Life of a Full Time Mom

Sunday, January 02, 2005

The Malawach recipe

Luiz and I were having an argument yesterday about Malawach. Malawach, for anyone who doesn't know, is a Yemenite dish of some kind of fried dough. It is absolutely yummy. I first had it in Israel, at a fancy resteraunt. They served it with honey on top. At shops around here, you can buy Malawach frozen, five to a package. They don't look that great, frozen; they look like flat, hard, cold pancakes. But if you stick 'em in a frying pan for a few minutes, they fluff up. Still not as good as fresh Malawach, but still yummy. Luiz actually eats his with tomatoes and cheese on top--go figure. Just another example of how our tastes are so different.

So anyway, the argument we were having yesterday was how to make Malawach from scratch. He said it must include filo dough; I said no way. So we decided to find a recipe on the web, and try to make it ourselves. This is the recipe we found:

Makes 8 servings

4 cups flour
1 1/4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 pound margarine
Tomato sauce (optional), Sour cream (optional) [or honey, optional but much better--Rivka]

In a bowl, mix flour, water and salt until dough becomes soft.
Add more flour if dough is sticky.
Cut dough into two sections.
Knead and roll each section into a 20x20 inch sheet.
Spread margarine on the sheets.
Fold each sheet like an envelope with ends meetings at center.
Repeat folding process to get two layers of folds.
Cover with a paper towel, let sit for 30 minutes.
Cut each sheet into 10 parts.
Form each piece of dough to the shape of your frying pan and fry until golden brown on both sides.
Serve with tomato sauce or sour cream, if desired.

Did you read the whole recipe?

Good, so can you explain it to me? Because here's what I can't figure out: You take a sheet that's 20x20, right? And you're folding it in on itself, twice, right? So now it's like 3x3 inches big, right? How do you cut that into ten parts? And how do you then "form each piece" to fit the frying pan? Do you use a magnifying lens? And then steam-roll it?

These are the kind of recipes that throw me for a loop, and I am always coming across them. If anyone out there feels like trying this recipe and letting me know how they did it, feel free. But frankly, I can't figure out how the recipe isn't wrong.


  • Easier than explain where you are going wrong, try this recipe, a bit easier.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:28 PM, January 02, 2005  

  • Craig:
    I read the link. These are the parts I didn't get:

    "Divide dough into 8 pieces. Flatten out 1 piece to about 6 inches in diameter." With a rolling pin or hands?
    "Incorporate about 2 tsp of margarine into dough circle, pushing and kneading it in but maintaining the circle." If you're pushing and kneading, how do you maintain a flat circle?
    "Cut a line open form the center of the circle to the outside edge. Take one end and roll it around counterclockwise into a ball." WHAT??

    By Blogger Rivka, at 1:16 PM, January 02, 2005  

  • Poor Rivka.

    Stick with the frozen ones. They are good. I like to make them with just a little Zaatar sprinkled on each side while it's heating up.

    If you like it sweet, you can try it with jam on top, too.

    By Blogger Sarah, at 2:33 PM, January 02, 2005  

  • Yeah, the frozen food section of Albertson's ...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:18 PM, January 02, 2005  

  • I don't see why you think it should be 3x3; if I took a 20x20 in sheet and "folded it like an envelope, with the ends meeting in the center", I'd get something that is squarish with about half the area. [each corner went diagonally into the center along with sort of a triangular bit; it's kind of hard to describe in ASCII text] -- this is about 14 inches by 14 inches, and the corners of THIS shape is where those folds meet. Now, if you do it again with THIS shape, so there are two layers of folds, you get a roughly 10 by 10 square -- i.e. one fourth of the area of the original, but four times as thick.

    I like those frozen ones, myself.

    By Blogger Ted, at 10:41 PM, January 04, 2005  

  • Wow! Did you first eat malawach at Nargila? That's where I first had it over 10 years ago.

    This is great! I've been craving malawach and ziva ever since I left Israel! Thanks, everyone, for the frozen recommendation!

    By Blogger Bowow, at 5:58 PM, April 02, 2005  

  • I tried this recipe it was really hard to make a 20x20 square (ive never baked anything before) but I got addicted to malawach pizzas in israel. Did you ever try one of them? Its so delicious its a malawch bread with melted cheese and pizza toppings (no sauce) then you get 2 dipping sauces, tomato sauce and schug (the chili chutney that is frequently put on falafel)

    The best place to get them in a resturant in Holon, Israel, but I dont know what the name of it is.

    By Anonymous Nick, at 4:42 PM, May 18, 2005  

  • does anyone have a recipe for ziva-ive been craving ziva and borekas since i left osrael few years ago.managed to find borekas recipes,but not ziva so far thanks yvonne

    By Anonymous yvonne, at 8:44 PM, November 03, 2005  

  • Stumbled across this looking for another recipe, and while it's not the same thing, my Israeli friend says that this method of preparing the dough is how his mom always made it:

    I realize this is a really old post, but since you popped up in google, thought I'd chime in.

    By Blogger Selana, at 6:41 PM, June 24, 2008  

  • I know this is a little late, but I thought I'd add my 2cents worth. I noticed that alot of these malawach recipes seem to lack the quantity of margarine I've witnessed an Israeli neighbor make it with. And from talking to others, I though I'd try it: First off, it takes about 1 1/3 c. water, not 1 1/4, as that's too little for the 4 c.flour, I had to use 1 1/2 sticks of margarine, and you really have to slather it in, generously, working it constantly til it's that elastic texture that the frozen ones get when they've been thawed out for a while. Also, another 1/2 tsp salt too. Too little salt on most recipes. It's always bland. Once I made my adjustments, it turned out the closest to the real thing but hopefully it'll be perfect next time. This is one of those recipes that people learn 'in person' from their mothers/g'mothers. It doesn't translate well to a written text to just throw together.

    By Anonymous Teshua, at 7:33 PM, June 17, 2009  

  • Rivka, I made Aliyah in 1999 (and sadly, returned to the States in 2003) and Malawach is one of those things you really *do* need to see made to learn how--AND it helps to have a word-of-mouth recipe. I've got one.

    The Yemenite Jewish woman who married a friend of the family (yeah, they were Datim even living in the Shomron, no less!) invited me over the Green Line and we "passed the time" in the kitchen by making Malawach. I couldn't remember everything (I was distracted by the fact we were in the middle of a settlement being fired upon 24/7) but the guy I was living with at the time got a recipe from one of his customers (he was a locksmith so he chatted up the lady of the house while he was working) It was AWESOME!! It came out EXACTLY like the Yemenite woman's version--and exactly like the kind I had in restaurants.

    You might not realize it but most Israelis eat it with a salad of chopped/diced veggies (at the very least the "standard" tomatoes and cucumbers in olive oil with oregano, but you can add diced onion, sweet red bell peppers--American version is nothing like the Israeli version which are intensely flavorful and sweet--and even some sweet corn (canned) to round out the "salat" Personally, I'm with you, I liked it best as a dessert, but I used date honey not regular honey. Hey, Israel. Dates are everywhere.

    If you want my recipe, I can email you the Word file but it's long and I won't type the whole thing in here.

    Basically, the two biggest "mistakes" in your recipe are:

    1) nowhere near enough margerine (and be sure it's NOT butter, as margerine has a completely different texture than butter) and

    2) you should use soda water, not regular water, as the bubbles help "leaven" it.

    Oh, and you need to let it rest before you work it, plus you work it SEVERAL times. It's a background activity that takes between 4 and 8 hours. ALL DAY. Your hubby was on the right track, it's similar to Phyllo dough in that you layer in, or slowly fold in the margerine in STAGES, over the course of hours. Folding, chilling, resting, folding, chilling, resting. My Yemenite Datia housewife friend had 5 kids. She made this daily since it was a "no brainer" kind of background activity(her words) something she could do in between running around the house after the kids.

    Let me know if you want the recipe. I've never seen frozen Malawach but I make and freeze mine (which makes a HUGE batch). I am making it today and was searching the web to see if anyone had any other recipes for it so that's how I ran across your old blog post.

    By Blogger -sry, at 6:15 AM, April 24, 2010  

  • Hey sry (Sarah Yoffa) I'd like the recipe you use, but how can I contact you?

    By Blogger The Dorian Way, at 12:42 AM, July 01, 2010  

  • Sarah Yoffa,

    i want one too.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:50 AM, August 30, 2010  

  • Another important comment. When the recipe says to grease the "bottom" of the pan, they actually mean the "inside". If you grease the bottom, it becomes very hard to hold the pan without it slipping and your grill is liable to catch fire. The fireman may turn out to be cute, and you might marry him only to find out that he doesn't think you'll ever live up to his mother and he doesn't care at all about what a hard day you had with the kids after you picked them up from their Aunt Marjorie who just had a hip replacement operation and wanted to tell you all about it only your bladder was about to explode after the third cup of coffee which you could swear was not decaf even though Marj insisted it was...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:02 PM, January 08, 2011  

  • I first tried this recently at a music festival, served with a hard-boiled egg, zhoug, a tomato salsa and feta cheese. Awesome! So I thought I'd try and make it and was quite successful. I figured that in translation from Yemen to Israel to the US the fat in the bread would be doubled and doubled again, so I used an eighth of the fat used here and it was still delicious. I think some soda in the dough could be a good thing - lighten it a bit.

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 1:37 AM, January 10, 2011  

  • sorry, I meant a quarter of the fat

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 4:38 PM, January 11, 2011  

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