The Hidden Cuisine of the Arab World- Yemen
By: Waverly Nohr/ Arab America Contributing Writer
Americans love Middle Eastern food, and they’ve tried the delicacies from places like Lebanon, Egypt, and even Morocco, but there’s one country’s food that may have been overlooked. Yemeni cuisine may be harder to find in bigger cities across the states, which is a shame because it’s delicious.
If you are lucky enough to live in, or visit Dearborn, Michigan, a hub for Arab food and culture in America, you may have seen a big emerging scene of Yemeni cuisines from restaurants to coffee shops. One restaurant in particular is called “Sheeba,” which provides the guest with the ultimate Yemeni fine dining experience. Their website states, “Sheeba Restaurant combines the nobility of the place, and authenticity of Yemeni cuisine and joy. You will find our various savory dishes served in an upscaled home atmosphere and receive great welcome.” Make sure if you are ever in Dearborn, you give this place a try.
This article provides you with step-by-step instructions in preparing two different types of Yemeni soups to get you started on trying this country’s favorite foods. Maraq and Shurbah Baydah are country favorites, and I think you will like them as well.
According to Taste Atlas, Maraq is a delicate and aromatic Yemeni lamb (or chicken) broth soup that is traditionally served at the beginning of the meal. This is a standard Yemeni soup, and you can order it at a restaurant by asking for “Maraq.” It’s served with fresh slices of lemon or lime that’s squeezed in for more flavor. We also make “hulba” (fenugreek) as a side for this soup. We take a spoonful of hula and add it to the soup and mix well.
Ingredients (serves 2)
1) Lamb/goat meat with bone in (1/4 of a pound for 2, or two pieces of your choice.)
2) Salt to taste.
3) 1/8 tsp of fresh ground pepper.
4) 1/8 of tsp of tumeric.
5) 1/2 tsp of ground cumin.
6) 1/2 tsp of ground coriander.
7) 1/4 tsp of ground cinnamon.
8 ) Clove of garlic finely minced.
9) 1 small onion, finely minced.
10) 2 tbslp of finely chopped cilantro.
12) 1/8 tsp of ground cardamon (or two pods cracked open.)
13) Slices of lemon or lime on the side to serve with the soup.
14) 2 carrots, washed, peeled, and cut into big pieces.
Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil. Add the meat and remove the foam that collects on the surface. Cover and let boil until the meat is tender. You can also use a pressure cooker if you’re in a hurry, to cut down cooking time.
You should be left with about 4 cups of stock that you can use for the broth of the soup. If you don’t have enough broth, add a little more water and let boil for another 10 minutes. Add the fresh ground pepper, turmeric, ground cumin, ground coriander, ground cinnamon, clove of garlic finely, onion, chopped cilantro, ground cardamon, and salt. Also add the carrots or other vegetables you have on hand. Just make sure you add vegetables that take longer to cook earlier than those that take a few minutes to cook. Let simmer under medium heat until the vegetables are cooked through (but still retain their shape.) Spoon out the meat and vegetables into serving bowls and pour the soup through a sieve directly into the bowls and serve immediately. This soup is usually served before a meal in Yemen.
“Shurbah Baydah Adeni Oatmeal Soup- شربة عدنية بيضاء
This recipe is from Yemeniyah.
This is a staple during Ramadan. It’s a very hearty soup that is a meal in and of itself. In Sana’a, they make it sweet and they add milk. But in Aden it’s very different because we make it plain and call it Shurbah Baydha, which means “white soup.” Sometimes we add a red sauce to it that we make with onions, tomatoes, and spices. We call it Shurbah Hamra, which means “red soup.”
Here’s the recipe for the plain one I mentioned from Aden.
1) 1/2 pound of lamb cut into small pieces with bone in the cuts. You can also use chicken, which will cut down the cooking time.
2) 2 cups of rolled oats. You can use Old Fashioned Quaker Oats.
3) 3 sticks of cinnamon.
4) 1/2 tblsp of peppercorns.
5) 1/2 tsp of curry powder.
6) 1/2 of a medium onion, finely chopped.
7) 1 small tomato, finely chopped.
8) Salt to taste.
For garnish, fry some onions with a little olive oil or traditional Yemeni ghee until golden brown (or darker according to taste.)
In a pot, add water to cover the meat completely and place under medium/high heat (about 4 cups.) Remove the froth that collects on the surface as the meat starts to boil. Then add the peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, curry powder, onion, tomatoes, salt, and let boil for about 20 minutes. If the broth has evaporated some, add an additional cup of water. Then add the oats, mix well, and cover to let it boil under medium/low heat.
I also like to transfer it to the oven and let it slow cook in there at 350 degrees fahrenheit until the meat is tender. If you place it in the oven, make sure you check on it every 15 minutes and stir. If it is too thick, add some more water. I like mine thick so I add less water to maintain the consistency I like best. But in Yemen there are many who like it thinner, so they add more water. So it depends on your taste. Once the meat is tender, that means the soup is cooked and ready to serve. Serve hot with the fried onions and a little ghee or olive oil. You can even make this in a pressure cooker if you want to cut back on cooking time.
Next time you’re looking for some Arab food, try either of these soups or look for a Yemeni restaurant near you!
Check out our blog here!