Equal parts sweet and salty, balaleet (بلاليط) is the greatest breakfast you’ve never heard of. Toasted vermicelli is enriched with butter and perfumed by aromatic rosewater, saffron, and cardamom, creating an indescribable taste sensation. It’s both delicate and bold, hearty but decadent, deceptively simple on paper with wildly complex flavor harmonies. Top that all off with a tender omelette and you can start to understand why it’s a signature dish of Emirati cuisine.
As it’s sweetened with sugar, sometimes with a heavy hand, balaleet can be served cold for dessert, too. Think of it like rice porridge / rice pudding; versatile and endlessly adaptable based on personal preferences. My take leans more savory than most, balanced out by my not-so-secret ingredient: Sugimoto shiitake powder.
Key Ingredients and Substitutions
There are no rules for making excellent balaleet, only recommendations. Experiment to create the version you enjoy best.
- Spaghetti: I used regular spaghetti for the sake of convenience, but you could swap in any long noodle, like angel hair or linguine, and make it gluten-free if needed.
- Vegan butter and olive oil: Let’s not kid ourselves: The generous measure of plant-based fats are a large factor in making this dish so crave-worthy. If you need to eat oil-free, though, you can try going without. Toast the noodles in a dry skillet before proceeding with the recipe, and make sure you use a non-stick skillet for the omelette.
- Rosewater: Try orange flower water instead if that’s more readily available. In a pinch, a tiny splash of vanilla extract and lemon juice can fit the bill.
- Saffron: Real saffron is a splurge, no doubt about it. Save your money by using a pinch of ground turmeric instead.
- Sugar: Some recipes can have upwards of 1/2 cup of granulated sugar per serving! I prefer much less, but you can always add more to taste. To make this recipe sugar-free, add a few drops of liquid stevia, as needed.
- Sugimoto shiitake powder: While there’s no replicating that deep umami flavor, absent of any overtly mushroom-y taste, you can make do by swapping the plain water with shiitake mushroom soaking water instead.
- Chickpea flour: The key to making a tender, fluffy plant-based omelette, chickpea flour is an essential staple that should always be on hand. That said, if you’d prefer a simpler approach, you could skip the homemade omelette altogether and heat up a JUST folded egg.
Another Note About Noodles
Skip right to the good stuff and start with fideos to make this recipe even easier. I like the more random lengths created by breaking up full strands, plus it’s just fun to break things.
- Place your long noodles in a strong zip-top bag. Don’t use a flimsy plastic shopping bag because it will surely tear and make a mess in the process.
- Press the air out of the bag and make sure it’s sealed.
- Either use your hands to pick up and crack the noodles at random, or smack it gently with a rolling pin, until the pieces are all roughly 1 – 2 inches in length.
Traditionally, the noodles aren’t toasted, but I love the color, extra nutty flavor, and toothsome texture this creates. You’re welcome to skip this step if you’re in a rush.
How To Serve Balaleet
Forget cold cereal flakes; given the balance of fiber and protein, balaleet is the true breakfast of champions. As such, it’s a complete meal on its own. My only suggestions would be for drink pairings, such as:
- Chai tea
- Strong coffee
- Fresh squeezed orange juice
For added heft, you could also incorporate or serve on the side:
- Whole chickpeas
- Sauteed or caramelized onions
- Hash browns or home fries
If you haven’t yet tried balaleet, you’re missing out. If you have, I’d implore you to give it another go with shiitake powder as an all-purpose flavor booster. Seamlessly amplifying both sweet and savory notes, you may be surprised by what a big difference this small addition can make.