Shaiba Leaves


SHAIBA leaves were another exotic and new spice I was taught about after entering the Kingdom. I had never seen anyone using such a spice before in cooking. At that time I had no idea what lichen was for or that people even used it to flavor foods. A small dried up leaf that looks moldy is not something you would think was a nice flavor after all. I quickly started to research the new find my mother in law introduced me to and told me was a must for Saudi cooking.

I found almost nothing about the leaves online. However, I was able to find out that this particular lichen grows on a small shrub in the Arabian Peninsula and was also referred to as ‘old man’s beard’ since the flowers look like small white beards. The lichen genus Usnea derives its name from Arabic ushnah, “lichen.” The famous Islamic physician Al-Razi (Razes) reports various medicinal uses of lichen in his celebrated book Liber Mansoris (Kitab al-Mansuri).

Some popular Saudi dishes that use lichens are Magazlia, Zurbian Rice, Bukhari Rice and Kabli rice. Anywhere from 2-6 small leaves are thrown into the dish and removed before serving.

Spices shaiba leaves compliment well with:
Bay leaves

7 Responses to Shaiba Leaves

  • ok noor its really really super weird… its like you read my mind or something, u remember me from about the “habek” mint??? i got shaiba leaves from a friend who went back to oman a few weeks ago, its still in my kitchen, i am figuring out what to use it for, i was thinking to ask u, and then… suddenly u put up this post…..its crazy really….

    by the way, i found someone in oregon who is selling “arabic mint” or wild mint so i am probably going to try and buy some and plant this summer……i know u said its just a weed in the south but i live waaay up in ND so and summers aren’t that long up here so i will try and plant some myself….

    my name is Sarah and i am originally from malaysia by the way… i married a turkish guy and we are living in the US for now…. i figured i should introduce a little about my background since for some reason u kind of read my mind all the way from saudi….:P …

    • NO way that is to funny lol. Maybe our minds are connected in some way :p And of course I remember you. Malaysia is one of my favorite countries to visit and the people are all so nice.

      I am glad your going to try to grow the mint it grows really easily in the South I would imagine you can do well with it there as well and bring some indoors in the winter months or just dry some since it grows a lot. Let me know how it goes I would love to know.

  • Salam, i would think the most obvious recipe for using these tasty leaves would be in shorba!!!.lol
    thanks for sharing your findings its always interesting to see what new recipes you come up with.

    • Wa Alaykum Salam, yes you could use them in anything really as long as you like the taste :)

  • Salam Noor,

    What is mazgalia and where can I find a recipe for it? I have a bag of shaiba leaves (bought them via Amazon, they were called Stone Flower, if anyone is interested) and I would love to have another recipe to use them in!

  • This is interesting..we call Shaiba leaves as “patthar phool” in India which would translate into ‘ rock flowers’ , they’re used to flavour rice dishes such as biryanis and pulaos and also as part of ground masalas.. I’ve always seen these in the exhbititions in sacks next to the bay leaves and zaatar and wondered what they use it for here.

    • A lot of spices such as this one was introduced by expat workers. I never knew about this one before I came here as well.

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