I think I was in my late teens when I first ate malawach on a trip to Israel. It’s a flaky, savoury fried flatbread, that usually comes served with chopped fresh tomatoes, grated cheese, and schug – a potent Yemeni hot sauce. Sometimes you also get hard boiled egg and various other accompaniments. To be honest, the malawach itself is the star – crispy, rich, flaky fried dough that despite having just three ingredients is SO SO SO delicious!
The vast majority of Yemen’s Jewish population were moved to Israel in 1949-1950, following waves of persecution in Yemen. They have unique customs, practices and of course foods, many of which have been preserved by the community in Israel. Several of their traditional dishes and seasonings have made their way into the mainstream of Israeli cuisine, among them malawach, jachnun – a similar dough slow-cooked overnight and eaten on Shabbat, and the delicious hawaiij spice blend (which I used here).
I haven’t eaten malawach for years, and I’ve no idea what made me suddenly crave it, but the other day I had a yearning for the stuff, and such urges must be obeyed. DH was out for the evening, so Kipper and I had a go at making malawach for dinner. We had ours with a chopped salad, cheese, egg, avocado, and schug. YUM!
Every recipe I’ve ever seen for malawach uses margarine, although I can’t imagine that that’s very traditional! I assume it’s used to keep it parve, although since malawach is usually served with grated cheese, you have to wonder why they bother. The wonderful Encyclopedia of Jewish Food suggests that originally clarified butter – samneh – was used, although oil could be substituted to make the flatbreads parve.
The dough is really simplicity itself to make – flour and water and let the mixer do the rest. The dough is rested, then rolled thinly and spread liberally with the softened margarine. Next it has to be folded and rolled, like puff pastry, to incorporate the fat and create the flaky layers. I used a slightly cheaty method, of rolling the buttered dough into a long roly-poly, then folding the ends in to give three layers, then rolling the whole thing flat with a rolling pin. I hope that makes sense.
Kipper was extremely taken with the malawach, but since a) it’s delicious, and b) it was served with boiled eggs, cheese, and an assortment of her other favourite foods, it was never likely to be a disappointment.
The recipe here made four flatbreads, and Kipper and I had two malawach each. To be honest, we could probably have eaten more. Double or triple the recipe if you want – it’s super delicious 🙂
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- 200g plain flour (1 2/3 cups)
- 100ml water (6.5 tbsp)
- (Pinch salt - optional)
- 50g margarine (2 tbsp)
- Extra margarine or oil for frying
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour and water and mix using the dough hook until a soft dough is formed. Leave the motor running to knead the dough for a few minutes - it should leave the sides of the bowl clean.
- Transfer the dough to a clean bowl, cover with cling film, and leave to stand for 30-40 minutes.
- Divide the dough into 4 pieces.
- Roll a piece of dough into a circle roughly 20-25cm (8-9 inches) in diameter and spread a quarter of the margarine evenly over it - it will look like a lot of margarine! Roll up to form a long roly-poly, then fold the ends in to give three layers. Finally, flatten together slightly with the rolling pin and set aside.
- Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
- Heat a little oil or margarine in a frying pan over a medium-high heat. Roll one of the pieces of dough out into a 20cm circle, then fry in the hot oil for a few minutes on each side, until golden, crisp, and cooked through.
- Repeat with the remaining dough.
- Serve warm or hot, cut into wedges.
- Malawach is usually served with grated cheese, chopped fresh tomatoes, hard boiled egg, and schug.