Dish 1: Fouja Djedad

Saudi Arabia

Let me preface ‘Dish One’ by saying that this is my first experience with cooking an international dish, unless you can count tacos or spaghetti as being Mexican or Italian. With that said, after reading through various recipes in Multicultural Cookbook of Life-Cycle Celebrations, by Lois Sinaiko Webb (available at the Iowa City Public Library, 123 S Linn St or amazon.com), I decided that as a first-timer, I should probably stick to a recipe that I could, at the very least, recognize all the ingredients. So, in the midst of a typical mid-winter Iowa snowstorm, I braved the elements and headed to the grocery store to get what I needed for my dish of choice, Fouja Djedad. Pretty exotic sounding right? In reality, Fouja Djedad, a Saudi Arabian dish, is just chicken-stuffed apples.

Before

Fouja Djedad was a relatively easy dish to prepare. It took approximately 45 minutes to organize and get the ingredients all ready to go. Overall, the most difficult part about the preparation of this dish was coring the apples, which would have been much easier had I invested in an apple corer instead of trying NOT to slice off a finger by using a knife to core the apples.

One of the best parts about this recipe is that total cost for all the ingredients hovered right around $10, and it made 6 servings –AKA a recession-proof dish. As I was preparing Fouja Djedad – some of the ingredients are apples, ground cloves, butter, sugar, etc – I couldn’t help but think that it might end up tasting like dessert. The Granny Smith apples I stuffed sure reminded me of apple dumplings when I popped them in the oven all drizzled in butter and sugar.

45 minutes later, I thought I might have a disaster on my hands. I had played nice and didn’t peak at my creation until the timer went off, but when I did, I felt a slight tinge of disappointment. The apples had opened up and fell apart during the baking process, in essence, they exploded. They now had a closer resemblance to a twice-baked potato than the pretty green apples I had started with. Sigh.

After

But, no sense in fretting about looks. As people say, ‘it’s not looks that matter, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.’ As I dished an ‘exploded’ apple onto my plate, the anticipation rose. Could something that started out so pretty and ended so ugly still taste delicious? The answer is yes. Fouja Djedad was a success. The apple had a consistency of mashed potatoes, and the chicken had a yummy semi-sweet flavor for an overall tangy-sweet dish. It was basically a lighter, healthier version of a typical ‘meat and potatoes’ American meal. I’m giving this Saudi Arabian dish a thumbs up!

Natalie NielsenInternational Food Blogger

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