In Swahili, wali ya mboga translates to “rice and vegetables.” This upscale version incorporated chicken as well. This dish was similar to a biryani with layered rice with greens, caramelized onions, and yogurt-marinaded chicken in tomato curry sauce. To serve, each serving was also topped with pickled onions, called kachumbar, and salted creamy yogurt. Beyond full-flavored.
I must mention that I really browned my tomato paste during the cooking process. Recently, I have read about the importance of letting tomato paste darken for optimal flavor- apparently, I took this advice to heart! The sauce in my finished dish was much deeper in color than in the original recipe.
The recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Zaynab Issa. I modified the proportions and method. I boiled the rice as instructed in the original recipe but struggled with the method- and wasn’t completely thrilled with the resulting texture. Next time, I would cook the rice using a traditional method or use a much larger pot to boil the rice.
Yield: 6 servings
For the Dish:
- 1 2/3 cups good-quality white basmati rice (such as Shahzada)
- 1/4 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (not Greek) (I used whole milk cream-top plain yogurt)
- one 1″ piece ginger, scrubbed, finely grated (about 1 T)
- 8 large garlic cloves, finely grated or pushed through a garlic press, divided
- 2 3/4 tsp Diamond Crystal or 1 3/4 tsp Morton kosher salt, divided, plus more
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric, divided
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 lbs skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 8 medium)
- 4 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 1 4.5 to 4.6 oz tube double-concentrated tomato paste
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp Kashmiri chile powder or a pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1 bunch Swiss chard, kale, or spinach, tough ribs and stems removed, sliced into 1″ ribbons (I used baby spinach- not cut or stemmed, about 8 cups, packed)
- 1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
- freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 green Thai chile or 1/2 large jalapeño, seeds removed if desired, sliced
- 2 T diced cherry, grape or Campari tomatoes
- 1/2 tsp Diamond Crystal or 1/4 tsp Morton kosher salt, divided
- 1/2 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (not Greek) (I used whole milk cream-top plain yogurt)
To Make the Dish:
- Place rice in a medium bowl and pour in cold water to cover. Agitate rice with your hands until water is cloudy. Drain and repeat until water is almost clear (about 3 times). Pour in water to cover rice by 2″; soak at least 30 minutes and up to 12 hours.
- Stir yogurt, ginger, half of garlic, 3/4 tsp Diamond Crystal or 1/2 tsp Morton kosher salt, and 1/4 tsp turmeric in a medium bowl to combine. Season with pepper. Add chicken thighs, turning to coat. Let sit at room temperature at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium to medium-high. (I used a large enameled cast iron pot.)
- Add onion and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp Diamond Crystal or 1/4 tsp Morton kosher salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is frizzled and deeply browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer onion to a plate and set aside.
- Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in same skillet (still over medium to medium-high).
- Working in batches if necessary, remove chicken from marinade and cook until browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes on the first side and 4 minutes on the second side. Transfer chicken to a plate, leaving oil behind.
- Add tomato paste, coriander, cumin, chile powder, remaining half of garlic, remaining 1 1/2 tsp Diamond Crystal or 1 tsp Morton kosher salt, and remaining 1/4 tsp turmeric to skillet. Cook over medium to medium-high, stirring often, until tomato paste turns a shade darker in color, about 5 minutes.
- Reduce heat to low, stir in 1 cup water, and bring to simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until flavors come together and sauce has thickened, 10–12 minutes.
- Return chicken to pan and stir to coat in sauce. Remove from heat; cover and keep warm. (I placed the pan in a warming drawer.)
- Drain rice and cook in a very large pot of boiling generously salted water 10 to 15 minutes, until tender. (Alternatively, the rice can be cooked traditionally using a 1:2 ratio with boiling water. Cook, covered, over low heat for 15 minutes.)
- Stir the Swiss chard, kale or spinach into the rice.
- Continue to cook until rice is tender and greens are wilted and bright green, about 1 to 3 minutes more.
- Drain in a colander and let sit 10 minutes to allow moisture to steam off.
To Assemble and To Serve:
- While the rice rests, combine onion, lemon juice, chiles, tomatoes, and 1/4 tsp Diamond Crystal or 1/8 tsp Morton kosher salt in a small bowl. Toss with a fork to combine, breaking up the onion slices. Let kachumbar sit 5 minutes.
- Stir yogurt and remaining salt in another small bowl.
- To serve, fluff rice with a fork, making sure the greens are evenly distributed; transfer to a platter.
- Scatter reserved caramelized onions over and arrange chicken on top. (Or for a more casual look, return rice to pot and gently stir in chicken and onion.)
- Serve with kachumbar and salted yogurt alongside.