Exploring Yemen's Authentic Cuisine: Local Dishes, Restaurants & Recipes

Exploring Yemen's Authentic Cuisine: Local Dishes, Restaurants & Recipes

Exploring Yemen's Authentic Cuisine: Local Dishes, Restaurants & Recipes

Yemen, located in the southwestern part of the Arabian Peninsula, is a country rich in history, traditions, and mouthwatering cuisine. Yemeni cuisine is known for its bold flavors, unique spices, and diverse influences from the region. Let's dive into the world of Yemeni gastronomy and explore some of the top dishes, best restaurants, and even try our hands at cooking some traditional recipes.

Traditional Yemeni Dishes

When it comes to traditional Yemeni dishes, there are a few that should not be missed during your culinary journey. Here are some of the must-try dishes:

  • Zurbian: This flavorful rice dish is often served with chicken, lamb, or fish. The rice is seasoned with a blend of spices, including cumin, cardamom, and turmeric, giving it a yellow hue. Zurbian is usually garnished with fried onions and nuts, adding a delightful crunch.
  • Mandi: Mandi is a Yemeni staple that consists of seasoned meat (usually chicken or lamb) cooked in an underground tandoor oven. The meat is marinated with a mixture of aromatic spices and then slow-cooked, resulting in tender and flavorful meat.
  • Salta: Salta is a traditional Yemeni stew made with a base of meat (such as lamb or chicken), tomatoes, onions, and a variety of spices. The stew is topped with a layer of fenugreek-infused dough, which gives it a unique texture and flavor. Salta is often enjoyed with Yemeni flatbread called malawah.
  • Fahsa: Fahsa is a popular Yemeni dish that features tender chunks of lamb or beef simmered in a rich tomato-based sauce spiced with garlic, cumin, and black lime. The dish is typically served with Yemeni bread and makes for a satisfying and hearty meal.
  • Shafut: This traditional Yemeni soup is made with a mixture of vegetables, lentils, and spices. It is a comforting and nutritious dish, perfect for cold winter days. Shafut can be enjoyed as a starter or as a main course.

Yemeni Restaurants

Yemeni cuisine is best experienced by dining at authentic Yemeni restaurants. Here are some renowned Yemeni restaurants around the world:

  • Sana'a Restaurant (London, UK): Located in London's Edgware Road, Sana'a Restaurant offers a wide range of Yemeni dishes, from Mandi and Zurbian to traditional Yemeni desserts. The restaurant boasts an inviting ambiance, reminiscent of Yemeni hospitality.
  • Hadramout Restaurant (New York City, USA): Hadramout Restaurant, located in the heart of New York City, serves authentic Yemeni cuisine that will transport you straight to the bustling streets of Yemen. Their Mandi and Salta are highly recommended.
  • Al-Qasr Restaurant (Sana'a, Yemen): For those lucky enough to visit Yemen, Al-Qasr Restaurant in the capital city of Sana'a is a must-visit. Known for its delectable Yemeni dishes and beautiful traditional decor, this restaurant offers an authentic Yemeni dining experience.

Traditional Yemeni Recipes

Want to recreate the flavors of Yemen in your own kitchen? Here are a couple of traditional Yemeni recipes to try:

Recipe 1: Yemeni Mandi


  • 2 lbs (1 kg) of chicken or lamb
  • 4 cups of basmati rice
  • 2 tablespoons of Mandi spice mix (or a combination of cumin, cardamom, turmeric, and black lime powder)
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Salt to taste
  • 4 cups of water or chicken broth
  • Ghee or vegetable oil for frying


  1. Marinate the meat with the Mandi spice mix, minced garlic, and salt. Let it marinate for at least 2 hours or overnight for best results.
  2. In a large pot, heat the ghee or vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the sliced onions and cook until golden brown.
  3. Add the marinated meat to the pot and cook until browned on all sides.
  4. Add water or chicken broth to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 1 hour or until the meat is tender.
  5. Meanwhile, rinse the rice thoroughly and soak it in water for about 30 minutes. Drain the rice.
  6. In a separate pot, bring water to boil. Add the drained rice and cook until it is almost done. Drain the rice.
  7. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Transfer the cooked rice to a baking dish and place the meat on top of the rice.
  8. Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for about 30 minutes.
  9. Serve the Mandi hot with Yemeni flatbread and enjoy!

Recipe 2: Yemeni Shafut


  • 1 lb (500g) of lamb or beef, cubed
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 potatoes, diced
  • 1 cup of lentils
  • 4 cups of beef or vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon of black lime powder (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish


  1. In a large pot, heat some oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and minced garlic and sauté until golden brown.
  2. Add the meat to the pot and cook until browned on all sides.
  3. Add the diced carrots, potatoes, and lentils to the pot. Stir in the tomato paste, cumin, turmeric, and black lime powder. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Pour in the beef or vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 1 hour or until the meat and vegetables are tender.
  5. Once cooked, serve the shafut hot in bowls, garnished with chopped fresh cilantro.

Explore Yemeni Cuisine Near You

Can't make it to Yemen or the featured restaurants? Explore Yemeni cuisine near you by searching on Google Maps: