Ramadan Mobarak 2014

ramadan kareem card

I would like to give all my followers a heartwarming congratulations on Ramadan.

This month is dear and near to my heart for many reasons, one of them is that it reminds me a lot of the old good days when I was a kid growing up in Taiz, Yemen. We had blast in Ramadan, .It was the time to break rules such as eating endless amount of sweets, staying awake late at night until the very first light rays of the next morning, and going school late and leaving early .To give you a closer picture , it’s like a whole month of Christmas on steroids!!

Each year, I take this month as a time to reflect on my life and become more spiritual. I can’t help but also to wish that Yemen, will hopefully find peace and become a better place for its people.

I decided for this month to be posting brief diary on my adventures in the kitchen in Ramadan, some recipes might not necessarily be Yemeni , as much as I love Yemeni food, I totally love to dive into trying new flavors and new recipes.

I will also try to share more of Ramadan stories that are more related to my life back in Yemen, and Jordan,and here in the U.S,just to keep with the cultural theme that I started in this blog, so if you have a memory related to Ramadan, and food , that you would like to share in the Yemenkitchen space feel free to put it down this post or through twitter as well @YemenKitchen.

In the mean time , you can hear my interview with Yemen Peace Project that I did on Ramadan 2013 and learn more about Ramadan rituals.

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Lahooh لحوح

lahooh

Lahooh is a Yemeni bread that like no other.It mostly looks like pancake but tastes sour. This sourness is due to the fermentation process that the dough goes through and the proportion of liquid to flour. It’s for that reason it’s preferred to be consumed on the same day it’s made or will be very sour, stickier, and breaks down into stiff pieces. You will be surprised how many recipes there are for Lahooh. They usually differentiate in the amount of yeast that is included and the amount of time it took to get fermented.
Lahooh in Yemen is the same Enjiera of Ethiopia, only it’s made of Corn and white flour, while the second is made of Tiff flour. This bread, and some other delicious food are part of the African-Yemeni cultural fusion through long history of migrations, wars, and marriages between both civilizations.
I grew up eating Lahooh mainly in Shafoot, a Yemeni appetizer that is mainly made of one or two layers of Lahooh bread dipped in yogurt-Khathawir sauce and garnished with salad, grape, or pomegranate, whichever was in season. This was my favorite meal, I could eat a whole 12 inch dish all on my own! Lahooh is also eaten with Zigni, another African influenced super spicy meal that is usually made of chicken with sauce and Ethiopian special spices, hard boiled eggs and served on a bed of Lahooh. The sourness of the bread goes well with the spicy flavor of this exotic meal.

History
Oldest stories of Ethiopian influence in Yemen are traced back to the earliest ages of Christianity in Yemen. Particularly between the 3rd and 5th century A.D.
At that time, Yemen was a competing stadium between bigger kingdoms, the Christian Byzantium and Zoroastrian Persia. Yemen’s positions was Natural at the times as there trade was flourishing and it was important for them to keep good relations with both powers. The main religion at the time was Judaism. Scholars think that Kings of Yemen may favored Judaism for that exact reason and to limit the Ethiopian interference in the country.(1) This however, was difficult to continue, as in 525 AD ,the Negus , or King of Aksum, the Ethiopian Kingdom, that follows the Christian Byzantium church started interfering in South Arabian Affairs, across the red sea controlling western Tehama region and many other areas for the desire to control the trade in Yemen, particularly port of Aden, and had ambitions to start a Byzantine base in the Arabian Peninsula.

It’s hard not to mention the Najran Massacre as it was an incident that had a tremendous impact on Yemen at the time, and basically triggered the invasion by Aksums.
Yusuf Dhu-Nawas, a Yemeni Jewish who ruled Hemyarite kingdom had enough of Aksums interventions in Yemen, he began a war against Christians. In 524 AD he massacred and prosecuted Christians in Najran, in what was to be known as one of the bloodiest massacres known in old history.

Portrait of  King of Himyarites Yusof Dhu-Nawas

Portrait of King of Himyarites Yusof Dhu-Nawas


Najran, which was always part of Yemen, until 1934 became part of Saudi Arabia. It was considered a peaceful haven for Christians, Jewish, and Pagans, and was a financial center for Christian merchants.
Tens of thousands Christians were burned alive, the shocking news flew around Arabia and to Europe, raising anger and demanding for revenge. The survived Christian tribes fled to the valley of Jordan and Palestine and lived there ever since.

There is a famous story of Abraha the king of Abysians, mentioned in the Holy Quran, who ferried elephants on ships to invade Yemen. He built a church in Sanaa in an attempt to distract the attention from Mecca hoping to change the trade route from Mecca to Sanaa, but it didn’t work for him. Eventually, Aksum’s power deteriorated by time and the church’s ruins got totally demolished in the first century of Islam in Yemen .Myths says that the big mosque in old city of Sanaa was built on its ruins.

Ethiopian Women

Ethiopian Women

Yemeni girl wearing traditional jewelry

Yemeni girl wearing traditional jewelry

Language
almusnad
Both countries shared the Amharic language during the Himyarite Kingdom (110 BC–520s) which is now considered the second major used Semitic language after Arabic (2), and the official language of Ethiopia. Amharic Language was the official language of Himyar Kingdom, and was written on stones of dams and shrines with Almusnad script.
I grew up seeing my mom talking to Ethiopian domestic helper in Amharic. She gained some language skills in talking with Ethiopians from my grandma who speaks it fluently after she lived couple of years in Asmara as a wife of a diplomat. To my surprise I was able at the time to complete brief talks and simple sentences in Amharic just by listening to what my mom and the lady would talk. I also noticed that Ethiopians learn Arabic within months, because of the common roots between both languages.
The influence of both countries had always been strong on each other, and the modern relations between both aren’t any less complex than its history, however, Lahooh and Enjiera are two sides of the same coin, and will still be enjoyed by both of Yemen’s and Ethiopia’s people.
Enjoy

Ingredients

Ingredients
1 cup of Corn Flour or Corn Meal
2 cups of White flour
1.5 eating spoon of Yeast
3-4 Cups of Water
Vegetable oil
Pinch of Salt

Directions

process 1
First mix white flour with Corn flour, put them in the oven to get toasted and turn light golden, get it out later and wait until completely cold.
Mix with Yeast, salt and gradually add water until it turns soluble and very light in texture.
process2
Cover the mix tightly with a plastic bag and put in a warm place for around 1.5 hours, or until the mixture turns with big bubbles, and smells a little sour.
-Start warming the pan (preferably used only for Lahooh) and wipe its surface with little oil, wait until it gains heat.
Start adding some of the mixture and quickly move it around the pan before it dries up.
-wait until it completely dry up and turn it upside down for a little.
-Make sure that the Lahooh you make are covered in a dry thick towel to keep them warm and the elastic texture of the Lahooh is maintained even after it gets cold.
fresh lahooh
-Start digging!

Sources
1- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yemen_Jews
2- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amharic_language

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Himyarite_Kingdom
http://ar.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D9%85%D8%B9%D8%A7%D9%87%D8%AF%D8%A9_%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B7%D8%A7%D8%A6%D9%81_%281934%29
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhu_Nuwas

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/