Mdm Habibah's nasi ayam Lebanon: The recipe

Mdm Habibah's nasi ayam Lebanon: The recipe

It’s a nasi ayam done with a twist - one that uses Middle Eastern spices, but cooked to suit the Singaporean Malay palate.

It’s a nasi ayam done with a twist - one that uses Middle Eastern spices, but cooked to suit the Singaporean Malay palate. 

From the kitchen of Mdm Habibah Osman, 71, with the help of grandson Muhd Azrie, 29.

Read their story here.

This recipe feeds 5-6 people.


For the chicken:

1 whole chicken cut into parts

1 tbsp round cinnamon

1 tbsp garam masala

1 tbsp salt

1 tbsp black pepper

Oil for deep-frying the chicken

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Tomatoes and onions - the base of the hearty sauce that flavours the rice.

For the rice:

1 cup cashew nuts, roasted

1/4 cup oil

125g butter

3 white onions, chopped

2 tomatoes, diced

7-9 cloves garlic, smashed

¼ cup coriander leaves, roughly chopped

¼ cup mint leaves, roughly chopped

1 small can tomato paste

Chicken stock or 2 chicken cubes

1 cup water (for the sauce)

½ cup raisins

5 rice cups basmati rice

6 rice cups water (for the rice)

Salt to taste

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Deep-frying the chicken ensures that all the spices seep in, says Mdm Habiba.


1. Marinate chicken with cinnamon, garam masala, salt and black pepper for 1/2 hour.

2. Deep-fry the chicken till browned, set aside.

"You need to do this so that the spices seep into the chicken," said Mdm Habibah.

2. In a large wok, heat up ¼ cup of oil. Roast the cashew nuts in the oil for a few minutes. Remove and set asude the nuts.

“You just need to extract the flavour of the nuts in the oil,” said Mr Azrie.

3. Saute the onions in the same oil. Add the butter.

“The butter is to add an extra creaminess to the dish,” said Mr Azrie.

4. Add the garlic, tomatoes and tomato paste. Saute till the onions soften.

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Mint and coriander leaves in the sauce base. "All the ingredients that go into this dish are very Arabic," says Mr Azrie.

5. Add the coriander and mint leaves, water, chicken stock and raisins. Bring to a boil.

6. Add the deep fried chicken, and simmer for a few minutes.

7. Add 5 cups of rice and 6 cups of water to a rice cooker.

8. Remove the chicken from the sauce, and pour the sauce into the rice cooker. Let the rice cook for about 15-20 minutes.

“Cooking time is subjective, just cook till the rice becomes fluffy,” said Mr Azrie.

9. Add the chicken pieces, and mix thoroughly. Let the chicken sit in there for another 10-15 minutes before serving.

“Mix it so that every layer of the rice has some chicken in it,” said Mr Azrie.

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Mix all the ingredients in a rice cooker thoroughly.

The nasi ayam Lebanon can be eaten as a dish on its own, or served with side dishes like achar and curry. 

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Mdm Habibah with her grandson Mr Azrie, making a dahl curry to go with the nasi ayam.