Gulf poultries

Chicken Zurbian


Zurbian is a popular dish in Saudi and Yemen, and a descendant of the popular Biryani, the only difference really is that the typical Gulf spices are used. You can use basmati or jasmine rice for this dish, I just really like jasmine, and for both types I always buy the Tilda brand, it’s the best rice I’ve ever used. In Saudi we have 4 different zurbian dishes; chicken, lamb, fish and just the rice, they’re all cooked in different methods, but all contain the same ingredients more or less.


The Yemeni versions that I’ve read about online do not have yogurt, but have potatoes added, I’m not certain if that’s just the way they do it there, or if it’s the traditional way for Yemen, if you know please tell us!


1 whole chicken, halved
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Gulf spice mix
1 tablespoon sunflower oil

1 tablespoon butter
1 cup jasmine rice
3 cardamom pods, bruised
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 small piece (1/2 inch) kholegan
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
2 cups water
2 heaping tablespoons yogurt

1/2 small white onion, sliced thinly
1 tablespoon olive oil

1. In a saute pan on medium heat, add oil. Clean and dry chicken, then sprinkle the top with salt and Gulf spice mix. Place the chicken (breasts up) in the pan, cover and allow to cook for 10 minutes, then flip and allow to cook a remaining 10 minutes. Flip again until thoroughly cooked.

2. Meanwhile, in saucepan on medium heat, add butter, cardamoms, cumin, kholegan, coriander, salt and garlic. Mix, then add rice and water. Bring to a full boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Allow to cook covered without removing lid for 22 minutes, you can turn the heat off half way through, again do not remove the lid.

3. In a small saute pan on medium heat, add olive oil and onion, fry. Place aside on a paper towel.

4. After the rice has finished cooking, add the yogurt and 2 tablespoons of the chicken fat from the pan the chicken was cooked in, mix well. In a serving platter, add rice, chicken and fried onions on top, serve.

Yields: 3 servings

  • Zainab
    10.05.16 at 9:59 pm

    Sorry…… But this dish definitely has its origins in Yemen, not Saudi! The influence is from the many Indians who lived in Yemen.

    • Ya Salam Cooking
      10.05.16 at 10:03 pm

      Hi Zainab If you read my post I say that it is a Yemeni dish (but cooked differently here). As I’ve stated many times on my site most Saudi food was deprived from Yemen anyway, as well that many expats through history have developed the taste of today which you can see all throughout the dishes in the Gulf. I promise I’m not trying to steal recipes for Saudi, I love all the food in the Gulf πŸ™‚

  • deborah rabadi
    10.06.16 at 2:54 am

    can i make my own gulf spice mix? what is in it? and i have no idea what kholegan is. but i will google it and try to find it at the international market in town πŸ™‚

  • Heather
    10.06.16 at 4:38 pm

    I live in Bridgeview, il, a very large Arab community and about 15 miles from downtown Chicago. I have been to every Arab grocery store looking for kholegan. I can’t find it. I asked my husband, he is from Jeddah and he said I will never find it here and he has no idea what to replace it with. So… If I make this dish will it still be good, or is this a spice like loomi that you just have to have it or the dish doesn’t come out right?

    • Ya Salam Cooking
      10.07.16 at 7:29 pm

      Yeah, I doubt you will ever find it there, it’s a popular Asian spice, so that would be your best luck. It’s only used in Saudi cooking, other Arabs don’t use it. I’m not even sure other Gulf countries do. I’ve never found anything that relates, so just skip it, if you can’t come across it. But living in IL (I lived in Chicago) I would try some Asian stores.

  • Famidha
    10.06.16 at 7:32 pm

    Looks delicious! It is really hard to draw a line and label ownership on a middle east dish! Isnt it? Food has gone through globalization 😜

    • Ya Salam Cooking
      10.07.16 at 7:30 pm

      Yea, all countries have dishes that are the same are came from other areas with a new spin on, that’s how food evolves. Most Gulf dishes are from all over the Gulf, India and Indonesia. You can see that easily. Just look at the dishes in MENA, new names, same dish and a few new ingredients. I guess India would get credit for MOST food lol.