Yemeni cuisine is distinct from the wider Middle Eastern cuisines but with a degree of regional variation. Some foreign influences are evident in some regions of the country, the Yemeni kitchen is based on similar foundations across the country. When traveling to Yemen, you have to try the top best dishes in Yemen. Now, let’s learn with us!
Best Dishes in Yemen
Maraq is a Yemeni stewed lamb that’s defined by its rich flavor and thick broth. It’s a fairly spicy dish, but feel free to reduce or increase the number of spices based on your personal preferences. The key ingredients of Marag consist of a leg of lamb, bay leaf, cardamom pods, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, chopped onion, green chili, ground black pepper, minced garlic cloves, oil, salt, white flour, and water. Use a pressure cooker to make the meat tender, and prepare the broth in a separate saucepan.
Before serving the dish, make sure that you’ve removed whole spices and squeeze a lemon for added flavor.
Fahsa is a popular Yemeni street food that’s prepared in a clay pot known as a madra. It’s a stew that consists of lamb cutlets and is fairly spicy, and should always be served hot.
To prepare Fahsa, you’ll need the following ingredients: Canola oil, chopped onions, cumin, coriander, lamb cubes, Hulba paste, minced garlic cloves, pepper, salt, turmeric, and water. And, to prepare the Hulba paste, you’ll need the following: garlic, green chili, lemon juice, salt, tomato puree, and water.
Matfaiya is one of the best dishes in Yemen. It is a tasty dish that’s primarily made from chunks of Kingfish and dressed with a rich and thick tomato sauce, spices, and vegetables. But, that’s not all, you’ll also need the following ingredients: black pepper, chicken stock cubes, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, onions, tomatoes, vegetables, and water. Fry the fish on both sides in a large saucepan until they become brown and crispy, and prepare the tomato sauce inside a large bowl. Then, pour the tomato sauce over the fish before serving.
Mandi is Yemen’s national dish, native to Hadhramaut province, consisting of lamb or chicken meat, fragrant basmati rice, and a mixture of various spices. If lamb is used in the dish, it should be small-sized and as young as possible, to further enhance the flavors.
To make Mandi, the meat should be cooked in the tandoor, a specially designed hole in the ground covered with clay and charcoal, acting as an oven for the suspended meat above it. It is then closed and no smoke is allowed to go outside as it flavors the meat instead.
When the meat is tender and juicy, it is served with rice and accompaniments such as salads, yogurt, and spicy tomato chutneys. Beloved in Yemen and the rest of the Arabian Peninsula, mandi is often served for special events, such as feasts and weddings.
Martabak is a roti-like stuffed and fried pancake that is often served as a popular street food item in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Although the fillings may vary, some of the most popular ones include ground meat, eggs, garlic, onions, peppers, curry, and ghee.
Fresh herbs such as coriander and mint are often used for additional flavoring. The flatbread dough is supposed to be extremely thin and requires a lot of expertise. Another name for the dish is mutabbaq, an Arabic word meaning folded, referring to the way in which the stretchy dough is folded around the filling during cooking.
Madfoon is one of the numerous Arabian meals made with a combination of meat and rice. This signature dish is differentiated by a cooking technique in which the marinated meat is cooked in an underground hole where it is placed on the sand and surrounded by charcoal.
The smoke and heat slowly cook the meat, keeping it succulent and tender while providing it with a slightly smoky flavor and aroma. It is believed that this cooking method was inherited from the nomadic period when traditional ovens did not exist and cooking meat underground was a convenient way to utilize nature and keep the meat protected from hungry predators.
Shafoot is one of my favorite Yemeni dishes. It is a traditional local dish, unlike other middle eastern foods which are quite cross-border, coming from the Levant, Iraq, Northeast Africa, or the Arabian peninsula.
Shafoot’s made from yogurt and has a great savory and sour flavor. The yogurt is the champion of this dish as it’s the intermediary that brings all the other ingredients together.
The base of the dish is sourdough bread which is soaked in the yogurt. However, if this kind of bread is not available, it can be substituted with regular flatbread. The meal is finally topped with a variety of greens and sometimes minced meat.