Al Baik: The Mann-o-Salwa of Modern Arabia
My very good friend Ms. Q, a regular contributor to Jeddah Blog and an expert on all things Saudi recently began her own blog Quezz Lifestyle. Having moved away from the Kingdom, she has been looking back with nostalgia on the most memorable parts of Jeddah, one of the most important being Al Baik fried chicken.
In her latest blog post which she has very kindly agreed to share here on Jeddah Blog, she not only takes a delicious trip down
chicken memory lane, but even tries out a home made recipe, which she then generously shares with her readers.
Read through the post below, and if your cravings get the better of you and you do attempt the recipe, leave us a comment and let us know if it worked its magic.
(Editor’s note: I love Al Baik’s burger buns, split in half, toasted and buttered. Closest thing I’ve had to a bagel here in Jeddah).
Think Arabia… imagine dates, qahwa , exotic dishes, roasted lambs. What one does not imagine is Fried Chicken!
Al Baik has taken the lead in the Makkah region, by serving fried chicken with a tangy Garlic Sauce, for over two decades. I grew up with memories of us buying a box of Al-Baik, which would have half of a chicken, lumpy fries and a bun, with Garlic sauce, and driving to the sea side for an instant picnic. Anyone visiting us for Umrah would surely be treated to this food of the land, and told, “No Al Baik means that pilgrimage is incomplete” (just joking ). I would even further the comical situation by retelling, how my younger brother and I, when taken on Hajj, would say “Al-Baik, Al-Baik” instead of “Lab-Baik, Lab-Baik” at times of eating. Please note that, we were both in our teens and meant no blasphemy.
Coming back to the present day, Al Baik has evolved to include Fish and Shrimps, along with the choice of purchasing extra Garlic Sauce. You cannot even imagine the evils that come forward in all Al Baik eaters at the time when the last Garlic Sauce is to be snagged. In my last few days in Saudi, Al Baik was one of the few must-eat items on my list. However, having arrived in Canada, and tried all versions of halal fried chicken, I took on the quest for making a home-made version. Back in Saudi, I would have scoffed at this notion!
Being part of a wonderful cooking group called ‘Indulge Spices’ on Facebook, I was soon gifted by a fail-proof recipe. This recipe came from a fellow cook Rabia Jurial. I tried and I was converted!
The recipe is copied as is from the group page:
1 chicken, cut into 8-10 pieces (with or without skin, up to you)
Wash and drain the chicken well. Using a fork, prick the chicken pieces all over.
Then marinate them in:
1 beaten egg
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tbsp corn flour
1 tsp ginger paste
1 tbsp garlic paste
1 tbsp soya sauce
1 tsp vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp red chili powder
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tbsp paprika
salt to taste
½ tsp Chinese salt
½ tsp black pepper powder
- Cover with cling film and put the bowl in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
- Next, mix half a cup of flour with half tsp. salt and half tsp. chili powder. Put this in a plastic bag.
- Now, 2 pieces at a time, put the chicken in the flour bag and shake to make sure each piece is well coated with the flour. This helps give the chicken a perfect rough and crispy surface.
- Heat oil on high, add the chicken pieces without crowding the pan. You can do them in 2-3 batches. Lower the heat and deep-fry each batch for about 15 minutes, making sure to turn the chicken pieces once or twice in the oil in order to get them golden on all sides.
- Drain on kitchen towels and serve with fries and some garlic sauce!
My results are as follows:
The Garlic Sauce I use is as follows:
1 whole boiled potato, peeled and cooled. I put it in blender with a clove of garlic, pinch of salt, and some vinegar to blend. Then I add around 1/2 cup of Vegetable oil till its creamy and fluffy.
If you fancy a visit to the actual menu, check their website.
In meanwhile, tell me how your Al Baik chicken turned out 🙂
*For those curious about the title, Mann-o-Salwa means ‘heavenly food’.