eggplant “upside down” savory rice cake is a delicious and fun way to present a savory meal like a beautiful dessert!
The name of this dish, ma’loubay literally translates to “upside down” because of the way it is served by first flipping it upside down like a beautiful cake with layers of rice, meat and vegetables.
Think about it, isn’t everything better upside down. I actually can’t think of anything else thats better upside down. Maybe headstands. But is that really better? Okay moving on.
I DO know that a rice, meat and vegetable dish IS better upside down because the flavors all marry each other and the best of the flavors fall to the bottom and when flipped upside down it brings the best of the bottom to the top. #started from the bottom now we’re here haha
Now, about that technique…
There are many variations across the Levantine (Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, parts of Turkey) which include mainly a variety of vegetables usually eggplants, cauliflower, potatoes, and carrots. I’ve seen tons of images, but of course I can’t find a single one to post now, of 2-3 women and men all holding a ginormous pot trying to carefully flip it over. They’re usually served with yogurt or a simple Middle Eastern salad which includes tomatoes and cucumber.
I had to experiment with a few pots I own and found one that works perfect for my measurements and I just stick with it. Usually, every Middle Eastern home has a special straight edged pot that makes it easier for flipping.
This dish could be time consuming because of the prep work required but it is NOT difficult. Once everything is prepped, its just a matter of layering them together. Do not be intimidated by how pretty it looks! And even if your ma’loubay flops when you flip it over it will still be an amazingly tasting and aromatic dish!
Feeds 3-4 people (or just the three of us with just a little bit of leftovers haha)
- 1 large eggplant sliced
- .3 pounds ground beef
- 1/4 diced tomato
- 2 tablespoon pine nuts (or substitute almonds)
- 1 1/2 cup jasmine rice
- 1 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 3 tblspoon tomato paste
- oil for frying or for brushing eggplants for broil
- salt & pepper to taste
Peel and slice the eggplants
- Lay them on a paper towel and salt them.
- Let them sit for 30 minutes
- Put the jasmine rice in a bowl and cover with water
- Let it sit for 30 minutes
- Meanwhile, brown the meat with salt and pepper
- Sauté the pine nuts with 1 tbl vegetable oil
- Combine with meat and set aside
- On low heat add chicken stock, tomato paste and salt and pepper to taste
- Whisk it all together until paste completely dissolves
- When the eggplants are done straining wash them off with water and pat dry
- Heat up oil and fry eggplants (OR the healthier version is to skip the initial part about straining them and just brush the eggplants with oil. sprinkle with salt and put in a preheated broiler until they are brown on each side).
- When the 30 minutes is over for the rice, sauté for 1-2 minutes in 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and mix in 1 tablespoon tomato paste (this is optional but I feel it gives the rice a little more flavor and makes the rice more moldable and easier when flipping upside down).
Now that everything is prepped all we have to do is assemble.
- Start by placing the diced tomatoes at the bottom
- Add the meat and pine nuts
- Layer the eggplants (see image)
- Add the rice inside the eggplants and carefully pour the tomato stock on the rice
- Bring to a quick boil then lower heat and cover for 15 minutes.
- Keep it covered for an additional 5 minutes
- Uncover, place plate on top of pot, say a prayer and flip that bad boy
This picture was taken right after I flipped it and a lot of the tomato and meat were still stuck to the bottom of the pot. I fixed that problem by just scraping the pot and putting them back on top.1