There are many versions of fettah in the Middle East. There are Lebanese, Iraqi and Egyptian versions of fettah. Loosely speaking, the basic form of fettah contains layers of crispy pita bread, rice (or chickpeas) and a tangy vinegar sauce. Sometimes there is yogurt, other times there are meat. In the Egyptian version, we add a tomato sauce to the vinegar, making it red, hence the word “hamra” in the title above. In this version, cubes of beef are added to the mix too. You can easily omit the meat, and make it a hearty vegetarian dish too. So basically you would have toasted pita bread at the bottom of a casserole dish that is sprinkled with fresh broth, topped with cubes of meat, then rice, and then drizzled with a fiery vinegary tomato sauce. Delish 🙂
This recipe (a loose version of my mom’s) will always remind me of Ramadan growing up – especially the smell of the vinegar and garlic bubbling on the stove-top. I made this for our first iftaar dinner here in Abu Dhabi for our new friends here, and it was a huge hit – especially since I served them in individual crocks. Ironically, I used to hate this dish as a kid – something about the vinegar and soggy bread at the bottom that made a finicky teenager cringe. Now, it has to be hands down my absolute favorite dish. Crazy how time changes our taste buds!!
As for special ingredients, this recipe uses mastic, which is loosely translated as Arabic gum. They look like little crystals but they are actually very soft and are packed full of flavor. I found a small jar at the local Middle Eastern grocery store for $6 and it contains at least 50 crystals. I used one in this recipe so a little goes a long way. Is it bad if you don’t use it? No, but it doesn’t hurt to try something new! I also used a pressure cooker – which is the working mom’s best friend. If you don’t have one, find a bed bath and beyond coupon and go get one (or wait a long time for the meat to get tender by keeping it cooking at a low boil).