Jachnun is the breakfast carb of Yemen and you’ll want to get involved.
This is the tale of a Yemenite dish that has become a part of the mainstream Israeli cuisine: the Jachnun. Jachnun was once a dish served by Yemenite Jews on Saturday morning, but that just isn’t the case anymore. It’s eaten on Saturday morning because the Yemenite Jews cooked their jachnun pastry in the typical Shabbat chulent which cooks overnight, and because the Jewish people don’t cook on Saturday before sundown, Jachnun was the perfect dish to cook on a low heat overnight. Jachnun has now become a staple dish in many working mother’s home in Israel because of the simplicity of it and the low price of it– it’s the perfect slowcooker food.
The mass market grocery stores of Israel all carry a variety of ready-made, frozen jachnun options that are meant to just be thrown in the oven or slowcooker for a delish, easy tofu-of-pastries type dish. It’s easy enough to make it sweet, savory, or just about anything in between. This frozen jachnun business is just disrespecting a dish with a lot of cultural history behind it, though (that’s my personal, professional chef opinion). By preparing jachnun from scratch, you have the benefit of a few things like controlling the ingredients that go in to a dish (quality is everything), as well of the satisfaction of knowing that it’s going to taste better, and fresher than any store bought product. But such is the case with any food, right? Would you rather have a frozen sandwich or one you just concocted from fresh ingredients in your kitchen? Same scenario. So how does one prepare home-made jachnun? Very simple.
The jachnun pastry is basically bonded butter or margarine puff pastry dough that is processed a couple of times to create a more traditional puff pastry type dough, that is later rolled into a tubular shape in the end and bonded together, yet again, with more butter or margarine (a hint of salt and sugar). In Yemen, where the dish was created, they used clarified butter to give it a sweeter finish and served the completed dish with halva, which is a sweet treat made from sesame seeds. The traditional take on serving jachnun is very different than the way it is served today. The most popular, current way to cook the jachnun is in an oven on low heat overnight. Once it’s finished cooking, the aroma is guaranteed to fill your house with a sweet, delicious scent that lasts for hours. If Americans bake chocolate chip cookies or muffins to make their homes smell inviting, jachnun is almost certainly the Middle Eastern answer to home aromatics. Here is a great and simple recipe if you’d like to prepare it at home.
READ MORE: 10 Israeli Food Trends to Watch in 2016
So what do we accompany this overnight delight with? The traditional Yemenite side dish is a hardboiled egg, with two condiments: schug (which is a Yemenite hot sauce made from green hot peppers, fresh coriander, garlic, olive oil and spices), and the other accompaniment is crushed, fresh tomatoes. Do not even think about using the canned stuff. Flavor is the world to people with decent tastebuds. The texture of jachnun is soft, delicate dough that melts in your mouth versus the crunchy, hard texture of a regular puff pastry. Your senses are tricked into thinking, “Oh, dessert!” from the soft, sweet lingering scent around the dish, but the first bite usually allows a savory, nutty complex set of flavors to kick in.
For the jachnun-newbies out there, get your feet wet with the frozen stuff and then move on to homemade. Get creative, and wild– serve it with guacamole or cheese sauce. Have fun with your food and make it to your liking!
Tweet your jachnun and other recipe pics at us at @luxuryspot.