Here's our recipe for Algeria’s white soup, chorba beida; once a favourite dish of royalty and now a staple meal across the country.

A close-up shot of a bowl of chorba beida, a white soup containing meat, vegetables and noodles, that is popular in Algeria.
Chorba beida was once a dish reserved for royalty but is now enjoyed right across Algeria © Fanfo / Shutterstock

What is it?

White in colour and delicate in flavour, this fragrant chicken soup spiced with cinnamon, lemon and herbs is the best of Algerian home cooking. 

Ingredients (serves 4)

1 tbs butter 
2 tbs olive oil 
1 small free-range chicken, jointed into eight pieces 
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped 
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed 
1 tsp ground black pepper 
½ tsp chilli flakes 
1 tsp ground cinnamon 
1 tsp sea salt 
400g (14oz) canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed 
1 handful of vermicelli noodles 
1 egg yolk 
juice of 1 lemon 
small bunch of fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped

How to cook

Step 1: Heat the butter and olive oil in a large heavy-based casserole over a medium heat. Add the chicken and fry until golden, then remove and set aside. 
Step 2: Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 15 minutes.
Step 3: Add the garlic, pepper, chilli, cinnamon and salt, and stir for 1 minute.
Step 4: Return the chicken to the pan, add 4 cups water, bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 30 minutes. 
Step 5: Add the chickpeas and vermicelli, and simmer for 15 more minutes. Turn off the heat.
Step 6: Combine the egg yolk and half of the lemon juice in a bowl and beat with a fork until they’re well mixed. 
Step 7: Slowly add the lemon and egg mixture into the saucepan, whisking briskly to avoid curdling. The soup should turn a creamy white. 
Step 8: Divide the soup between four bowls, sprinkle with fresh coriander and add a squeeze of lemon before serving.

A lone figure walks through a vast sandy desert in Algeria, leaving footprints behind them.
Just the smell of cooking chorba beida conjures images of Algeria's amazing landscapes © Dirar 'Ben'jamin Achr / 500px

Tasting notes

The first thing you’ll notice about chorba beida is its distinctive colour (the name literally means ‘white soup’). The second is its delicate flavour, an altogether more subtle experience than its bolder and more brightly coloured sister, harira. A perfect chorba beida should be light, subtly spiced and velvety in texture, cut through with the sharpness of lemon, and bulked up with toothsome chickpeas and pieces of tender chicken falling off the bone. While its wholesome properties make for an excellent homemade cold remedy, it’s perhaps best enjoyed with an Algerian family during Ramadan, alongside a spread of equally enticing dishes, to break the fast of the day.

Other recipes in this series:
Cornish pasty
Vietnamese banh mi
Portuguese pica pau

Have you recreated any of the dishes featured in this series so far? Share your pictures with us on Twitter and Instagram by tagging @lonelyplanet. For more great recipes, check out Lonely Planet’s book The World’s Best Bowl Food.

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