The Revival Feast: Musakhan

Irfan Israr Khan

In Palestine, a favourite dish made by the locals is Musakhkhan, a dish that is usually eaten using the hands and which literally means something of which is heated.

The dish is seasoned with sumac, a spice made from the ground dried berries and is sold in Middle Eastern shops, it has a slightly sour and tangy taste.

Musakhkhan is made by cooking chicken until tender and succulent with plenty of onions. You can use more spices, such as allspice or saffron, and garnish the top with fried pine nuts. Once the chicken is cooked, it is wrapped in shrak or marquq which is a type of thin Arabic bread.

Serves 6


  • 1 whole Halaal chicken (about 3 ½ pounds)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 ½ pounds onions, peeled and sliced thin
  • ¼ cup sumac
  • 4 sheets marquq bread or 2 large khubz ‘arabi (Arabic flatbread or pita bread), split open and separated


1. Cut the chicken into up into two breasts, two thighs, two legs, and two wings. Season the chicken with salt and pepper.

2. In a large pan heat ¼ cup of olive oil then lightly brown the chicken on all sides over a medium heat, this will take about 20 minutes.

Remove and set aside. Add the remaining ¼ cup of olive oil to the pan and cook the onions until translucent, stirring occasionally, this will take about 30 minutes. Add the sumac to the onions and mix well while cooking for 2 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 177C. Cover a 9 x 12-inch baking dish with two overlapping halves of the Arabic bread or 2 sheets of marquq bread.

Spoon half the onions over the 2 pieces of bread, then arrange the chicken on top. Cover the chicken with the remaining onions and the juices from the pan. Then cover with the two remaining half leaves of bread or sheets of marquq bread, tucking in the sides crusty side up and spray with water.

4. Bake until the chicken is very tender and almost falling off the bone, this should take around 1 ½ hours. If the top cover of bread begins to burn while in the oven, spray it with water again or cover with foil.