What is Ruz Bel-khalta?
In Egyptian food tradition, rice is an essential dish that accompanies almost any type of protein and/or vegetable.
Rice is also is a national crop that is grown in the Delta area (north of Egypt). By definition, Egyptian rice is short to medium grain rice that is heavier on starch compared to its long grain counterparts such as Basmati.
The spectrum of Egyptian rice dishes is impressive. Depending on the occasion, Egyptians either serve their rice plain on their daily dinner table, vermicelli rice for weekends and informal family gatherings, or Ruz Bel Khalta (Egyptian rice with gizzards, kidneys and nuts) for big events and celebrations.
Although being a savory and peppery dish, festive Ruz belkhalta has a surprising sweetness hint. That sweetness comes from the addition of raisins and a spoonful of sugar that melts away during the cooking process, giving the rice it’s tanned, exotic color.
How to make perfect Ruz Belkhalta every time
Although the cooking steps of this dish are pretty straightforward, it does require some attention to detail. In order to have a rewarding fluffy rice, with perfectly golden gizzards and kidneys, and the right balance among its savory and sweet elements, keep scrolling. 🙂
I will walk you through the steps to pinpoint all the tricks that can make or break that dish. So let us dive in!
1. THE RICE
Traditionally, Egyptians use locally grown, short grain rice for this Ruz Belkhalta recipe. That said, I prefer to use long grain Basmati rice as it is easier to find overseas, and it is has a medium glycemic index, as opposed to Egyptian rice. In other words, it has less carbohydrates which increase blood sugar (glucose) levels.
Whether you use Egyptian rice or Basmati rice, the steps are the same but the quantity of water you add to the rice and the cooking time is different too, so be mindful of that.
Prior to cooking, I soak the basmati rice in cold water for 30 minutes and then rinse it under tap water several times, until the water runs clear. Drain the water, and let the rice air-dry in fine mesh sieve fitted over deep container.
If you are using Egyptian short grain rice, so NEVER soak it. Just rinse it under running tap water. Soaking Egyptian rice destroys the texture and ridiculously prolong the cooking time.
2. KIDNEYS & GIZZARDS
Preferably, use free range chicken gizzards and kidney as a healthier option and a tastier outcome. It will make a difference in the taste. These are inexpensive if found frozen.
For golden crusty gizzards and kidneys, make sure to dry them well with kitchen paper, to remove any excess of blood or moisture before they hit the hot ghee, otherwise they will get too saucy and damage the structure of the dish.
To amp up the flavor and offset the mineral taste of gizzards and kidneys, marinate them in a mixture of vinegar, salt, pepper, cinnamon, seven Lebanese spices, and lime/lemon for no longer than 30 minutes.
Avoid cramming the sauté pan with too many gizzards and kidneys, and fry them by small batches so they brown well instead of getting steamed.
3. THE FAT
Ghee (aka clarified butter) is historically the #1 choice of fat in Egypt. It is not an inexpensive type of fat, especially “samna baladi” which means organic ghee, yet it lends celebratory dishes nuttiness glory and an unmistakable wafting aroma.
To brown the chicken gizzards and kidneys, I only use ghee, while I use a mix of oil and ghee to cook the rice. Ghee enriches the rice flavor, while the oil gives the rice a beautiful shine.
To build flavors into this epic rice dish, I fry the nuts in canola oil, remove the nuts with a slotted spoon and add the nuts-infused oil to the ghee to cook the rice.
Frying the Ruz Belkhalta rice in a mixture of oil and ghee gives the rice the best of the two worlds— the shine provided by the oil and the unmistakable aroma of ghee.
4. THE BROTH
Broth is a powerful ingredient and essential flavor vehicle to cook any rice dish.
A flavor laden homemade broth of vegetables, beef bone broth, or a mix of both is my top choice. Chicken broth is a possibility but it is not my family favorite, so I seldom use it.
If you opt for store-bought broth, make sure to pick one that is low on sodium and organic.
5. THE SPICES
To flavor the Ruz Belkhalta rice, I add a bouquet of aromatics that consists of bay leaves, half a stick of cinnamon, a couple of bruised cardamom pods, whole peppercorns, whole allspice berries, whole cloves, salt and pepper. I wrap all these spices in a piece of cheese cloth or use a tea infuser bag. Remove the spices when the rice is fully cooked.
According to health coach Sherie Social, @ssourial, this Egyptian traditional favorite is a healthy balanced meal.
The chicken kidneys and gizzards serve as a great source of protein, while the nuts are a source of Omega 3, essential for heart health.
This recipe calls for long grain or basmati rice which provides balanced blood glucose and fullness which helps with weight management.
This Egyptian festive rice dish is best served with side of vegetables or salad on the side.
Now that I shared all the tips that lead to an epic Ruz Bel Khalta, head to the recipe for accurate ingredients and instructions.
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Ruz Belkhalta: Egyptian Festive Rice
Serves 8-10 people
- 3 cups Egyptian basmati rice, rinsed and drained (see notes)
- 2 tablespoons ghee
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 tablespoon brown or white sugar
- 6 cups broth, either vegetable, beef, beef bones or a mix
- 3 bay leaves
- 3 cardamom pods, bruised
- Half a cinnamon stick
- 5 whole cloves
- Salt and pepper
The Gizzards and Kidneys
- ½ kg chicken kidney and gizzards, diced
- 2 tablespoons white distilled vinegar
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 2 teaspoons Lebanese spices, or any meat spice blend of preference
- 1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ cup lime or lemon juice
- Salt and pepper
- 1 cup mixed nuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts, walnuts, pistachios
- ½ cup raisins
- ¼ cup canola oil, or any neutral oil
- Parsley leaves, optional
- Cook the chicken kidney and the gizzards: Chop the gizzards and kidneys into bite size pieces. Then marinate them in salt, pepper, vinegar, lemon/lime juice, and spices. To absorb the marinade, let them sit in the fridge for 30 minutes before frying. In a sauté pan, heat the ghee. When it sizzles, add the kidneys and gizzards in small batches and avoid cramming the pan. Once they have a nice golden crust, remove them with a slotted spoon and keep warm in a dish covered with aluminum foil.
- Fry the nuts: Add the oil to a frying pan and when it is hot, drop in the nuts, stir them for a minute or two until they have a tanned, golden color. Remove them with a slotted spoon and reserve the oil to cook the rice.
- Cook the rice: Add the ghee and the oil (the same oil you used to fry the nuts) to a heavy bottom pan. Heat the oil-ghee mixture on medium heat until it sizzles, add the rinsed and drained rice and stir with a spatula (see notes) until the rice is totally coated with ghee. Add the sugar and keep stirring until it totally melts and covers the rice grains. When the rice is all tanned, pour in the broth, add the spices, salt and pepper and bring the rice to a vigorous boil for 15 minutes. Stir in half the quantity of the gizzards and kidneys. Turn down the heat to low, cover the rice with a tea towel and then put the pan lid on. Tie the ends of the towel upwards, so it doesn’t touch the stove flame. Let the rice cook for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until it absorbs all the liquid. Turn off the heat, uncover the pan, and fluff the rice with a fork.
- Serve the rice: In a bundt mold, arrange the kidneys and gizzards first, and then add the rice and press it into the mold. On a large enough dish, invert the bundt mold. Garnish with the nuts and some parsley leaves if you wish.
- For a fluffy rice and not a soggy one, it is imperative to rinse the rice well to get rid of the starch that makes it soggy during the cooking process.
- Use a spatula to stir the rice so you don’t break the grains.
- Using a towel makes a difference in the rice texture, as it absorbs the excess steam and leaves us with a perfectly fluffy rice.