Every country has its own traditional food and mandi is a dish many Middle Eastern countries lay claim to. The Emiratis declare it to be native to the UAE, while the Saudis push their own mandi centric culinary agenda. The fact of the matter is hat mandi is a dish that finds its roots in Yemen, although variations are now found throughout the Middle East.
The mandi comes from the Arabic word nada, which means dew and refers to the dewy texture of the meat. Mandi is made with rice, spices and meat and served with tzatziki (a yoghurt-based sauce) or daqoos, a spicy tomato chutney (this sauce is what makes mandi so delicious for me).
Mandi is made with either lamb or chicken. What makes it different from other dishes is the cooking method. The meat is first boiled with an assortment of spices and then roasted in a traditional clay tandoor with wood and charcoal.
This process results in the meat becoming extremely tender with a smoky and spicy taste. The broth, in which the meat is boiled, is used to cook the rice. The result is a fragrant and aromatic dish that preserves the richness and taste of the meat.
Mandi is often compared to Hyderabadi biryani, but the two dishes couldn’t be more different. Mandi is flavourful but not spicy.
It is ‘lighter’ on the digestive system (although that doesn’t mean much if consumed in large quantities).
The spices used to cook mandi (such as cumin seeds nutmeg and dried turmeric) are different from those used in South Asian cooking, and the resulting taste and texture are therefore as different as night and day.
What makes mandi special is the tradition around how it is eaten. It is often served in a platter and is meant to be shared between people. it is commonly served on special occasions such as Eid and weddings, but it has become widely available because restaurants now serve it 24 hours a day. Seven days a week.
By: Sheherzad Kaleem