Jachnun is not the only Yemenite pastry to become a household item in Israeli cuisine.
Malawach, its popular cousin, is up there too. Both are made with the same dough, stretched and spread with samneh. But unlike jachnun, which is rolled into a cylinder and slow-cooked overnight, malawach is served like a flat bread, and is either fried in a skillet or baked in a taboon, a clay oven that Yemenites used to have in their yards — some even do until today.
Malawach, or khubz mulawah, is still popular in Yemen, and similar recipes are available around the Arab world, like Khobz al tawa (griddle bread), Iraqi kahi and Moroccan meloui or malawi. The Muslim Yemenite mulawah is sprinkled with nigella seeds. Adenite Jews used to serve it with sugar, but it’s more common to see it next to tomato sauce, zhug, overnight hard-boiled eggs, and sometimes even with tahini sauce and pickles.
These days, both jachnun and malawach are available in the freezer aisle at any supermarket in Israel, offering an inferior but easy option for those daunted by the labor-intense process of making the dishes at home.
This dough recipe is very similar to that of the jachnun. You can just double the jachnun recipe and make malawach with it, or follow this version (which I prefer), instead.
While malawach is not a very hands-on recipe, it does take a while to make, as the dough needs to rest four times: twice for one hour, then for three to four hours and finally for another three hours or in the refrigerator overnight. If you opt to rest it overnight, you will need to let it sit at room temperature the following morning for two hours before you fry it.
After completing Direction 6, you can freeze some of the malawach for later use. Put them in a freezer bag, separated with parchment paper or plastic wrap and freeze. When you’re ready to fry the malawach, you can take them straight from the freezer, no need to thaw.
- 2 lb all-purpose flour
- 5 Tbsp light brown sugar
- 3 ½ tsp kosher salt
- 2 ¼–2 ½ cups lukewarm water
- ¼ cup vegetable or corn oil
- 8 Tbsp melted butter, clarified butter (ghee) or more oil
- 3 Tbsp butter, for frying
- spicy tomato salsa, to serve
- Put flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and mix a little with a spoon. Turn the mixer on medium-low and add 2¼ cups water, then knead for 5 minutes. If It seems too dry, add 1 Tbsp water at a time, until the dough is soft.
- Remove bowl from mixer, cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rest for 1 hour. After 1 hour, knead again for 5 minutes. Let the dough rest again for another hour, covered with plastic wrap.
- Put ¼ cup oil in a small bowl. Divide the dough into two, roll each half to a 2-inch-thick log and cut into five equal pieces (for a total of 10 pieces.) Roll each piece into a ball, dip in the oil to cover, and let rest on a rimmed baking sheet. Cover dough balls tightly with plastic wrap and let rest for 3-4 hours. Resting will make stretching the dough easier.
- Use a rolling pin to roll the first ball into about a 10-inch circle. Using your hands, stretch the dough further into a very thin 15-inch circle. Do it slowly by lifting the sides of the dough and stretching again and again until you can almost see the countertop through the dough.
- Using your hand or a pastry brush, spread about 2 tsp of the butter all over the dough. Fold the left third of the circle inside, and then fold the right third on top, like an envelope, to make a long rectangle. Fold the bottom quarter up and the top quarter down, and then fold them on top of each other into a small square. Put back on the baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for another 3 hours. (You can also let dough rest in the fridge overnight, but take it out of the fridge at least two hours before you are ready to continue.)
- Use a rolling pin to gently roll each square into a thin 9-inch round. Pile the rolled malawach on a plate, separating them with parchment paper or plastic wrap.
- Put a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Add ½ Tbsp butter and fry malawach, one at a time, until golden brown on both sides, about 4 minutes total. Don’t let the malawach brown too quickly, if it does just reduce the heat. Repeat with the rest of the malawach.
- Serve hot with a side of spicy tomato salsa.
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 40 minutes
- Category: Side Dish
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: Vegetarian