How to Make One of Ahmad Alzahabi’s Favorite Eid al-Fitr Entrees

Ahmad Alzahabi, also known as The Golden Balance and the bismillah guy, shares why he enjoys celebrating Ramadan and a recipe his mom makes that his family can’t wait to eat on Eid al-Fitr.
54
Photograph courtesy of Ahmad Alzahabi

For metro Detroit-based food content creator and founder of The Golden Balance, Ahmad Alzahabi, Ramadan is a way of “stepping back from all the worldly temptations — and the biggest indulgence that I have in my life is food — and not being able to eat… That detachment is very cleansing to me, and I really like that part.”

This year, March 10 designated the beginning of Ramadan, when Muslims around the world observe the holy month through fasting, praying, reflecting, and spending quality time with family. Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam, and for 30 days (sometimes 29, depending on the year), from dawn to sunset, those who participate forgo eating or drinking anything, even water, to encourage spiritual reflection.

However, during the times of day when Muslims can break fast, Alzahabi enjoys eating yabra (grape leaves), qatayef (a Middle Eastern pancake dessert), and anything with meat and rice.

A Syrian-American with nearly 10 million followers across Instagram and TikTok, Alzahabi began taking an interest in cooking as a child by watching shows on the Food Network channel, like Hell’s Kitchen and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. He also enjoyed his mother’s homemade meals.

“Ever since I was a child, I always spent time in the kitchen with my mom and dad,” Alzahabi said. “My dad worked a grill a lot, my mom just used to make us food… Going out to eat was not normal, it was a special treat.”

While studying business administration at the University of Michigan, Alzahabi traveled to Dubai in 2017 for a month-long internship at a four-star Swiss hotel in Dubai. There, he helped with food prep at the hotel’s kitchen, which primarily did catering.

Ahmad Alzahabi is a Detroit-based food content creator with nearly 10 million followers on Instagram and TikTok. // Photograph courtesy of Ahmad Alzahabi

“I was working with a Malaysian chef and an Indian chef, and I really learned some really classic dishes that they make,” Alzahabi said. “… I learned the foundation of making the curries and the masalas.”

In December 2019, he introduced himself as The Golden Balance on TikTok and began posting Middle Eastern and American recipe videos, garnering 1 million views on one of his videos a couple of weeks later. As his following grew in 2020, he began posting recipe content on Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and YouTube.

He’s known for saying “now bismillah” at the end of each video, which is an Arabic phrase that means “in the name of God,” and is said before Muslims act upon anything, like getting into a car or before enjoying a meal.

You may have also seen him on the Social Showdown episode of Food Network’s cooking competition show, Chopped, in 2022. He beat three other contestants and was given $10,000 to donate to a charity, and he chose Sylvester Broome Empowerment Village — an organization that helps to provide support to the youth in Flint and Chicago.

Now, as April 9 approaches, which signifies the end of Ramadan at sundown, Alzahabi and his family are preparing for Eid al-Fitr, which, this year, is celebrated from April 10 to 13. During this time, friends and family exchange gifts, go to mosque, and feast. One entree Alzahabi is looking forward to is his mom’s flavorful chicken and potatoes dish.

“This is a dish my mom makes when guests come over during Eid! This dish is usually prepped beforehand and then tossed in the oven, but everyone loves it, and it is unique to our family,” Alzahabi said. “My mom puts a lot of love into this dish and it’s something we grew up eating. All of my cousins and siblings love it so it’s always highly requested!”

Here are the instructions and ingredients needed to make the dish.

Ingredients

  • 5 pound chicken thighs and drums
  • 3-4 large potatoes

Spice mixture

  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 teaspoon cumin

Marinade

  • 2 lemons, zest and juice (one for the marinade and one to finish with)
  • 8-12 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh sage, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar

To Finish

  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, make the spice mixture by combining paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, and cumin.
  2. To make marinade, add lemon zest and juice, garlic, shallot, cilantro, rosemary, thyme, sage, and half of the prepared spice mixture. Then, add olive oil, vinegar, and the juice from one lemon. Blend until completely mixed. Pour marinade over chicken. Massage until the chicken is completely coated. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  4. Remove chicken from the refrigerator after marinating overnight. Set aside.
  5. Clean, peel and cut potatoes into one-inch half-circle wedges. Sprinkle with the other half of the seasoning mixture, then coat with some of the chicken marinade.
  6. Place marinated chicken in an even layer on top of the seasoned potatoes. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 40 minutes, then uncover. Place pan back into the oven and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove, set aside, and make the finishing touch!
  7. In a small pan on medium high heat, warm up the olive oil, then add minced garlic. Constantly stir for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Turn off the heat, add cilantro, then drizzled lemon juice on the chicken.

This recipe has been shared with permission from Ahmad Alzahabi. For more recipes to try at home, visit hourdetroit.com