AlFaham Chicken: A Grilled Chicken Dish From The Arabian Gulf
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

If you’re a fan of some variation of chicken roasted in a charcoal grill, we don’t blame you! As an Indian, one of our pride and joys is to sink our teeth (quite literally) into a well-made, juicy tandoori chicken. In fact, the corner-stone of a great party is to have chicken tikka in some way or form to go with drinks. A few miles away in the Gulf, the Arabic AlFaham chicken, a “cousin” to the tandoori variation found here, is highly celebrated.

The slight variation in recipe comes from the Arabic spice mix called bezar, similar to India’s garam masala, that is used in the marinade, before the meat is grilled on coals or in a tandoor. Usually eaten during Ramadan as part of communal meals meant for sharing, the grilled chicken is served with a mellow, sunshine-coloured saffron rice. Closer to home, various restaurants in Kerala have come up with their own version of the AlFaham chicken. Here’s how you can make your own spice mix at home to use on top of the chicken and recreate this iconic dish at home:


Ingredients [For the Arabic spice mix]:

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  • 10-12 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon all-spice powder
  • 6-7 cloves
  • 3-inch stick cinnamon
  • 6-7 green cardamom pods
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 5-6 star anise
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2-3 teaspoons dried lemon (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon red chilli powder

Ingredients [For the chicken]:


  • 500 grams bone-in chicken (drumsticks and thighs)
  • 1 tablespoon Arabic spice mix
  • ¼ cup yoghurt
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1.5 tablespoons ginger-garlic paste
  • 1 small tomato, grated
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper powder
  • 2 green chillies
  • Salt to taste
  • Olive oil to drizzle


  • To make the spice mix, toast all the whole spices in a dry pan until they release their aroma and allow them to cool completely. Grind them to a fine powder and add the remaining dry spice powders and combine thoroughly. Set aside until further use.
  • In a blender jar, combine all the ingredients for the marinade and grind into a paste. Wash and pat dry the chicken using a soft kitchen towel and season generously. Transfer into a large dish and slather the marinade on top. Leave the marinating chicken in the fridge overnight or at least for 8 hours, in order to soak up all the flavour.
  • Remove the chicken from the fridge and bring to room temperature. If you’re roasting the chicken in a oven, preheat it to 200 degrees Celsius and lay the chicken pieces out on a baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil on top and stick it in the oven for 30 minutes and flip over to the other side. Bake for another 15-20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked, but not dry. Rest for a few minutes before serving.
  • If you plan on grilling the chicken, skewer the meat and grill on medium high heat by basting in oil and turning the chicken every couple of minutes so it cooks evenly on all sides. In the last leg of cooking, turn up the heat to high so the outer skin of the chicken gets caramelized and brown. Rest for a few minutes and serve on top of saffron rice or with rumali rotis.