Machicha Fish with Rice

Fatima Al Qubaisi shares her traditional Emirati Machicha Fish with Rice Dish - taken from Culinary Magic of the Emirates by Alexandra Von Hahn
Machicha Fish with Rice - Emirati Cuisine
Machicha Fish with Rice - Emirati Cuisine
November 23, 2018
Level Intermediate
Serves 6-8

Gather a large bunch of young machicha (approximately 500g). You will find machicha in the desert, for example, in Al Khattam, which is halfway to Al Ain in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. Ensure that you gather machicha away from the road, to ensure cleanliness. You should also have permission to harvest this wonder plant, also known as arta, one of the most important plants in Bedu folklore.

RECIPE BY Fatima Al Qubaisi


Sherry Fish

3 tbsp vegetable oil
2kg sherry fish, cleaned and cut into 4cm pieces (cut tail off)
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp spinneysFOOD Sea Salt
½ tsp chilli powder


1 cup spinneysFOOD Basmati Rice
4 cups cold spinneysFOOD Bottled Water
½ tsp spinneysFOOD Sea Salt
2 green cardamom pods
¼ tsp whole black peppercorns
garlic cloves, peeled

For the tomato sauce

4 large onions, peeled and sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 large tomatoes, sliced
1 tbsp sweet paprika powder
2 tbsp vegetable oil
250g sour tamarind
3 cups spinneysFOOD Bottled Water


6-8 young machicha shoots, 20cm long


  • 1

    To make the sherry fish, heat oil in a large pan. Add sherry fish, turmeric, salt and chilli powder. Fry on a medium heat until the fish is lightly crisp and cooked. When cooked, cover and set aside.

  • 2

    To make the rice, rinse the basmati rice until the water runs clear. Soak it for 30 minutes in cold water. Drain. Bring a pan of water to the boil. Add the rice and other ingredients. Simmer until the rice is done (15-18 minutes). Remove from heat and drain completely. Cover the rice and set aside.

  • 3

    To make the tomato sauce, soak the sour tamarind in 2 cups of water for 20 minutes. Heat the oil in a pan. Add the onions, garlic, tomatoes and chilli. Fry for 3 minutes on medium heat. Add the sweet paprika and keep stirring on low heat for 10 minutes or until the onions are cooked. Meanwhile, sieve the sour tamarind with your hands, or use a wooden spoon. Pour the tamarind into the sauce and simmer for 10 minutes. Keep the leftover tamarind (what was left behind in the sieve) for another recipe and refrigerate or freeze. Add the fried sherry fish and 1 cup of water. Cover and cook on medium heat for 10 minutes. Cover to keep warm, and set aside.

  • 4

    Prepare the machicha by washing young shoots by hand with plenty of water so that all the dirt is removed. Change the water as often as is necessary. Cut the machicha shoots as small as possible with a long and sharp knife. Chopping them very small will ensure easier pounding with a pestle in a sturdy metal/stone mortar, which will make it easier to chew.

  • 5

    To assemble the fish rice dish, take half of the cooked rice and add the pounded machicha and half of the fish sauce. Debone half of the fish in the serving dish and add the flesh to the rice mixture. Mix well. Serve on a platter. Serve the rest of the sauce with the other half of the fish, which diners can debone as they eat. Serve on a platter.