“What the hell is jute leaves?” I asked Yasmin, my former editorial assistant who's now kicking ass at the Huffington Post, while we caught up in Anaheim's legendary Olive Tree restaurant. “I'm not sure,” she replied. “But they're good in molokhia!”
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We both stared at a massive bowl of the Egyptian stew, steaming and emerald and waiting to get devoured. While Olive Tree is rightfully hailed across the country for a menu that highlights the regional dishes in the Middle East, from Jordan to Syria to Palestine and beyond, the regulars always gravitate toward the molokhia. Considered one of Egypt's national dishes, it's a soup eaten whether hot or rainy, day or night. And its star is the jute leaf, which chefs boil down until it boasts the same texture and earthiness as okra. Olive Tree also throws some chopped chicken at the bottom of the bowl—Campbell's by the Nile known as Brookhurst Avenue in Little Arabia.
One thing about molokhia, though: you're not really supposed to eat it as a soup. When I started scarfing it down, Olive Tree co-owner Alan Abdo laughed. “No, you're supposed to pour it over rice,” he said, gesturing toward my plate of fluffy paradise. I did, the molokhia got even better, and this year started right.
Olive Tree, 512 S. Brookhurst St. #3, Anaheim, (714) 535-28788.