Some of the Middle East’s most loved dishes has its origins in Yemen and it’s not just ‘Mandi’ that I am referring to here. Its rich food culture has contributed a lot more than just the well-known Mandi and I would like to bridge the gap my unlettered mind has made conclusions on.

I never say no to an invitation that involves devouring ‘Mandi’ which happens to be readily available in Saudi Arabia no matter which part of the country you live in. This is a traditional dish that originated from Hadhramaut, Yemen consisting mainly of meat and rice with a special blend of spices called Hawajj, usually cooked in an underground pit but this process can vary. My personal favourite happens to be the ‘Waleema Mandi’ that ‘Qatif Hospitality Restaurant’ is known for but don’t let my choice misguide you. There are plenty of well-known restaurants like ‘Zad Sultan’, ‘Tanour’ that you can check out if you reside in the Eastern Province that are equally appetising.

‘Chicken Zurbian’ from Romansi Al Sharqiya

One of my recent favourites has been the ‘Zurbian’ which I’ve been ordering quite frequently from ‘Romansi Al Sharqiya’ restaurant in Dammam / Khobar and I am disappointed by the fact that not many people understand its origins. The textures this dish offers is wildly different from the Mandi and can be regarded as being a lot more potent in terms of the flavours this dish gives out. You’ll find everything from caramelised onions, stewed potatoes, masala and spices that have been ingrained in both the meat and the rice. The stock seems to bind all these components together giving this meaty dish some distinctive flavours.

Next on my list of must try’s is ‘Haneeth’, something that I’ve only enjoyed feasting on when in the UAE. I am yet to come across a restaurant that serves this slow roasted lamb dish in Saudi which is prepped with a dry rub and cooked for close to 6 hours on low to achieve Nirvana. Served on rice, it is both comforting and delectable.

I quick search on Wikipedia for ‘Yemeni Cuisine’ can give you an idea of what’s left to explore and this is no small list. I am particularly fascinated by ‘Fahsa’, ‘Harees’ and ‘Thareed’ which I will be focusing on in an attempt to expand my understanding of ‘Yemeni Food’.

Watch this space folks, the journey to discover the best of ‘Yemeni Cuisine’ has just begun.

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