Meal Ideas for Foreigners in Yemen

Another sister living in the Middle East and I were discussing how difficult it can be to keep the kids’ bellies filled during the day.  Things they snacked on/ate in the states can be kind of expensive over here and I have definitely not learned how to cook “Yemeni.”

Here are some of the ideas that we shared with each other:

Ramen Noodles

In Yemen, there are several brands, but the biggest selling brand is probably “Indomie” (in-doo-me).

They are typically 30-50 riyals a pack.  (about 25 cents a pack).  We mostly eat them by themselves, but sometimes we mix them with rice.

They are sold probably in all grocery stores, big and small.  A big box of 40 runs around 1500 riyals at Shumaila Hari. They tend to be more expensive at the smaller grocery stores.

Rice

As I have said before, I don’t know how to make Yemeni seasoned rice. But you can get seasoned rice from any local restaurant here.  Its about 150 riyals for a “nafr” (basically for a tray full).  We sometimes get 2-3 for lunch and a nafr or two of “mushakil” (a seasoned potato dish), with some salad and flat bread and it really fills us up. Occasionally, I’ll spring for some chicken to go with it.  They usually stop selling the lunch stuff around 1/1:30.

If you want to make rice at home, Maggi makes a white rice seasoning which is pretty good that you add to the rice while cooking.

Lunchmeat Sandwiches

They do sell deli fresh lunchmeat here, but its kind of on the expensive side Imaybe 1500-2000 riyals per kilo). So sometimes we’ll splurge and sometimes (most of the time) we buy the canned luncheon meat.  It comes in cylinder cans usually (the big size) and the big size is about 700 riyals.

We usually chop it up into cubes and skillet fry with green peppers and onions.  Since the meat is kind of expensive to get the big can (which we need for our family size) we usually have this for dinner with some “shibs” (french fries).  You can find “shibs” stands all over the place these days, but I often prefer to go to a restaurant to get them for sanitary reasons.

Cheese Sandwiches

These are a winner with the kids.  We make sandwiches with flat bread (we call pita in the states) and the popular triangle shaped processed cheese (brands such as Milkana, Happy Cow, President, Penguin).  They come in a cylinder cardboard container with 8 triangle wedges per layer.  An American sister introduced us to eating the cheese sandwiches with jam; sounded disgusting to me, but was pretty good, masha Allah.

The flat bread is 20 riyals per piece (10 cents) but this price doubled from 10 riyals when we first got here. 

 Beans

Ok, you knew this would be on the list, didn’t you?  I didn’t eat too many beans in the states, but they know how to season them here.  You can get a nafr of beans for about 100 riyals (50 cents) and you can get them “dry” or “soupy.”

Beans are a staple here and if you cook them regularly you will definitely want to get a pressure cooker. I finally got my first one here a few months ago and I love it. I remember when we first got to Damaaj, a sister started making beans in her pressure cooker at about 3/4 pm and I was like are those going to be finished for dinner? Yup. Pressure cookers are great and you don’t have to spend all day cooking beans. We usually make chili (without the chili powder, I just add more cumin) and we serve it with shredded Kraft processed cheese and eat it with the “big roti” as we call it.

Dry pinto beans runs about 280 riyals per kilo as do lentils. You can also buy canned ful madammes, already seasoned. Amazingly, six kids got full for lunch (or breakfast) from   ONE CAN!  Happy Day! They eat the beans “yemeni style” as we call it; they tear off pieces of bread, dip it in the beans and eat it. 

 Fry Bread

They sell fry bread at many restaurants in the morning. (Not sure what its called here, will check, insha Allah)  It’s usually made with black seed. I think its around 10-20 riyals per piece. When we get it, we usually buy shamam (cantelope juice) or lemonade or a fruity, creamy drink made with Vimto (juice concentrate). The juices run about 40 riyals – 100 riyals per cup with lemonade being the cheapest I think.

 Soup

We sometimes buy Maggibrand soup mix; the Spring Vegetable is pretty cheap, around 120 riyals per packet, we usually need 3-4 packs.  The kids dip the small roti bread in it so it makes it more filling.

Veggies

I haven’t seen any celery here at all, so we cut up carrots and cucumbers into sticks and eat with my yogurt/ranch dip.  It’s a winner with the kids, alhamdulillah.  Carrots and cucumbers are pretty cheap, I think a kilo of cucumbers is about 250 riyals. 

TJ Yogurt Ranch Dip (hee hee):

carton of yogurt, one veggie Maggi cube, parsley, and dill if I have it, and a little pepper.. Mix it up in a blender, or by hand. If you let it sit in fridge a few hours before serving, its even better

 Yogurt

Lately, we have been eating/drinking a lot of yogurt. A good size tub of yogurt is maybe around 100 riyals and a liter sized one is not that much more.

Here are some things we make with yogurt: (I don’t recommend the “Yemaany” name brand as it tasted kind of funny to me”

Yogurt Smoothies

Yogurt, 1 tablespoon of jam (or use fresh fruit) and a little sugar. Blend in blender/food processor til thing and “drinkable.”

Flavored Yogurt

We make our own flavored yogurt by mixing yogurt and qishtah. Qishtah is a thick cream (almost the texture of pudding, but maybe not quite). It comes in cans in flavors of strawberry, banana, honey and plain.  The kids dip flat bread in it and eat it or just eat it with spoons.

 Haqeen

To me this is kind of sour (reminds me of barbecue flavored loosely) like buttermilk, but not lumpy. The first time we had it, we mistakenly bought it thinking it was yogurt.  Well, it didn’t go with what we were having but now we use it to make what I call Sunshine potatoes  (I made the name up, but there really is a dish called Sunshine Potatoes, though don’t know how they are made–saw it in google) and a dip kind of concoction I made up (inspired by what my son told me Yemenis eat something like this) with the haqeen, a can of tuna, cucumbers, tomatoes, and a few seasonings  (salt, pepper, maggi cube) . Again, the kids dip big roti bread in and eat.

Haqeen is about 80 riyals per container.

Potatoes are around 250 per kilo.

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