Arabic Language Blog

A Traditional Middle Eastern Christmas Dish: Roasted Chicken Stuffed with Rice Posted by on Dec 21, 2013 in Arabic Language, Culture

Marhaba! As you can realize from my previous posts, I am really excited about Christmas and I do consider it as one of my favorite holidays of the year! Back home in Lebanon, different religious groups would also partake in Christmas celebrations, and Christians and Muslims alike enjoy everything that has to do with this season. In many parts of Lebanon and other states in the Levant, you can spot a Christmas tree right next to a mosque. For instance, the photo below is of a Christmas tree next to the beautiful Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon.


Christmas is around the corner, and I want to share a traditional dish that my wife and I have every year on Christmas Eve. Many in the Levant, Christians and Muslims alike, adore this savory dish. Many Arabs in the Levant prepare this dish for special guests and family members to honor important occasions, such as religious holidays and other special occasions. Today, I am going to teach you how to roast a chicken and stuff it with rice, the Middle Eastern way! As you know already, many Middle Eastern recipes use chicken, lamb, or beef in various ways to prepare and cook tasty dishes. This is a traditional dish to many Arabs in the Middle East and around the world.


Like many of the other recipes that I have shared in the past, today I am sharing this recipe and the pictures from a blog called Obsessive Cooking Order. This is not a completely easy recipe, but might seem familiar and relatively easy if you have cooked a turkey before or a large bird or piece of lamb that required a couple of hours for preparation and cooking. From our experience, the below ingredients and directions will provide you with a dish for 6 people. If you are less than that number, you can also have tasty left overs! Once you get all the right ingredients, it becomes easier with time.


–          2 whole chickens (الدجاج)

–          1 lb ground beef (اللحم المفروم)

–          3 cups Calrose or Egyptian rice (you can use Basmati rice) (الأرز)

–          2 large onions (بصل)

–          2 medium carrots (جزر)

–          A handful of parsley (البقدونس) and cilantro (الكزبرة)

–          1/4 green bell pepper (الفليفلة الحلوة الخضراء)

–          1 lemon (الليمون)

–          Olive oil (زيت الزيتون)

–          Salt (ملح), ground cardamom (الهال المطحون), lemon zest (قشر الليمون), Chinese ginger (زنجبيل), ground white pepper (بهار أبيض), turmeric (زعفران), cayenne pepper (فلفل حريف), chili powder (الفلفل الحار), black pepper(بهار أسود) and ground cloves(قرنفل مطحون).


–          Rinse (شطف) the chicken thoroughly and remove the guts (أحشاء) and any unwanted parts but leave the skin (جلد) intact.


–          Rub generously with olive oil, lemon juice and spices. Cover and place in the refrigerator for an hour.


–          Rinse the rice until water is clear and no longer cloudy. Cover the rice with water and leave it aside to soak (نقع).


–          Meanwhile, chop (أهرم) the onions and place the rest of the vegetables in the food processor. Process until you have small chunks.


–          Heat some olive oil in a large deep frying pan on high heat. Place the onion and saute until golden brown.

–          Add the ground beef and cook with onions until all the liquids are absorbed.

–          Add the vegetables (خضروات) and stir (حرّك). Season with salt, seven spices, ground black pepper, ginger, turmeric and saffron. Lower the heat to low.


–          Drain the water from the rice and add to the meat and vegetables. Mix well to incorporate all the seasonings and flavors. Add a couple of tablespoons of water and leave it on the heat for a few minutes. It will not cook the rice completely.

–          Place the chicken in a roasting pan. Stuff حشي) the cavity with the prepared stuffing. Place some stuffing between under the skin for extra moisture.


–          Pour the juices that dripped from the chicken while marinating on the stuffed chicken.

–          Cover pan with heavy duty aluminum foil and place in a preheated 400° F oven for an hour.

–          If you have left over stuffing, cover the rice with water and place on high heat. When the water starts to bubble lower the heat to medium low and cover pan. Allow rice to cook fully and leave aside.


I encourage you all to give it a shot. You won’t regret preparing and cooking this dish for relatives or friends.



Stay tuned for upcoming posts!

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About the Author: jesa

Salam everyone! Born as an American to two originally Arab parents, I have been raised and have spent most of my life in Beirut, Lebanon. I have lived my good times and my bad times in Beirut. I was but a young child when I had to learn to share my toys and food with others as we hid from bombs and fighting during the Lebanese Civil War. I feel my connection to Arabic as both a language and culture is severing and so it is with you, my readers and fellow Arabic lovers, and through you that I wish to reestablish this connection by creating one for you.