Mizrahi Food

Mizrahi Food

This was difficult to write. I had a feeling it would be somewhat hard, which is why I procrastinated. But this was heart wrenching. And not in a cathartic way. But in an “I miss you so much and I can’t do this” way. Because in Judaism, food is love. And in an Iraqi household, every holiday, every memory, has a culinary association. It’s a beautiful connection but it’s also hard to separate and write about just the food. It’s hard not to think about my grandmother’s salad without thinking of my dad emptying the “juice” into a cup for me so I could drink it. To think of Sukkot without tbit. Yom Kippur without hriri. Thursday nights without kichri. Saturday mornings without eggplant and browned eggs. The spices and the tastes of these SWANA kitchens that dominate Israeli cuisine today. Not appropriated, but gathered from centuries of dwelling in middle eastern countries.

I am still working on my family’s recipes and trying to replicate them. I am sharing them in their current state in case you want to try to make any of them, as well.

Tbit (aromatic chicken and rice)


1 whole chicken, cleaned, with skin

1 teaspoon baharat spice

1 chopped onion

2-3 tablespoons tomato paste

2 chopped tomatoes

3 cardamom pods, cracked open

2-3 cups rice

2 tablespoons chicken soup mix

4 hard boiled eggs, with shells 

Ingredients for the stuffing:

½ cup rice (rinsed)

Chicken thigh pieces, bones removed, cut into small cubes

1 or 2 tomatoes cut into small cubes

Seeds from 2 cardamom pods

¾ teaspoon baharat spice

1 level tablespoon chicken soup mix


Mix ingredients for the stuffing, place into chicken and sew the chicken shut using thread or secure shut using toothpicks.

In a large, heavy pot, cook the chopped onion in some olive oil for 1 minute on medium flame. Stir in the tomato paste, baharat, tomatoes if using them, cardamom pods, and chicken soup mix. Mix in 2 cups water.

Place the stuffed chicken in the pot and add enough water to cover ¾ of the chicken. Cook on medium flame for half an hour. Turn the chicken over and cook for another 15 minutes.

Put the rice around the chicken and cook until the water is fully absorbed (approximately 15-20 minutes, depending on the rice you choose to use).

Preheat the oven to 175°F/80°C.

Nestle the eggs on top of the rice. Cover the pot and place in oven to cook overnight until ready to eat. Check in the morning to make sure the eggs, rice and chicken are browned. Turn up the oven temperature slightly if you want the tbit to be more “well done”. Pro tip: my oven turns itself off after 12 hours so I have to turn it back on.

Remove the tbit from the oven just before serving. Be sure to remove the thread/toothpicks

Aruk Bruz (chicken and rice patties)

I’ve now attempted the recipe 3-4 times, so I think I’m ready to share it. It will be years before I’m able to confidently and consistently make it the way I want, and potentially never before I perfect it.

I only use ground chicken, but feel free to use some beef in the casings, as well.

For the casing:

1 ½ cups of long grain rice
1 cup of round rice (either sushi or risotto)
1 pound of ground chicken
1 tbs of chicken boullion
1 tbs of Baharat
½ tsp or so of salt
½ tsp or so of pepper

In one bowl, mix the rice and then rinse in water until water is clear. Then add enough lukewarm water to cover the rice and let it sit for 30 minutes.

In another bowl, mix the spices into the ground chicken. Once the rice is ready, strain the water and add the rice into the chicken, kneading it as you would dough, and adding water if necessary (I added less than ½ a cup here). The mixture really should feel like dough. If you add too much water (like I did the 2nd time I made this), then the bind won’t hold the filling. Let the mixture sit for approximately 30 minutes while you prepare the filling

For the filling:

1 pound ground chicken
½ sweet yellow onion, diced
Handful of parsley, cleaned thoroughly and with stems removed, diced
½ tsp salt
½ tsp of pepper
½ tsp cardamom

Mix all the ingredients thoroughly.

Take a cookie sheet and line it with parchment paper.

Once the casing is set, take a handful of it at a time, flatten it in your hand, fill with about a spoonful of the filling mixture, and close the casing around the filling. Place it on the cookie sheet. Once done, I suggest cooling the arum bruz for at least a couple hours.

Once cooled, you should be able to pick up the arum bruz pretty easily without it falling apart. To cook it, place it in a broth. For my ashkephardic kids, I put it into a clear chicken broth with onion, celery, and carrots. You can either serve it in the broth (how my daughter prefers it) or remove it once cooked and pan fry it (which is how my son prefers it).

Shifta (patties)

1 pound ground chicken
½ sweet yellow onion, diced
Handful of parsley, cleaned thoroughly and with stems removed, diced
½ tsp salt
½ tsp of pepper
½ tsp cardamom

you can also use some of the Aruk Bruz filling on its own to make delicious patties - simply take some of it, create small patties, and pan fry in some oil. My sister makes these with turkey and adds some shredded zucchini to keep them moist and they are DIVINE!!

Sweet Sambusak (cookies filled with nuts)

Ingredients for the dough:

2 Large eggs 
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup sugar
Pinch of salt 
1 Packet of yeast

2 1/4 cup flour

Ingredients for the filling:

100 grams walnuts
100 grams almonds
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp rose water
1/4 tsp cardamom


Egg mixed with 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp water
Sesame seeds


Preheat oven to 350

Proof your yeast by mixing your packet of yeast with one tsp of sugar and 1/4 cup warm water (baby’s bath water temperature). Then add all other dough ingredients and kneed until soft and doughy. Set aside, covered, to rise for an hour (I do this in the oven, while off, but with a pot of boiling water underneath it). In the meantime, ground the walnuts and almonds and then mix with the other filling ingredients. 

Once the dough is ready, roll the dough and cut into circles (I use a small glass cup or the medium cookie cutter - is this like when my aunt tells me the measure is a mug?). Fill with one teaspoon of the filling mixture and close into a half moon. I find that sealing it with a fork around the edges helps it stay shut. You can also poke holes into the sambusak dough with the fork so that they are less likely to pop open during the baking process. 

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and place sambusak on it, spread egg wash and sprinkle liberally with sesame seeds. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown (check at 12 minute mark to see if browning has started and then it’s usually 5 minutes more). Remove from oven, place sambusak on cooling rack, and try not to eat them all at once!


There isn’t really a recipe, but this is my version:

container of grape tomatoes, halved or quartered depending on their size

2-3 Persian cucumbers

1-2 red/orange/yellow sweet bell pepper

Handful of parsley, soaked in water and salt mixture to clean thoroughly, rinsed, with thick stems removed

1-2 scallions


1-2 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper (2:1 ratio, to taste)

Juice of 1/2-1 lemon (we actually use cured lemon when available instead of lemon juice. If you go this route, reduce the amount of olive oil and salt you use)

Chop all vegetables and combine in a bowl. Then add the dressing and mix well. Select your favorite child and pour the salad “juice” into a cup ❤️

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