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Yemen Cuisine


The cuisine of Yemen is entirely distinct from the more widely known Middle Eastern cuisines. Yemeni cuisine also differs slightly from region to region. The main meal of the day is lunch, which is usually eaten without implements, using a piece of bread to scoop up the food. Chicken and lamb are eaten more often than beef, which is expensive. Fish is also eaten especially in the coastal areas. Cheese, butter and other dairy products are less common in the Yemeni diet. Buttermilk, however, is enjoyed almost daily in some villages where it is most available. The most commonly used lipids are vegetable oil used in savoury dishes, and semn (clarified butter) is the choice of fat used in pastries.


Salta, is the national dish of Yemen. However, Salta varies from region to region. It is a highly spiced dish and the base is usually a brown meat stew of Turkish origin called maraq, a dollop of fenugreek froth and sahawiq or sahowqa (a mixture of chillies, tomatoes, garlic and herbs ground into a salsa). Rice, potatoes, scrambled eggs and vegetables are common additions to Salta. It is eaten with flat bread, which serves as a utensil to scoop up the food. Flat bread is usually baked at home in a tandoor called taboon. Malooga, khubz and khamira are popular homemade breads. Store-bought pita bread and roti (bread rolls like French bread) are also common.

Shurba is also a stew, but with a more soup-like consistency, and is made with lentils (shurba bilsan), fenugreek or lamb (shurba wasabi).

Mandi, is the traditional dish in Hadhramaut, Yemen. It is now very popular in the rest of the Arabian Peninsula and in many other Arab countries such as Egypt and Syria.

Mandi is usually made from meat (lamb or chicken), basmati rice, and a mixture of spices. The meat used is usually a young and small sized lamb to enhance the taste further. The main thing which differentiates mandi is that the meat is cooked in the tanoor which is a special kind of oven. Tanoor usually is a hole made in ground and it is covered inside by clay. To cook mandi, dry wood is placed in the tanoor and burned to generate a lot of heat turning into charcoal. Then the meat is suspended inside the tanoor without touching the charcoal. After that, the whole tanoor is closed without letting any of the smoke to go outside. Raisins and pine nuts can be added to the rice as per one's taste.

Mandi is considered as the main dish served in special events such as weddings and feasts.

Bint al sahn is a popular dessert, consisting of sweet bread dipped into honey and butter.


Most people in Yemen drink a very sweet tea called shai, which is served in small glasses with or without milk and which can be flavoured with mint. Tea is consumed along with breakfast, after lunch (occasionally with sweets and pastries), and along with dinner. Popular flavourings include cloves with cardamom and mint.

Coffee is called qahwa and is less commonly consumed even though it is widely cultivated in Yemen. It is sometimes flavoured with ginger or other spices. A drink made from coffee husks called qishr is also enjoyed.

Although Islamic culture and customs are still observed very strictly by Muslims, western visitors are allowed to consume alcoholic drinks in hotels and in private houses. It is illegal to buy alcohol for a Yemeni citizen.





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