Ramadan recipes: Syrian chef Imad Alarnab’s Burghul bl jaj

Trailblazer: Imad Alarnab (Help Refugees & Stefan Jakubowski)
Trailblazer: Imad Alarnab (Help Refugees & Stefan Jakubowski)

Imad Alarnab is a Syrian chef,  who once ran two restaurants, a cafe and chain of juice bars in Damascus. His businesses were destroyed during the Syrian Civil War and in 2015 he fled the country eventually arriving in London where he sought refugee status.

In 2017 he hosted his first London pop-up in Bethnal Green and, after receiving a rapturous reception, went on to open Imad’s Syrian Kitchen in Soho’s Kingly Court.

Below, Alarnab shares one of his favourite dishes for iftar, burghul bl jaj, a traditional Syrian dish of fragrant chicken and bulgur wheat.

“To break fast, we usually eat a couple of dates to begin with. Iftar is then a feast-style meal where we begin with a soup (lentils, onion or mushroom) or a salad. Burghul bl Jaj is the perfect main main course as it has protein, veg, filling and nourishing grains and fragrant spices,”  he says.

Burghul bl jaj recipe


  • 2 tbsp olive oil

  • 3 cardamom pods

  • 3 cloves

  • 1 cinnamon stick

  • 1 tbsp of cumin seeds

  • 1 tsp of mixed spices

  • 1⁄2 tsp of black pepper

  • 1 cooking onion, roughly chopped

  • 200g of chopped tomatoes

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 200g bulgur wheat

  • 4 pieces of chicken thighs

  • 1 tbsp of white vinegar

  • 1 tbsp of rock salt

  • 2 tbsp of raisins

  • A small handful of parsley (optional)

  • Pomegranate seeds (optional)


  1. Wash the chicken thighs with cold water, then again with vinegar and sprinkle with rock salt. Drain and set aside.

  2. Fry the cumin seeds in olive oil in a pan, once it starts to sizzle, add the cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. Stir for a minute, add the onion, and then stir until golden.

  3. Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan along with the rest of the spices. Then put the lid on and let it boil on a low heat for 15 minutes.

  4. Add the chicken to the pan and let it all cook together for 35 minutes stirring every once in a while, and using a fork to check if the chicken is cooked.

  5. Take the chicken out and add the bulgur wheat to the pan. The mixture should just cover the bulgur wheat, if it doesn’t, add boiling water until the bulgur is covered.

  6. Let it all cook on a low heat for 15-20 minutes (again checking with a fork).

  7. While cooking, add the chicken to a non-stick tray. Then put in a preheated oven (180C), with the chicken skin facing up, until the skin is golden.

  8. On a serving plate add the bulgur wheat, top it with the chicken, pomegranate seeds and parsley