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Yemeni Cuisine

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Overview of Yemeni Cuisine HistoryEdit

xtended to Aden and Hodeida. When the Bedouins were passing Saudi Arabia, their diet was limited to camel and goat meat, yoghurt products (leben – without fat). But today, the variety of aliments includes: Lamb, yoghurt, thyme, mint and cinnamon (for the meat dishes), tea and coffee, rice, garlic, turmeric, fish on the coasts, pepper, eggplants, cucumbers, onions and citrus fruits.

Cuisines of Yemen Edit

Map of Yemen

Map of Yemen- Click to enlarge

Yemen has 2 major regions: North and South Yemen, which used to be different states until the end of the 20th century. The traditions and the cultural habits are similar in the 2 regions of Yemen and the cuisine seems to be unique and general. Because it is mostly a rural country, the agriculture occupies the wide territories, filled with Wheat, coffee and the local qat.

The most traditional dish is the saltah. Saltah is a soup like stew where vegetables and meat are removed from the cooking liquid and served separately. The soup is then served with a sauce made from ground fenugreek called Helbah. It is served with lunch and is considered the national dish of Yemen. The most important feature of the Yemeni cuisine is the fact that it is very spicy and the hot taste is the most frequent one. There is a wide range of such sauces and dressings, used to spice up the meat or the salads. Because cereals are grown in the country, Yemen people also make their own traditional bread, called the mellawach, which is served with a spicy hot sauce that contains many spices, called the zahaug. Zahaug (zahaug is salsa in which we call it in the west) is also put on grilled meat, besides the hilbeh (hilbah is another name for saltah), fenugreek or coriander paste. The Yemen cuisine includes Lebanese and Indian aliments and spices and also the Arabic general rules, Egyptian and Persian tastes, in a unique combination and authentic cuisine.  

Preparation Methods for Yemeni Cooking Edit

The Yemen cooking doesn’t require much preparations, as the cooking techniques are the same as the other Arabic and Indian cuisines and not too different than the Western ones. The methods applied when cooking are mostly: grilling, boiling, and frying (including oil). Grilling is applied to meats, like the Arabian style of kebabs, chopped or cubic meat pieces for salads and meat dishes as main courses. The grilled meats are flavored and spiced with the special spicy and hot sauces, which some are served cold, some warm. The roast meals are similar to the grilled ones, but meat or vegetables are not chopped or sliced, as they are roasted full. The boiling process is very common for all vegetables (Eggplant, tomatoes). Citrus fruits are eaten fresh and also, many of the vegetables. Another preparation for the Yemen cooking is peeling. Peeling is applied to almost all tomatoes, especially the ones included in sauces and to some of the fruits, so that they get soft and easier to prepare.

Special Equipment for Yemeni Cooking Edit

The food is served on a large platter which is shared commonly, with a hill of rice in the middle, together with Chicken, Lamb or mixed kinds of meals and with many spiced veggies. The salad that accompanies the main course is also brought on one single plate, even if there are more people at the table, so the salad is eaten commonly. Yemen people use cutlery and medium size plates, without many ornaments. For some foods, special leaves of the plants are required and the qat leaf can not miss from the Yemeni house, as this is a local and original plant, whose braches are chewed. The saltah soup is cooked in the bowl called madr, which is resistant to high heats.

Small knifes are used to peel some of the soft fresh or boiled vegetables and some fruits, while chopping the meat is done with bigger knives. There are some special and wide, oval plates for the salads, as this meal is eaten commonly. There are also some tiny, yet deep bowls for the spicy sauces.

Yemeni Food Traditions and Festivals Edit

The celebrations in Yemen include: The Day of National Unity in May, The Revolution Days in September and October, the Independence Day in November and the Islamic festivals: Eid al-Adha, Eid al-Fitr and Muharram at the beginning of the Islamic New Year. Meals are usually taken by the whole family together and there is a lot of sharing during the meal. On special celebrations, large quantities of Lamb are eaten and on every occasion, the traditional drink is the tea.

The Islamic diet rules forbid the Muslims to consume any alcohol, eat or drink blood (including stews in blood) and eating the meat of carnivore and omnivore, such as Pork, monkey, dog or cat. There is a wide range of juices and soft drinks, teas (shay) and coffees (qahwa). The most traditional dish is the salto, which is based on meat and served an end of dinner or lunch during a special day. Besides the meal Yemeni people chew the qat leaf, starting since the lunch and until dinner time. This tradition is like a real art; the soft leaves are chewed to build up a ball in a cheek. The ability to chew wide balls is admired among Yemenis. Qat is actually a mild stimulant and it also has digestive effects, by keeping Yemeni people from getting overweight.

People in Yemeni Food Edit

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Yemeni people are in touch with the nature and all its elements. There are many cereals and vegetables growing in the country, so the Yemeni people are familiar to them and know how to use them best. The bread is made by these people in almost all homes, as this is considered a valuable tradition, which must be carried on further. Yemeni people are very proud of their local coffee, which is among the oldest in the world and of their tea, which has a natural and a light flavor. The Yemenis carried on the traditions through their cooking and all participated to the cultural Yemeni cuisine. The Yemeni people had to unify all the different cuisines that influenced their country and build an exotic, spicy and traditional Yemeni cuisine. Yemeni people are very friendly and like to share everything; this is why many meals are eaten commonly and the family feasts are very frequent.

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