Egyptian Fatta (pronounced Fa-tta) is a celebratory dish at its best. It is associated with all religious celebrations of Egyptian Christians as well as Muslims. It is an opulent dish, consisting of lavish layers of toasted bread, fluffy rice cooked in rich beef broth, fork tender meat chunks and drizzled with garlic-vinegar sauce and tomato sauce.
What is Egyptian Fatta?
As I mentioned earlier, Egyptian Fatta (pronounced Fa-tta) is a festive dish at its best. Its wafting aromas vividly conjure up all the memories associated with feast traditions in Egypt.
In the Arabic language, Fatta means “cut in pieces” and this name goes back to the fact that Egyptian bread is cut in pieces, toasted, and added to this dish. As a matter of fact, nothing goes to waste in an Egyptian kitchen.
As a matter of fact, Every Egyptian family has its own signature Fatta that it is proud of, and a secret ingredient(s) that is holding onto it.
To offer you a simplified and foolproof recipe, I researched and tested a few recipes and consulted with the renown Egyptian food figure, Ms. Vivian Farid.
Ms. Farid has generously shared her epic recipe that I tested and served to my picky kids and some friends we were hosting and they were all over the moon.
Unlike Levantine Fatta, our Egyptian Fatta doesn’t include yogurt sauce. Now let us dive into the different layers that make EPIC Fatta!
The Different Layers of Fatta
Fatta is a rich dish that encompasses multiple layers of flavors and textures so let us dive in, one layer at a time.
You can either use lamb or beef for your Egyptian Fatta. The meat serves two purposes in this dish. 1- It is slowly simmered to yield the broth, 2- The meat chunks are served on top of the Fatta.
I tried both lamb and beef and my personal favorite is lamb, more precisely lamb shanks.
That said, in case you prefer beef over lamb, you can ask the butcher for 1 kilo of chuck or chin beef.
Using bone-in meat cuts enrichs the flavor and texture of the broth while the meat softens during the long slow cooking, it doesn’t dry out.
Whether you buy lamb or beef, make sure to ask your butcher to trim the fat for a healthier dish with cleaner flavor.
The meat broth is by far the foundation of this dish.
In multiple ways, a flavors-laden broth is fundamental to cook and impart its flavors into the meat, rice, and the tomato-vinegar sauce.
For a rich meat broth, empty of gamey flavor, take note of the instructions below:
- Use fresh whole spices and fry them first in hot sizzling fat, before adding the meat, as the heat will release and accentuate the spices’ aromas and flavors.
- The key for a balanced broth flavor is to not overdue the amount of spices and to exclude the spices that are overpowering, such as the cinnamon.
- To elevate the broth flavor, sear your meat, onions, and garlic on all sides until they brown.
- Add HOT water and NOT tap water as hot water eliminates the gamey taste in the meat and leads to a flavorsome result.
- Skim with a serving spoon the foam that rises to the surface of the broth, while it simmers, to ensure a clean taste.
- Don’t add the salt to the broth at the beginning of cooking time. Salt the broth when the meat are fork tender and cooked throughout. If you salt the broth at the beginning, the broth will cook down and reduce, and would become oversalted.
- A beef bouillon cube is optional, only use it to accentuate the broth flavor. Beef bouillon are already salted, therefore avoid adding additional salt to the broth.
Traditionally, Egyptians use Egyptian short grain rice that is omnipresent in Egypt and available on Amazon for online order.
Never soak Egyptian rice in water, just rinse it under tap water and let it sit in a fine mesh sieve fitted into a bowl to discard its water. If you soak the rice, it will take ages to cook.
For fluffy rice, fry the rice for a couple of minutes first in the hot fat (ghee, butter, or oil), before you add the hot broth. Bring it to a vigorous boil for 5 minutes, lower the heat and then let it cook for another 7-10 minutes covered with a tea towel wrapped around the rice pot lid. Uncover the pot when the cooking time is over, add some hot water or hot broth, like 3 tablespoons, and cover again after your turn off the heat. That last step will ensure that the rice remains fluffy and doesn’t get sticky.
Cooking the rice with hot broth will accelerate the cooking time.
Basmati is a healthier alternative to Egyptian rice, yet it requires different prepping and different quantity of liquid to cook it. Unlike Egyptian rice, basmati rice should be soaked for 30 mins and rinsed before being cooked.
Typically, Egyptian whole wheat bread is toasted and added as the second layer of Fatta.
I like to season the bread with some sumac, paprika, and pepper. Yet, seasoning the bread is both optional and unorthodox.
You can just toast it without any seasoning and it would be fine.
5. “Tashet el Toum”: Garlic-vinegar Sauce
This garlic sauce spikes the flavor of the rice and the bread. It is simply a generous amount of garlic fried in hot ghee or butter and then splashed with some white vinegar followed with a ladle of the meat broth that we just made earlier.
6. Tomato-Garlic Sauce
The tomato-garlic sauce is fresh tomato puree or juice added to a 1/4 cup of the previous garlic-vinegar sauce.
We use this tomato sauce to drizzle on top of the Fatta dish and serve some extra on the side along with the Fatta dish.
Using fresh tomato juice takes this sauce to the second level. That said, you can still use the store-bought one and it would be fine.
For fresh tomato juice/puree, blend 4-5 ripe fresh tomatoes with 1-1 1/2 cups of water in a blender.
Adding 1 tablespoon of tomato paste to the tomato juice, enhances the tomato flavor and gives it more depth.
Let the sauce simmer for a few minutes, taste, and adjust the seasoning.
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Egyptian Fatta: Celebratory Meat-Rice Dish
Recipe adapted from Ms. Vivian Farid
For the Meat & the Broth
- 1 kg of beef chuck, shin or lamb shanks, bone in
- 4 bay leaves
- 5 cardamom pods, bruised
- 4 mastic resin
- 10 black peppercorn
- 5 allspice berries
- 1 teaspoon boharat (middle eastern spices)
- 1 beef bouillon, preferably organic and GMS free, optional
- 1 whole onion
- 3 whole gloves garlic, unpeeled
For the Garlic-Vinegar Sauce
- 2 tablespoons ghee, butter, or oil
- 5 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1/4 cup white distilled vinegar
- 1 cup meat broth (recipe above)
- salt and pepper to taste
For The Tomato & Garlic Sauce
- 1/2 cup of garlic-vinegar sauce (recipe above)
- 1 cup of tomato juice or puree, preferably fresh
- 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/4 cup of meat broth, if needed to thin out the sauce. (recipe above)
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the Toasted Bread
- 2-3 pita breads, cut in squares of 1 X 1-inch squares
- 1/4 cup olive oil or canola oil, or oil spray
- 2 teaspoons sumac, optional
- 1 teaspoon paprika, optional
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, optional
For the Rice
- 2 tablespoons ghee, butter or oil
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 cardamom pods
- 3 mastic resin
- 2 cups Egyptian rice (see notes in case you use basmati rice)
- 2 1/4- 2 1/2 cups hot meat broth
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the Garnish
- Toasted assortment of nuts (almonds, pine nuts, walnuts, cashew), optional
- Make the broth: Add the ghee to the heavy bottom pan over medium heat. Once hot, add the spices, coat them in the hot fat for a few seconds and then add the pieces of meat. Sear on all sides, until they have golden brown crust. Add the onions and garlic and sear, and finally add the hot water. Let the broth simmer for 1-1 1/2 hours, or until the meat is fork tender. Skim the fat that rises to the top with a serving spoon. Run the broth through a fine mesh sieve fitted over a deep bowl, discard the solids, set the meat aside and reheat the clear broth.
- Toast the bread: While the broth is simmering, cut the bread in small squares, 1×1-inch, spray or brush with oil, sprinkle with spices, and mix well. Toast the bread in a preheated oven at 375° F for 7-10 minutes, or until it is crispy and golden.
- Make the rice: Add two tablespoons of ghee in a heavy bottom pan, over medium-low heat, once hot, add the spices, stir fry for one minute and then add the rinsed rice and fry for 1-2 minutes, until it is all coated with fat. Add the hot broth, bring uncovered to a vigorous boil for 5 minutes and then lower the heat and let it simmer, cover the rice with a clean tea towel and the lid. Wrap the tea towel around the lid so it doesn’t catch on the stove fire. In 10-12 minutes, uncover the rice, remove the spices floating on the rice’s surface. Fluff the rice with a fork. Turn off the heat, and leave it uncovered for 10 minutes to let the steam escape.
- Make the garlic-vinegar sauce: Fry the crushed garlic in hot ghee or oil, before the garlic color changes, add the vinegar, followed by the meat broth. Let them boil for 3-5 minutes. Turn off the heat. Drizzle a ladle of this over the rice and keep the rest to make the Tomato-Garlic sauce below.
- Make the Tomato-garlic sauce: Add the tomato juice and tomato paste to the same pan that has the Garlic-Vinegar sauce and let them simmer on low heat for 2-3 minutes. If needed, add a ladle of meat broth, to thin out the sauce. and let the sauce simmer on low heat until the sauce thickens. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
- Assemble the dish: Layer the bread first, followed by the rice. Drizzle a ladle of the Garlic-Vinegar sauce. Pile the meat in the middle of the rice and then drizzle it with the tomato-garlic sauce.
- Garnish and serve: Sprinkle the toasted nuts over the Fatta and serve hot immediately along with the extra tomato-garlic sauce.