mom and grandma reading this. We can’t possibly begin to show the nuance of such a delicate and sacred tradition in the Egyptian household in an article. What we could do, however, was take a look around the world to check if the blessed green juice of the gods makes features in any other worldwide cuisines, and if it’s also called molokhia.

For one, the botanic name of molokhia is corchorus olitorius, while it’s sometimes called jew’s mallow, or simply jute in some parts of Africa and Asia. Contrary to our belief before writing this, molokhia exists in multiple forms across the globe, taking part in soups, stews, and salads in different places. Below, we’ve collected a list of the most popular ways that people worldwide cook the delicious dish, Alf Hana

Egyptian Molokhia Soup

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This is perhaps the most well-known and loved way to cook molokhia, definitely the oldest. The two keys to Egyptian molokhia are the garlic and the shah2a.

What is the shah2a, you may ask? Well, it’s a long-standing tradition passed down along generations of Egyptian mamas and tetas everywhere, where as soon as the garlic “tasbeeka” hits the oil, the cook exuberantly inhales the fragrant fumes of the resulting cackle, thus completing the traditional right of molokhia making. We’re not sure if you’ll be able to do it right on intuition, but for the sake of this recipe’s authenticity, the shah2a is a vital step.

  • Ingredients
    • Chicken Broth (Rabbit broth if you want to make the original recipe)
    • Frozen Molokhia (preferably freshly ground molokhia if you have access to teta’s maframa or a regular ol’ food processor)
    • Dry Coriander
    • Garlic
    • Ghee
    • Bullion Cube (Maggi)
    • Optional: Tomato sauce is a rather modern addition to the traditional molokhia, which adds a tang of flavor the hearty dish
    • Baking Soda
  • Method
    • Melt the ghee in a deep pot over medium heat
    • Sauté the garlic quickly for 30 seconds
    • Add coriander and keep stirring
    • Pour in your broth, just enough to give it lubrication but not completely submerged
    • Sprinkle your maggi and stir until dissolved
    • Optional: you can now add the baking soda to your broth, and what it does is it keeps the soup’s color freshly green and helps with consistency
    • Add the molokhia to your broth (now is when the shah2a is in order)
    • Optional: Tomato Sauce
    • Check consistency and add more broth if its too thick
    • Season with salt and pepper
    • Bring your bread, fold it into a kitten’s ear shape, and Alf Hana!

Lebanese Molokhia with Chicken

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The Lebanese method of cooking molokhia takes an interesting twist. For one, the molokhia is not ground, which is almost unthinkable. Moreso, the chicken is added to the broth and is an important part of the recipe, unlike the Egyptian recipe.

  • Ingredients
    •  0.5 kg od dried molokhia
    • 1 whole chicken
    • 2 pieces of cinnamon bark
    • 3 bay leaves
    • 3 cardamom pods
    • 4 small white onions
    • 1 cup cilantro
    • Vegetable Oil
    • Water
    • Salt
  • Method
    • Prepare the chicken broth by rinsing the chicken in a deep pot completely covered in water.
    • Add the bay leaves, cardamom, and cinnamon and continue watching the pot.
    • Occasionally, go over the pot and remove the excess fat boiling at the surface, aptly named “scum”.
    • Soak the molokhia leaves in hot water in a large bowl.
    • Drain the molokhia into bowls, filtering out the water completely.
    • Bake the molokhia leaves in a cup of vegetable oil in a pyrex pan, leave in the oven for 15 minutes on 400 degrees.
    • Meanwhile, sauté the garlic, onions, and cilantro in a deep pot of vegetable oil.
    • After the vegetables are cooked, place a strainer on top of your pot and add the filtered broth directly to the pot
    • At this time the molokhia leaves should be dry out of the oven and ready to be added to the mix
    • Optional: for this step you can either place the chicken whole, in pieces, or completely deboned. We suggest you take some time to debone the boiled chicken with a fork before placing it in the pot to make it easier to cook and for the molokhia flavors to spread into the meat. 

Palestinian Molokhieh with Besara

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This version of molokhia comes from Palestine so we’re calling it “moloukhieh”. The Palestinians surely have a unique way of cooking the moloukhieh, which is pretty impressive considering that the unfavorable taste of besara is actually improved in the recipe. 

  • Ingredients
    • 450g podded frozen broad beans (besara)
    • 2 tbs olive oil
    • 1 (150g) onion, finely chopped
    • 3 large garlic cloves, crushed
    • 250g frozen molokhieh 
    • 1 tsp crushed cumin seeds
    • 2 tsp crushed coriander seeds
    • 700ml good-quality chicken or vegetable stock
    • 1 tbs coriander
    • 1 tbs flat-leaf parsley leaves
    • 1 tbs dill
    • 1 large red chilli
    • 1 lemon
    • Warm bread
  • Method
    • To remove broad beans from their skins, cover with boiling water for 30 seconds, refresh under cold running water, then squeeze beans out of skins.
    • Place oil in a large saucepan over a medium-high heat.
    • Add onion and cook for about 8 minutes, stirring from time to time, until onion is golden brown. Add garlic and cook for another minute. 
    • Take half the mixture out of the pan and set aside: this will be used when serving. Add the molokhieh to the mixture in the along with most of the broad beans and all the cumin and coriander seeds. 
    • Pour over stock and bring to a gentle boil on a medium heat, skimming any scum from the surface as you go. 
    • Cover the pan and simmer on a low heat for 5 minutes, then add all the herbs, 1 1/2 tsp of salt and a good grind of black pepper. 
    • Return to the boil, then simmer gently for a final 5 minutes with the pan covered. 
    • Using a blender, roughly whiz the soup. 
    • Serve with a wedge of lemon and some warm bread, if you like.

Cyprian Molokhia with Tomato Broth & Lamb

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The Cyprian method of molokhia really takes the tomato to the next level, incorporating it into the core of the flavor and giving us a surprisingly unique taste.

  • Ingredients
    • 2 Tbsp Sunflower Oil
    • 2 Medium Onions, diced
    • 4 chicken drumsticks
    • 2 lemons
    • 1 Tbsp Pepper Paste
    • 200 g Dried or Frozen Molokhia
    • 6 Cloves Garlic, crushed
    • 3 Fresh Tomatoes, cubed
  • Method
    • Rinse Molokhia a few times under cold water.
    • Bring 3 Cups of water to a boil in a tea kettle or seperate pot
    • While the water is heating, slice two onions and cube 6 cloves of garlic.
    • In a large pot add the onion, garlic, and 2 Tbsp of sunflower oil. Fry over medium heat, constantly stirring. Once the onions become soft and clear, add the chicken and allow to brown on all sides. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside.
    • In the same pot combine: molokhia, 3 Tbsp of Tomato Paste, 1 Tbsp Pepper Paste, 1/4 cup of olive oil, the chopped tomatoes, a few pinches of Salt, juice from 1 lemon, and the 3 cups of hot water. Boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.
    • After 30 minutes, add the chicken back into the pot, the juice from another lemon, and a pinch of salt.

Kenyan Murere

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In Kenya, molokhia is called murere, and is usually cooked in a kunde stew. Kunde stew is a nourishing, thick stew comprising mainly of black-eyed peas with tomato, onion, and ofcourse, murere.

  • Ingredients:
    • Oil — 2 tablespoons
    • Onion, minced — 1
    • Tomatoes, seeded and diced — 2 cups
    • Black-eyed peas, cooked — 2 cups
    • Molokhia or Jute or “murere”
    • Natural peanut butter — 1/4 cup
    • Water — 1/4 cup
    • Salt and pepper – 1tsp
  • Method:
    • Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium flame. Add the onion and saute until translucent. 
    • Add the tomatoes and simmer about 5 minutes to cook them down.
    • Stir in the remaining ingredients and lightly mash the peas with the back of a spoon. 
    • Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add more water as needed to get a stew-like consistency.

Sierra Leonian Egusi

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In Sierra Leon, molokhia is named egusi and is also cooked into a fatty meat stew that’s as nourishing as it is fulfilling.

  • Ingredients:
    • 500 grams meat
    • 150 grams ground egusi (molokhia)
    • 1 maggi cube (beef boullion cube)
    • 200 grams stockfish (optional)
    • 100 ml. palm oil
    • 200 g. smoked fish
    • 200 g. tomatoes
    • 10 g. (chili) pepper
    • 25 g. onion
    • Salt to taste
    • 250 g. vegetable leaves 
  • Method:
    • Season and boil the meat and the stockfish for about 45 minutes, or until tender. Remove and put aside. 
    • Blend/grind the pepper, tomatoes and onion.
    • Heat the palm oil, and add meat, and the ground/blended ingredients. Cook for about 25 minutes.
    • Add the ground egusi, maggi cube and fish, and cook for another 10 minutes. 
    • Add the vegetable leaves (optional) to the soup.
    • Cook for about 5-10 minutes on low heat. Stir and taste for salt.
    • This sauce can be eaten alone, with bread, or with fufu.

Nigerian Ewedu

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In Nigeria, molokhia is served inside a well-known, local-favorite recipe called Ewedu, or “sticky soup”. Nigerian sticky soup is a really quick recipe that brings out the natural, earthy taste of molokhia.

  • Ingredients:
    • Jute mallow, or molokhia leaves, 200 g
    • Sweet potato, 200 g
    • Dried small fish or shrimp, 15 g
    • Salt, 1 teaspoon
    • Water, 2 cups
  • Method:
    • Wash sweet potato, peel the skin, and cut into cubes.
    • Boil water in pot, add sweet potato cubes, and cook until soft.
    • Add small, dried fish or shrimp to soup; continue to boil.
    • Rinse molokhia leaves well, then rub the leaves until foamy and sticky.
    • Add molokhia leaves to soup, season with salt, and cook until the soup thickens.

Chadian Moloukhie

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Maybe due to proximity, or to the cultural exchange between Egypt and Chad over the last century, but Chadian “molouhkie” is eerily similar to the Egyptian version, albeit named in French.

  • Ingredients:
    • 1 lb. beef, cut into 1.5-inch cubes
    • 1 lb. frozen chopped molokhia/jute leaves, (defrosted in 1 cup water for 1 hour)
    • Pinch of baking soda
    • Red chili powder
    • 2 tbsp peanut oil
    • 1 minced yellow onion
    • 2 cloves minced garlic
    • Salt to taste
  • Method:
    • In a deep pot with a lid, heat the oil and saute the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent. Add the beef, season with salt and black pepper, and fry until it browns a bit.
    • Add the molokhia along with the water to the beef, and add a pinch of baking soda and the chili powder, salt and black pepper to taste.
    • Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and let simmer for 30-45 minutes, until a thick stew has formed and the meat is tender. If needed, continue to cook uncovered until the stew thickens to a sauce.
    • Served with white rice or traditional.

Tunisian Molokhia with lamb and tomato paste

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This is the only recipe on this list that would take more than an hour to prepare, in fact it can go up to 6 or 7 hours for all the steps! We promise that it’s worth the wait though, especially when you try how tender the lamb becomes at the end of cooking…

  • Ingredients:
    •  34 oz. dried molokhia leaves
    •  23 cup plus 1 Tbsp. olive oil
    •   23 cup molokhia powder
    •  14 cup tomato paste
    •  2 tbsp. finely minced garlic (from 6 cloves)
    •  2 tsp. harissa paste, plus more for serving if desired
    •  1 tsp. ground coriander
    •  1 tsp. ground caraway
    •  1 tsp. Salt 
    •  12 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
    • 1 kg boneless veal such as shoulder, shank, or another stewing or braising cut, cut into 2-inch pieces
    •  Lemon wedges, for serving
  • Method:
    • In a sieve or spice grinder, grind molokhia leaves into a powder, which should yield about ⅔ cup.
    • In a large saucepan, bring 8 cups of water to a low boil.
    • The oil and molokhia should be combined and cooked together over low heat until just beginning to bubble and sizzle. Then, quickly whisk in about one cup of the boiling water. Add another cup of water and whisk until well integrated. Stir in the remaining boiling water, set the heat to medium-low, cover the pan, and cook, stirring every 20 minutes to keep the bottom from burning, for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, or until the mixture has gone a dark, nearly black green.
    • Add a large quantity of salt, pepper, tomato paste, garlic, harissa, coriander, and caraway. Turn up the heat to medium-high after adding the veal and simmer the mixture once more. Once the sauce has begun to simmer, turn the heat back down to medium-low and cook the food, covered, stirring every 15 to 20 minutes, for 1 3/4 to 2 hours, or until the beef is cooked and the sauce has thickened and reduced by about a third.
    • Test the seasoning and make any necessary adjustments. Pour into bowls and serve with crusty bread, extra harissa if wanted, and lemon wedges for squeezing.

Filipinx Tilapia Saloyut

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Our research for this article took us all the way to far east Asia, where we found out that molokhia is a popular ingredient in the Phillipines! Except our Pinoy friends call it Saloyut, and naturally cook it with all types of fish. Fun Fact: Phillipinos sometimes call molokhia leaves “bush okra” because of how similar in consistency they both are.

  • Ingredients:
    • 1/2 cup oil
    • 1 tilapia cleaned and gutted
    • water
    • 2 cups labong
    • 1 small onion
    • 1/2 cup bagoong fermented fish sauce
    • 1 bunch molokhia leaves
    • Salt and Pepper to taste.
  • Method:
    • In a pan over medium heat, heat oil. Add tilapia and fry, turning once or twice, until golden and cooked through. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.
    • In a pot over medium heat, add about 4 cups and bring to a boil. Add labong and cook for about 7 to 10 minutes or until tender. Drain labong and discard liquid.
    • In another pot over medium heat, combine 5 cups of water and onion. Bring to a boil.
    • In a bowl, combine bagoong with 1/2 cup of the boiling water. In a fine mesh strainer, strain bagoong to extract juice and discard small fish particles from the bagoong. Add the bagoong sauce into the pot. Lower heat to simmer.
    • Add the labong and continue to cook for about 3 to 5 minutes. Add fried fish and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes to slightly soften.
    •  Add molokhia leaves and continue to cook for about 2 to 4 minutes or until just wilted. Season with pepper to taste.

Taiwan Jute Noodles

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In Taiwan, molokhia, or jute as it’s known, is so popular that not only is it used for various soups, dishes, and salads, and even snacks, but it’s also considered a national treasure! In the Taiwanese city of Taichung lies something we were absolutely delighted to discover,  A Jute Art Culture Museum. 

What we’re saying is that the Taiwanese have such a deep and loving relationship with molokhia, it has its own museum. Jute is so intertwined with Taiwanese culture, it is used to make dyes, clothes, and did we mention snacks?! 

If it’s known as “Soup of the Kings” in Ancient Egypt, then it’s the soup of everyone in Taiwan. We would’ve loved to have a recipe for you for Taiwanese Soup of Jutes, but the its such an esoteric and personal recipe in Taiwan, that every family has its own recipe, and it’s not shared with foreigners, let alone online.