EID CELEBRATION AND FOOD

Collection of cookies and nuts served with smoked icy water with mistika, candy,juice and and black tea with mint

Collection of cookies and nuts served with smoked icy water with mistika, candy,juice and and black tea with mint

Eid of Ramadan is considered the first three days after the holy month of Ramadan, a holly month where all Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset from eating and drinking.
Eid for countries that adopt Ramadan is the equal of Christmas in western countries.
The festivity and celebration during this time of the year comes with many memories of mine as a child growing up in Yemen.
First, everyone must wear new clothes, and be scrubbing clean. Men /some women, go for Eid morning prayers, and then get back to a large breakfast meal celebrating the first day after a long month of fasting.

Eid this year started beautifully , relatively cooler after a whole night of rain showers on City of Taiz, .We woke up to a foggy misty day!..People here love it specially when its August!

Eid this year started beautifully , relatively cooler after a whole night of rain showers on City of Taiz, .We woke up to a foggy misty day!..People here love it specially when its August!

Usually, the first day of Eid is hard on people to adjust their sleeping hours back to normal night hours after shifting them during Ramadan, and that’s why many likes to start the day with a big cup of Yemeni, spiced, and freshly brewed coffee (Bonn-بُن) and maybe one or two dates.
Kids know that they will not be punished at the night of Eid.My dad remembers, as a child, he used to be extra naughty and less caring for keeping his clothes clean while playing with other kids because he knows that no kid would sleep sad or crying at the night before Eid.
Kids were disciplined at that day by telling them that Eid flys away and refuses to arrive to a city were their kids were not behaving well. You can imagine how kids believe, just like how kids in the west believe of mysterious Santa visiting from the north pole and bromgs with him his precious gifts.
Later on, after breakfast, kids get ready to go with their parents in a series of house visits for family members.
This time of the year is considered very important for families to re-unite, get back in touch, and know each and everyone’s updates on their lives.
Problems or conflicts discussions are delayed for after Eid, and everyone look forward to spend some good time with their families, and to remember their loved ones who passed away by visiting their tombs and inviting their families for lunch and afternoon socializing.
Its very important to bring some money as a gift or as Yemenis call it “Aasb” عسب for women of the family or others with financial needs. A support system that has been around for so long to promote the strength and unity between families, and a way to help and care for others without being labelled as a charity gesture, its simply just an Eid gift.
Kids get their share of money gifts too, it’s also has another name “Oyadaah” عُياده. I remember at this age that I would get all my Oyadah during my visits, but then spend it all over afternoon buying fireworks and candy.

This year,while my visit to my grandfather’s house, I witnessed neighborhood’s kids knocking the doors asking for their Oyadah and some cookies. For none family kids its usually a nominal amount of money.I was surprised how girls are noticing women’s fashion, very different from how I had it in my childhood. Fancy big hairs styles, sparkly dresses, and big accessories. Only then, I realized that I am the one growing older, and I forgot how exciting kids become at this time and competing to be fancy and “cool” as much as they can. I vaguely remember I was nagging and begging my mom to wear high heels like her but I can’t remember if it worked or not.

Neighbor's kids meet up after finishing their visits with their families and start knocking doors asking for their candy and Oyadah :)

Neighbor’s kids meet up after finishing their visits with their families and start knocking doors asking for their candy and Oyadah 🙂


Fancy little princesses

Fancy little princesses


Noticing this moment reminded me, in a weird way, with my first experience of Halloween in the United States. Neighborhod’s kids rang my bell asking for candy, they were wearing cute crazy costumes, and most importantly, all drew huge smiles in their faces when they received there candy bars.
As I was taking those pictures was thinking that this is exactly how every kid in this world should celebrate.
henna motives
My mom used to draw beautiful motives of Henna on my hands, a tradition that is still strong in old neighborhoods of cities of Yemen. This costume is still alive and thriving in most of Yemen urban and rural area,however ,most people now use a ready to make henna tape that you put on your hand and fill in the pattern’s gaps with henna . Henna plant is considered a blessed plant . It is pretty much used for dying hair ,and making henna motives on skin. Its mixture with water is popular to cool down head from heat in hot weather.
Later on we got back our way home, and finished up the celebration with meat in the oven , Fattah meal (that could be eaten with honey or with yogurt and spicey bisbas chilli) and Saltah.
Meat,Fattah,and Saltah, what can I ask more for Eid?

Meat,Fattah,and Saltah, what can I ask more for Eid?


That’s how Yemenis spend Eid , and how family meetings continue during the first three days after Ramadan.

11/9/2013
Note

On that same month, I was delighted to be invited to speak on Ramadan rituals through Mafraj Radio. Mafraj Radio is a podcast organized by Will Picard, founder of Yemen Peace Project.
If you are interested in Listening to the Podcast Please, check this Link.

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Kisher Coffee smoked with Mistika – قهوة قشر مبخرة بالمستكة

Kisher
Kisher Coffee,A drink that is not quite a coffee or tea.
For many coffee lovers like me, the rituals that comes in preparation is just as important as the coffee itself.
CUP OF KISHER

Having Kisher Coffee in Yemen is considered as the classic afternoon ritual for many Yemeni households. When Kisher coffee is served, it means socializing with family and guests had started.
Kisher coffee is also good for digesting after a heavy meal, as it is usually accompanied with spices such as cinnamon, and ginger. Sipping and enjoying a long afternoon with either some sweet dessert, or Thamool, (dry salty cookies) is one of the old traditions that Yemenis had kept since forever.
I find it brilliant how Yemenis make it important to produce tasty foods and drinks with minimal waste.
Kisher coffee is one of those brilliant inventions. It is the dry shell of the coffee, which usually is thrown away .The coffee shell has a great –tea like- flavor with less caffeine than coffee and tea combined and provides a very healthy drink since it has so many anti-oxidants (1). Kisher (derived from the word Kishra قشرة (in Arabic language simply means the outer shell or skin.
It is usually brewed with spices such as ginger, cardamom, and nutmeg. Usually for long time like 45 mints or with less amount of time, if desired lighter. While writing this, my mom insisted to explain in this blog that these ingredients are flexible to your taste, some households add ginger only, where some people like it with cinnamon and cardamom and the other stuff. The way my mom do it at home, is adding a little of everything, and let the Kisher brew slowly in the kettle until it turns to golden brown color.

For many, this ritual is considered enough to make your cup of Kisher coffee ready, however, there is also a beautiful ritual that I would like to share with you from my family’s household that we used to do each Ramadan, or whenever we have senior guests since they still like to hold on to old coffee traditions. This ritual is smoking the coffee cups with Mistika.

Mistika

Mistika is a natural gum product from trees(Boswellia sacra) that is also known for flavoring desserts or food. It is also used in producing a pleasant smoky smells when burned with charcoal.
boswellia-sacra-a

Old Yemenis used Mistika in their rituals and prayers in their shrines, at the times; it was for Ilmaqa, the goddess of the Moon. Yemeni Merchants realized how much it was important for the prayers for many temples in Egypt, Ethiopia,and up to Jerusalem. In a route famously named with “Incense Road” طريق اللبان و البخور,Yemeni Merchants traveled and exchanged Mistika with Gold and Silver coins and valued goods from those faraway lands, as it was so much valued in the process of prayers of old times religions.
Today Mistika is burned to make houses smell pleasant, when people receive guests, and even believed to persuade the evil eyes to go away from the household and protect its residents.
This ritual reminds me with Ramadan, a spiritual month that comes every year with so many cooking, and eating rituals.
To smoke the coffee cups with Mistika you will first need to heat the Falss فلس, a block of carved stone on the oven with some charcoal to keep its heat.

FALSS فلس

SMOKING CUPS

When it turns to red and hot, cover it in your grill for a while with the hot charcoal, until you know it maintained its heat. If you do not have Maoqad موقد, you can use your grill too. When Falss turn hot and red it is then ready to start smoking the cups.

First start with putting Mistika pieces on top of the Falss. The Mistika will start burning.
Quickly put the first cup for couple of minutes or until the cup turns into yellow/brown color. This color is actually sticky too. Do not worry, soon when you drink in a coffee this colored layer will dissolve in your coffee and brings a unique smoky taste in your coffee.

SMOKED MISTIKA RESIDUE

First, Remove the first cup and quickly bring the second cup and repeat the process.
Put more Mistika for more smoke and finish up the rest of the cups.


Preparation of Kisher Coffee

Ingredients

Ingredients
¼ tea spoon Ginger powder
½ stick of Cinnamon
2-3 Cardamom seeds
2-3 Cloves
Pinch of nutmeg powder
Kisher (for every 300 ml of water, add ¼ cup of kisher)
Preparation
(There are many ways for grinding and preparing Kisher coffee, some like it to be plain and raw, and some like it to be smoothly grounded to be like powder and mixed with powdered spices all together. There is also a type of Kisher coffee that called Moshahafa coffee قهوة مشهفة that means” gone under heat very quickly” until it turns to golden color. This process brings a toasty sweet taste to your coffee.)
-Add water, sugar, spices and Kisher all together and let brew slowly until it turns to golden color.

Sources:
http://kishr.com/health/
http://ar.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D9%84%D8%A8%D8%A7%D9%86

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/

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

Aseed or Aseeda عصيد\عصيدة

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Aseed is an absolutely true Yemeni dish .A dish that you could find in the table of rich or poor equally sharing it with pride with their guests without the awkwardness of thinking of giving you an extra plate or spoon to yourself. You simply dig in with your fingers, communally sharing it with the rest. This act is enough to break the ice with people you don’t know in the table, so if you find yourself eating it with others don’t be shy and go for it, or you will find yourself leaving the place hungry. It’s served boiling, and Yemenis are fast eaters because they like their food burning hot!

This reminds me of a story of my husband, who invited an American friend to have lunch with his family in a restaurant, so he joined in, food was served, everyone was enjoying their meal, it wasn’t long until they were asking for the check and leaving. Later, the American friend called my husband and asked him if he offended his family by any way?!

Astonishingly my husband answered:” not at all, infact they like you!”.. And followed Asking with why did he feel this way? So he goes “you guys finished eating and left the restaurant so quickly, I thought I did something wrong!”..My husband went laughing, “Yemenis eat, they don’t dine”!

So that’s one of the cultural things you will learn about Yemeni eating habits , where they spend less time eating, and more time later in the afternoon, socializing while chewing qat or on a cup of Kisher coffee.

In the past however, that was a time spent by tribal nomads traveling for survival in the wilderness. It’s an eligible question to ask how would traveling tribes would make Aseed if they didn’t by the nature of their life style farm and cultivate grains. The truth is, Yemeni tribes realized how harsh it could be to wander in this vast land. With their survival instincts, and some engineering skills they managed to make dams right, and save water. The grand Dam of Mareb,(790 b.c-325 a.d) (1) is the most famous one as it was the nuclear beginning of Sheba’s Kingdom, and led later to its control on merchants routes to Mecca and around the region, it truly established their civilization. Old Yemeni civilization is a result of Bedouin urbanization and their understanding the importance of water. A hierarchal transition from living in the tent was living in mud houses.Thats how Yemeni tribes differentiated themselves from other tribes in the Peninsula. For the first time they became to be known as a state.

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That being said, with Mareb’s Dam demolition at 575 a.d (2), Yemeni tribes experienced the biggest migration wave through its history to areas with bigger sources of water. They even reached up to Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Palestine. Yemenis didn’t want to get back to the life of constant traveling from one place to another. Yemeni Tribes found themselves needing to travel long distances across the mountains and in the desert with minimum luggage and Aseed fulfilled that need as a truly minimal dish that needs the least ingredients and fills them up like no other! They just needed one pot, one Wood spoon (Mihwash-محواش)or (Makhdoshمخدش-),Any shortening available, and pinch of salt!… Voila! Moreover, because it’s a heavy meal, it made them full for long hours, which was convenient since they won’t need to make fire for cooking every three hours for snacks!This recipe had varied and evolved in every region depending on what local crops were available.

Having a meal consisting of a cooked Flour and sort of sauce is common in many countries in the world, and not just Yemen,I recently found a recipe for English Dumplings with Stew,although the process of work is very different than Aseed,the recipe’s essence was very similar.

Aseed is also known in the south region of Saudia Arabia, Libya, and Sudan. Countries with tribal heritage knew Aseed as a filling dish, and as a complete meal in one serve. It can be made out of Wheat flour, Corn Flour, Pearl Millet flour-Dokhn ( (دخن, or literally any kind of grounded grain!-I don’t recommend using white flour though as its consistency is not as dense as others and get cold quickly, turning into a plastic textured mix- Its served either as a savory dish with meet/or chicken broth, or with different other dressings such as) Hakieen (حقين which is close to buttermilk but with a deep smokey flavor or as a sweet dish with honey or dates. Either way it is considered as a main dish, as you will notice, Yemenis serve sweet dishes in the middle of the meal, especially on Friday’s lunches and when having guests.

The Middle region of Yemen, for instance adores dairy products, it has a long agricultural tradition as it has the most amount of rain water in the Arabian Peninsula­(2) This abundance of water and the fertile lands of Ibb, Taiz ,beside its relatively close distance from red sea, made Aseed coming from this region very unique. Some recipes are mixed with yogurt and herbs, or exquisite Tamarind sauce. One coming from Old city of Taiz, is even mixed with grounded dried baby fish (Wazef-وزف). Here I will start with a simple recipe for Aseed that is considered a standard recipe, and from there; will follow with more Aseed recipes in the future.

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Aseed etiquette

Communal foods also have etiquette!

Sharing food from one dish with many people could actually be appalling to some, however, there are manners you can’t break when eating with others or you will be considered a pig that’s spoiling the meal for others so the plate could be all yours!

1-Rule of thumb, index, and middle. Only eat with those three fingers, never with your five, one hand only, not both.

2-Never ever let the food go above the first mark of your fingers, remember the more food goes up that mark; the most probably you will get it in to your mouth.

3-Only eat from your side of the plate. It’s considered polite to get your food only from your side to make sure everyone has a fair share of it.

4 -“Aseed curses the one who follows it with drink.” العصيده تلعن اللي يشرب بعدها

This is a common say you might hear if you tried drinking water while eating Aseed or right after. Try to not drink water or juice with it or directly following to it. As hot or spicy it can get, drinking water will make the grains you had in your stomach go swollen and bigger, bloating your belly and your intestines. A feeling of discomfort may continue up to two hours or more until your stomach is able to fully digest it.

5-You might encounter a burp or two while eating or after, to control the damage, make sure to handle the situation by closing your five fingers of your hand together like a boat shape, and put it closely to your mouth, followed by looking up, making sure to channel the smell upward ,and say “Alhamdulillah “ 🙂

Aseed with Chicken Broth and sour Hilba (Fenugreek)

Aseed Ingredients

This recipe calls for wheat flour, but you can use Corn Flour if you want.

2 ½ cups of wheat Flour

Pinch of Salt

4-5 eating spoon of oil /or butter/or Ghee

2 boiled cups of water on the side

Chicken Broth

1 ½ eating spoon of vegetables oil

1 whole Chicken with bones, cleaned with water and salt, skin and fat removed.

1 whole finely chopped onion

5-6 finely chopped cloves of garlic

1 big sliced potato

1 ½ tea spoon of Cumin

1 tea spoon of Salt,

½ tea spoon on black pepper

3-4 Cardamom seeds

2 cloves

½ stick of cinnamon

4-5 cups of water

1-2 Bay leaves

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First thing first you have to know it is important that Aseed should be served very hot, even more hot than what people can handle, because it gets cold quickly, and it cannot be reheated as any other meal. It gets rubbery in texture, and you end up throwing the rest of leftovers. So make the Aseed later after you finished making the Chicken broth and the sour Hilba.

-Helba powder needs to stay at least 3 hours in water to be ready to be mixed therefore; I prefer to start doing this right away before anything else.

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-Next comes the Chicken broth. First add the oil in your deep pot, heat it, and put the onions, wait until golden

-Follow with garlic and the spices, then the potato.

-Put the chicken pieces and keep moving them in the pot under the heat and follow with water.

-Boil until chicken is tender and potato is soft.

-Now get back to the Hilba, remove the water and start whisking it quickly with a wooden spoon. When it starts to get foamy and white, add the salt, and vinegar. Your Sour Hilba is ready

Sour Hilba

2 eating spoon on Fenugreek seeds powder

Soup plate,half filled with water

Pinch of salt

3-4 eating spoons of white vinegar –as desired.

IMG_1174 1- Hilba Powder to the right, and to the left Hilba soaked in water

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2-Hilba after been wisked,then added vinegar and salt

ASEED

-Here comes the moment of truth with Aseed, make sure you grow some muscles, do some stretching before that workout, you will literally be kneading on fire! 🙂

-Make water into boil, add shortening and salt.

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-Add the flour, and as you keep adding start moving the wooden spoon in circles quickly until it gets thicker and thicker, and harder to your hands.(Becarefull, the mixture may start to pop up some hot bubbles to your face, make sure you don’t get burned. You should be in total control with it.)

-Remove the pot onto the ground to be able to knead strongly, be comfortable to get the right angle while still kneading the Aseed quickly.

-If you find it getting difficult to control the consistency of the Aseed, and it started to have solid particles in your mixture, also called (Baraqit-(براقط, add some boiled water and knead more, DO NOT add cold water as it will harden the Aseed. Nobody likes( Aseeda mibarqataa,meaning Aseed with the solid particlesعصيده مبرقطة ) in their mouth .

-Now it’s finally turning smooth, get it back under low heat, add more boiled water, and let it cook, for 15-18 minutes..

-Again knead your mixture, and add more oil until its smooth.

-If you are serving in a different dish, move the Aseed and drizzle more oil and make the sides soft and smooth-no pressure though :):)

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-Make a well in the center of Aseed and add the chicken broth.

-Serve Aseed, Chicken broth, the sour Hilba on the side,and spicy sahawiq bisbas (spicy tomato base sauce side) together

-Now enjoy a recipe of thousands years of old,right from the comfort of your 21st century Kitchen. 🙂

Sources:

1-http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marib_Dam

2-http://archive.unu.edu/unupress/unupbooks/uu02fe/uu02fe07.htm

http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/p/m/19c0dd/

Oshaar (Pickled lemon) عـشـــْـــار

It was sometimes in the 912 A.D During the Abbasid Khaliffet Dynasty when the first lemon seeds were brought to Egypt from India, and where seen in Oman and Yemen (1). We don’t know exactly how did this plant found its way to Yemen, but it surely opened the doors for new flavors in cooking in the whole region. Lemon mostly needed to be preserved to be used for the whole year round.

Oshaar is a very popular lemon pickle. It is traced from Indian origins but differs from the Indian lemon pickles in many ways though, it has no oil (which I actually prefer it that way), it’s less spicy, and is more runny than the traditional Indian version. It’s simple yet rich in its flavor. I like to eat Oshaar with Mayonnaise in a sandwich, but usually it is eaten with rice and meat.

From Aden, this pickled heavenly, savory; delicious dressing marched to the rest of the country. Aden is a port city and was part of the British colony. Many Indians who worked for the British at that time moved and settled in Aden as it was bustling with businesses. In 1963, the last British soldier left Aden, but many Indians, however, made Aden homeland. Until now, Aden is known for its Indian influenced cuisine.Oshaar is only one of many things Yemenis share with Indians.

Old Stamps that represents Aden from the British Colony Era

Ingredients:

Sea Salt

½ cup of Vinegar

18 green small Lemons

8 thinly sliced Garlic Cloves

7-8 thinly slices small carrots

Empty Jam Jars.

4-5 dried red hot chili

Black seed (Nigella Sativa) -optional  

Cumin -optional

Start cutting the Lemons in + shape from its middle section.

Fill the + shape with the sea salt until it’s totally stuffed and start to fill the jam jars with them.

After slicing the carrots and garlic put some of them in each jar evenly and follow with filling only half the jars with vinegar.

Close the jam jars tightly, and make sure you put them in an area that is exposed to sun for almost most of the day. My mom used to put Oshaar Jars on the ceiling of our house, and keep it out for a whole 6-7 weeks.

Now the lemons are pickled and ready for the second step, which is adding the red hot chili and black seed.

First boil the red chili in a small pot half filled with water, then remove the water, repeat this step 2 more times. If you, like your Oshaar spicier then you can boil the chili for one time only.

grind the chili in the food processor with the boiled water and 2 fresh garlic cloves.

Mix this blend with the pickled lemon and add the black seed before you close the jar again.

Your Oshaar is ready!

Sources:

1The geographical distribution of animals and plants: part I, Part 1 ,p.117

http://books.google.com/books?id=CW8WAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA117&dq=when+did+lemon++cultivated+in+yemen&hl=en&sa=X&ei=1xe4UIHqH4Pe8AS9ooGoCA&ved=0CDAQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=when%20did%20lemon%20%20cultivated%20in%20yemen&f=false