The inverted way of working, the Palestinian way


Drenched in history and culture, Palestinian cuisine presents a rich tapestry of flavors and techniques that resonate with the land's vibrant heritage. 

Among the gems of Palestinian culinary tradition lies the captivating "inverted" cooking method, a technique that not only showcases the region's gastronomic ingenuity but also carries within it tales of conquest and celebration. 

This culinary approach, epitomized by the famed dish "maqluba," offers a glimpse into the art of harmonizing ingredients, history, and innovation to create dishes that are both visually stunning and deeply meaningful. 

In this exploration, we delve into the captivating journey of the Palestinian inverted method of cooking, tracing its roots, unraveling its historical connections, and savoring the sumptuous results it yields. 

Join us as we navigate the layers—both literal and metaphorical—of this remarkable culinary tradition.

Maqluba: The Upside-Down Delight

The provided passage delves into the realm of a renowned dish known as "maqluba." Originating in the Levant, encompassing countries such as Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Palestine, as well as Turkey, maqluba has earned its reputation as a flavorful and widespread culinary delight.

At its heart, maqluba showcases the harmonious union of rice and fried vegetables, constituting its core components. 

The dish boasts an assortment of vegetables, including eggplant, cauliflower, potatoes, and green beans, all of which can be artfully combined in the same pot. 

Often, the dish is further enriched with the inclusion of meats like lamb or chicken, with chicken being a particularly favored choice. 

Complementing the symphony of flavors, maqluba is traditionally accompanied by yogurt or a refreshing Arabic salad crafted from a medley of tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley, lettuce, and invigorating lemon juice.

The origins of the intriguing name "maqluba" are rooted in a captivating historical episode. In the aftermath of the Muslim conqueror Saladin the Ayyubid's triumphant takeover of Jerusalem, the city's jubilant denizens honored the victory by preparing and presenting an array of foods to Saladin and his valiant soldiers. 

Amidst the culinary offerings was a delectable preparation of eggplant, which particularly captivated Saladin's palate. Inquiring about the appellation of this dish, he was enlightened about its unique cooking technique—prepared in an "inverted" fashion. 

This culinary method involved overturning the cooking vessel during serving, resulting in the uppermost layer becoming the base when presented. This captivating flip maneuver lent itself to the dish's distinctive name, "maqluba," signifying "upside-down" in the Arabic tongue.

maqluba emerges as an iconic dish celebrated in the Levant and Turkey, a culinary masterpiece characterized by meticulously layered rice, fried vegetables, and often succulent chicken or lamb, all thoughtfully simmered together in a single pot.

The culinary spectacle reaches its pinnacle when the dish is unveiled, presented in its full glory by being ceremoniously flipped upside-down onto the serving platter. 

This enchanting gastronomic experience is mirrored in the very moniker of the dish—"maqluba"—an epithet bestowed upon it as a testament to the inverted culinary artistry. This namesake took shape as a result of Saladin's profound appreciation for a variant of the dish, featuring eggplant, consumed in the aftermath of his conquest of Jerusalem.

The Palestinian inverted method of work

The inverted way of working, the Palestinian way

The name "Maqluba" in Arabic translates to "upside down," which refers to the final step of flipping the pot to serve the dish upside down on a platter, showcasing the layers of ingredients.


  • Medium-sized chicken, cut into four pieces.
  • 3 cups of rice.
  • 3 potatoes, sliced into circles.
  • 2 eggplants, sliced.
  • 1 cauliflower head, separated into florets.
  • 1 onion, cut into squares.
  • 1 bay leaf.
  • 1 cinnamon stick.
  • 2 tablespoons of salt.
  • 1 teaspoon of mixed spices.
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon.
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom.
  • 1 teaspoon of curry powder.
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
  • Water (for boiling the chicken and making broth).

Method of Preparation:

  1. Begin by chopping the onion and sautéing it in a pot with a tablespoon of vegetable oil until it's translucent.
  2. Add the chicken pieces to the pot and fry them until they're well-browned.
  3. Add the cinnamon stick, bay leaf, 1 teaspoon of mixed spices, and enough water to cover the chicken. Allow the chicken to simmer until it's fully cooked.
  4. While the chicken is cooking, soak the rice in water for about half an hour, then drain it. Mix the rice with the remaining spices (ground cinnamon, ground cardamom, curry powder) and a couple of tablespoons of salt.
  5. Fry the potato slices, eggplant slices, and cauliflower florets in separate batches until they're golden and slightly crispy.
  6. Once the chicken is cooked, remove it from the pot, strain the broth, and set the broth aside.
  7. In a wide pot, start assembling the layers. Begin with a thin layer of rice at the bottom.
  8. Arrange the fried chicken pieces on top of the rice layer, followed by a layer of fried potato slices, then fried eggplant slices, and finally the cauliflower florets.
  9. Cover the layered ingredients with the remaining rice, spreading it evenly.
  10. Pour the chicken broth over the top layer of rice. The broth should fully cover the rice.
  11. Place the pot on the stove and bring the mixture to a boil. Once it starts boiling, reduce the heat to the lowest setting, cover the pot, and let it cook until the rice absorbs the liquid and is fully cooked.
  12. Once the rice is cooked, remove the pot from the heat. Carefully invert the pot onto a large serving tray, so the bottom rice layer becomes the top, revealing the layers of chicken and vegetables.
  13. Let the pot sit inverted on the tray for about 10 minutes. This allows the dish to settle and makes it easier to unmold.
  14. After 10 minutes, gently lift the pot to reveal the beautifully layered Maqluba.
  15. Serve the Maqluba hot as a complete meal.

Maqluba is a delicious and visually striking dish that's popular in Palestinian cuisine. The layering of ingredients and the process of flipping the pot create a unique presentation that's sure to impress anyone who tries it.

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