Dates with Eggs تمر بالبيض

eggs with dates

Dates with eggs might not be your typical Yemeni dish that you would run into in a Shaibani or a Hadramout restaurants. Few families do it, and usually served as a specialty breakfast for recently delivered mothers.
It is believed that dates and eggs have the richest ingredients that would help in providing the baby with the most nutrition’s during their breast feeding phase.
Dates and eggs have dear memories from my childhood. As a kid I would have it in my weekends on a family Friday breakfasts. I used to go with my family to visit my grandma, and my aunt would cook it for us and serve it with mint black tea, and warm freshly made Molawah bread (مُلَوْح)The warm aroma’s of cooked dates with traditional smoked ghee and the mint tea made me stick to my aunt while she was cooking. At the time, my height would only reach the oven knobs, and my presence was a hazard. Somehow, my wanderings around the Kitchen would always end up by me helping her either serving bread, or serve tea cups for everyone before the main dish is served. She really knew how to make the best of my energy. The food was usually served in the middle of a bright room with big windows and bright half mooned frosted glass mosaics on their upper parts )Qamaryaa )قمرية). My grandfather’s house was a traditional one. It had a 50 cm irregular stairs height (1.6 ft), thick walls of stone, almost a hundred years old massive wood entrance door and wonderful views to some of the most grand artifacts of the Rasoliete Kingdom in Yemen (Alrasolyeein Dynasty-(الدولة الرسولية-

Simple yet intricate motives and washed with white plaster is one of the unique endangered architectural styles in Yemen.The flute shape is a Fattimied architectural style that can be seen in Egyptian mosques as well.

Simple yet intricate motives and washed with white plaster is one of the unique endangered architectural styles in Yemen.The flute shape is a Fattimyed architectural style that can be seen in Egyptian mosques as well.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Mo’tabiaa mosque(مسجد المعتبية) named after Mo’taab the princess, The Ashrafyaa Mosque(مسجد الاشرفية) that was named after king Al-Ashraf,and The Qahira Castle (قلعة القاهرة) are only footsteps from the house, as it was in the heart of the old city of Taiz,and laying under the foot of Saber mountain. This city was surrounded with walls at the time, but sadly huge parts of it are ruined right now, and many new slums started growing within the gated city,using the stones of the original historical walls. It’s a shame that so much destruction had happened to the older city of Taiz. Elder generations recall that the land part of the mosque property(Waqf-وقف) were sort of an “agricultural parks” for the people.They used to grow crops on them, and where places to catch a fresh breathe while having a walk before sunset.
Taiz in 1952

Old Taiz

The Old entrance gate of Old Taiz City

The Old entrance gate of Old Taiz City

Mosques Property -Waqf-Were people's green lush parks

Mosques Property -Waqf-Were people’s green lush parks

The Rasoliete era (1229-1454 A.D) in Yemen was considered one of the brightest (of few) in Yemen’s history. 225 years was the longest time were one entity was able to rule ALL of Yemen, up to Thofar in Oman, and with Taiz it’s Capital.
Arab countries at the times were under two powerfull dynasties,the Abbasides ruling from Baghdad in Iraq,and Fatimmyides,ruling from Egypt.Yemen was shifting its loyalty between both dynasties,and sometimes dividing the country to two or three smaller states,each having their own authority that follows the Khalffiets either in Baghdad or Cairo.
Initially Rasoliete were Kurds who ruled under the umbrella of Abbasside dynasty in Iraq.They came right after the Ayobbides whom,Toran Shah, brother of Saladin Al-Ayobi was one of the famous rulers in Yemen,and whose loyalty was originally for Egypt.He built the Qahira Castle in Taiz.
Stories say that he was the one who designed Taiz, naming it at first “THEE-ODAINA” after his doctors recommended its location for its fresh clear air,and nice moderate weather for him,since he suffered a chronic illness.He also was not happy with his deployment to Yemen after living all his life between Damascus,Cairo,and Baghdad,major glamourous cities at the time.
However,he created a legacy and managed to get out the control of Fattimyeds in Yemen and prepare for Noor Al-Dien Al Rasooli,the first Rasoliete,whom was Kurdish like him,to rule after his life, all of Yemen.

What made Rasolietes era so unique was the government’s interest in education and literature. Every Mosque was designed to include a library and a school (Madrasah-المدرسة) where students would have sessions in Arabic literature, religion, math, and even philosophy.
The spirit of Rasoliete and their passion for education is still in the people of Taiz. It was deeply imbedded in their culture that today it is considered the most literate city in Yemen, and most of intellectual Yemeni women come from there too. Taiz brought the most brilliant minds of the country and it now proudly holds the title of the cultural capital of Yemen.

Later in my college years, I grew a friendship with a Kurdish Iraqi friend, who once in our long talks about native food of our countries, she told me that they also have a meal consisted of dates with eggs, and that it was also served as a specialty food for new moms, or guests!
My astonishment and excitement was more than anyone could believe, as growing up in Yemen, I never knew any of my school piers, or neighbors or closely anyone but my family who knows that meal, except later on in my life, I found my mother in-law knows this recipe too.
Even my dad recalls an adventure trip of his own in 1964 to Aden, when it was still a British colony. He remembers he was in a pick-up car with half-dozen people traveling, and then something happened to the car right before Al-Rahida village (one hour away from Aden) and needed to stop.
In that remote area there was nothing served by the villagers for dinner but eggs and dates so he offered making that dish, who nobody knew it existed.Thirty years later,he met one of those travelers in a complete incident and he reminded him of that dish that he made.Needless to say how much he loved it.

So what is the story behind this one of best hidden secrets of Yemeni food?
Eggs and dates is a common meal in Iraq and Iran.ofcourse it must be, both of these countries are famous of their top quality dates around the world! This meal could found its way through Rasolietes ruling who,as Kurds, came to Yemen with all their customs, and foods. However, as a Yemeni dish, it was flavored and tweaked to fit the Yemeni tasting buds as it’s seasoned with nutmeg and cardamom for extra taste. Families who lived in older neighborhoods in the big Yemeni gated cities must have picked that up, which actually explains why I never met anyone out of my grandparent’s neighborhood who would know it! Stone dish makes an extra flavor to it as it slowly transfers the heat to the dates and builds up a sweet crispy layer at the base of the dish,which I love digging at the end of the meal as an extra treat after a sweet,heart warming meal .

This Recipe is very simple, easy to re arrange the ratio of dates to eggs depending on wther you like it more sweet or savory and calls for three main ingredients; and served with warm bread.

Ingredients:
3 Eggs
2-3 spoons of Butter or clarified ghee
1 cup of seedless Dates
Seasoning:
Salt and pepper, & Cardmom, Nutmeg (if desired)
Ingreditents

-First heat the stone dish and put the butter in until it melts completely.
-Add the dates and start making a purée or until it becomes completely soft and combined together like a dough.
-Make a hole in the center and add the eggs. There are two ways to do it, either by whisking the eggs in a separate dish then pour it to the center or break the eggs directly.
As for me, I prefer the second one, maybe because this is how my aunt used to serve it to us on our Friday visits.

butter

sizzling dates

hole in the dates purea

egg in the dates

Sources
http://alamree.net/alboum-taiz_2.htm
http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/food/articles/2009/08/19/khorma_tokhme_morgh_dates_and_eggs_recipe/

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سلتة Saltaah

Yemen+spaceship +salta

Saltaah seems to me like a dish that dropped out of an Alien’s space ship on Yemen, as I never saw anything similar to it in any were else!

Even the word Saltaah has no specific origin in Arabic. Saltaah, originally is a derived word from the original Salatah سلطة, which means combination of vegetables. Internationally known as Salad. The term Salatah came with the Turkish troops upon their long trials to invade Yemen.Saltaah,however is a combination of vegetables, boiled in a stew and topped with Hilba (mix of Fenugreek seeds and grounded green herbs-Khathawir).Its eaten using bread, and always served in a stone dish. Somehow this term changed from Salataah to Saltaah and was used through years specifically for this meal.

A Few years ago, I learned that there was a famous sad folkloric Turkish song that talks about Turkish soldiers who went to  Yemen but they never came back.

Yemen was a far away land, it would’ve been impossible for them to come home again, if they were still alive. It was sang by the grandma’s who lost their fathers, brothers, and sons for the Ottoman colonial expansions. I would never know about it, until that day when I chit chatted my way out of boredom in transit while waiting for my flight to Istanbul then to Yemen with two nice Turkish people. They were a young girl and her grandfather, who passionately told me about this song, and before I realize, the girl started singing it for me!:)

After some research (Thanks to YouTube) I was able to get it and listen to that lost peace of history.

There are different versions to the story of Saltaah’s origin, but the most common one that it first started in the (IDAMAT-الادامات ), a common charity houses during Ottoman Empire).They used to save food leftovers given from rich families or Mosques by mixing them all together and warmed up in stone pots under fire for long amount of time.

It’s humbling to know that this dish, rich with flavors, textures, and nutrition would be invented by poor. This however didn’t prevent it from finding its way to the tables of sheikhs and merchants all over the country later on.

Ottoman troop’s continued their trials to invade Northern Yemen between( 1597-1630) and(1830-1918).Only until the 1830’s they were able to take Sana’a from the ruling Zayidi Imams at the time, making it the Yemeni district capital in 1872. (1) Perhaps that’s why Saltaah is more popular in Northern Yemen?!

During this 88 years period, many Yemenis where given titles and positions under the Ottoman government and some Turks settled, and got married to Yemeni women and vice versa, diversifying the ethnic and cultural scene of the country.

yemeni kids from the mountains

Yemeni cooking stone dishes

Stone Dish مقلى

If you are out of Yemen, it might be difficult to find a stone ware (Maklaa-مقلى) like the ones made in Yemen.You might be able to find Korean bowls in Asian grocery stores that are similar to them. It is very common in Far East cultures to cook with stone dishes as well. Yemeni cooking stone  dishes

A mosque that was built under Ottoman ruling with clearly  Turkish  architectural style

A mosque that was built under Ottoman ruling with clearly Turkish architectural style

financial reciept issued in Yemen under Ottoman empire

financial reciept issued in Yemen under Ottoman empire

Ottoman Coin 1846-in Yemen

Ottoman Coin 1846-in Yemen

It seems that Saltaah became a trade mark of Yemeni Cuisine. Its served sizzling, usually towards the end of the meal and eaten with Sahawek Bisbas, or alone with warm bread. Yemenis swear by its health benefits and how it warms them up in the winter. The great thing about Saltaah is it could be served all vegetarian or with meat or chicken as well.

Ingredients:

Hilba Ingredients

1.5 eating spoon of Fenugreek Seeds powder soaked in water

Fenugreek seed powder to the right.To the left is the same fenugreek seed powder after being soaked in cold water

Fenugreek seed powder to the right.
To the left is the same fenugreek seed powder after being soaked in cold water

Khathawir (Green paste mixed with hilba)

5 leaves of mint

4-5 cloves of garlic

Pinch of salt

½ Bundle of Leek (optional though)

½ bundle of cilantro

3-4 Basel Leaves

½ tea spoon of dried zaatar

½ tea spoon of Cumin

khathawer ingredients

Khathawer after grind

 

Saltaah Base

2/3 cup of Chicken broth or Meat broth

½ onions grounded

1 grounded tomato

½ green peppers

Optional additions

1 egg or chicken or meat, cooked potato, Tomato Paste, beans, cooked rice

 

-Start by soaking the fenugreek seeds powder in water for 3 hours before starting to cook.

-Mix Khathawir ingredients in your food processor until they all become well blended, set aside.

-Now remove the water from the Fenugreek seed powder, and start whisking it with wood spoon until it foams up and become white in color, your Hilba is almost ready.

-Add some Khathawir into Hilba, until it becomes green; keep the rest of Khathawir in your fridge.

Khathawer+whipped saltaah

green hilbah

-Heat the stone dish on the oven , add some oil and start adding the onions, tomatoes, green peppers.

-Add any optional additions.

koshin

Now add the broth and bring to complete boil, if it evaporated quickly add more as you wish.

maraq

saltaah

-Now add the green Hilba on top of it, you will notice it will cool it down a little bit, wait until it start bubbling again, but don’t mix it. The last layer of Saltaah should be with the green foam on top.

-Serve sizzling with warm bread, and spicy Sahawek Bisbas.

 Sources

(1)    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Yemen#Ottoman_influence

(2)    http://www.forumbiodiversity.com/showthread.php/24486-Mountain-Yemenies

(3)    http://stampandpostalhistory.blogspot.com/2012/02/turkish-otthman-issued-in-yemen-dated.html

A mention from Los Angelese Times Yemeni Stone ware http://articles.latimes.com/2006/feb/22/food/fo-soapstone22/2