Mulukhiyah: An Egyptian 'Royal' Vegetable

Mulukhiyah (or mulukhiyyah or ملوخية‎) are the leaves of a herb Corchorus olitorius, commonly known as Jew's mallow, Nalta jute or tossa jute. For millennia, these leaves have been in use as a leafy green vegetable. It is popular in Middle Eastern, East African and North African cuisines.

Mulukhiyah is rather bitter, and when boiled, the resulting liquid is a thick, highly mucilaginous (read: slimy) broth. Mulukhiyah is generally eaten cooked, not raw, and is most frequently turned into a kind of soup or stew, typically bearing the same name as the vegetable in each local language. Traditionally mulukhiyah is cooked with chicken or at least chicken stock for flavour and is served with white rice, accompanied with lemon or lime.

The seeds are used as a flavouring. A herbal tea can be made from the dried leaves. The leaves are said to be rich in betacarotene, iron, calcium, vitamine C and α-tocopherol, which is a type of vitamin E.

The origin of the name Mulukhiyah is obscure. In ancient Egypt, mulukhiyah was historically prepared for (and eaten) by royalty. That fact gives us a clue about the etymology of its name: mlk in Ancient Egyptian meant 'king', much like Malik (מלך) in Hebrew. So, the word mulukhiyah might mean '(a dish worthy of a) king'.

Over time though, mulukhiyah became more mainstream in Egypt, enjoyed by all. However, in Egypt mulukhiyah is still eaten at special occasions, especially on those days when one has invited a large gathering of family or friends. 

As is so often the case: old habits die slowly.

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