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.


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. 


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


Grocery Tips: Salad

Produce is generally cheap in Yemen, alhamdulillah and I typically find the produce that I was used to in the states, except maybe sweet potatoes. The kind I have seen here are really puny.


Anyway,  my son found out that you can go to these little on the street produce stores and get salad fixin’s easily.   You just ask for x number riyals of “salata (salad).  Instead of  having to pick the individual things, they get you a bag of stuff. We usually get 200-300 riyals of salata. Yesterday, for example for 200 riyals (1 dollar) we got: 2 onions, 5 carrots, 2 cucumbers, 2 tomatoes, a handful of chili peppers, 2 small bunches of lettuce, a 1 bunch of mint, 2 bunches parsley. Sometimes, we get a green pepper or two, maybe some cabbage.  So its really handy and great for when you want to make quick salad. 


They do sell salad dressing here, but I usually end up making a ranch type dressing with a 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.

Dips & Salsas

Sahawa (Salsa)


This is a recipe from Yemen. It is used on chicken, beans, rice, etc.


4 tomatoes, chopped

1-2 cucumbers, chopped (optional)

1/4 hot pepper (or to taste)

1 clove garlic, diced

1 tsp olive oil (optional)

Pepper and salt to taste


Blend 1st four ingredients in a blender or hand food grater. Should be the consistency of a salsa. Add olive oil. Eat with chicken, beans, or rice.


Feta Cheese (Jubn Abyad) Dip

1/2 cup feta cheese

4 tomatoes, diced

1 clove garlic, diced

2 tsp olive oil



Mix the first three ingredients in a bowl.

Add the olive oil and mix thoroughly.

Eat with samosas, bread, or anything else you like.



When we were in Egypt and had guests over one time, one of them commented on how “mushy” my rice was. While I was taken aback at the lack of tact, it really didn’t measure up to Middle Eastern rice which is not mushy when prepared and you can eat it with your fingers. So here is how an Egyptian sister schooled me at making rice.

Here is Yemen, they sell Amreeki rice (however it tastes nothing like the rice I grew up on and I don’t really care for this; Basmati, and Mazah. (Of course there are other types too). I love the mazah rice and it very rarely comes out too sticky (unless we add too much water).


Plain Rice

3 cups rice

2 tbsp butter


salt, 1-2 teaspoons


  1. Put the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and let melt.

  2. Add the rice and stir until coated with butter.

  3. Add enough water to cover the rice (about 1/2 inch over the top of the rice) and give a quick stir.

  4. Add salt.

  5. Cover with lid, cook over low heat for about 30 -40 minutes or until rice is soft.

  6. Fluff with fork.

This method yields a non mushy rice that can be eaten easily with the fingers, insha Allah.

You can also add the famous Maggi cubes (chicken buillion cubes) to give it more flavor.

This is my own creation that I made up while here in Yemen.

Rainbow Tuna Rice

1 can of tuna

3 cups rice

2 tbsp butter

1/2 can pineapple chunks

2 tomatoes, chopped

1/2 green pepper, chopped

1 small onion, chopped

salt, 1-2 teaspoons


  1. Put the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and let melt.

  2. Add the rice and stir until coated with butter.

  3. Add onions and green pepper and stir.

  4. Add enough water to cover the rice (about 1/2 inch over the top of the rice)

  5. Add salt.

  6. Cover with lid, cook over low heat for about 30 -40 minutes or until rice is soft.

  7. Fluff with rice and add tomatoes and pineapple chunks.


Beverage Recipes

Haleeb Mowz – (Banana Milk)


This drink is served at Yemeni juice stands.


1/2 cup – 1 cup dry milk

1/2 liter water

3 bananas, cut up into big chunks

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup ice cubes, optional


Blend all ingredients in a blender until thoroughly mixed.




Haleeb Laymun (Lemon Milk)

This drink is served at Yemeni juice stands.

Follow the directions for haleeb mowz above except substitute lemons for the bananas. If you are using middle eastern lemons (diameter is about the size of a quarter, use about 3. If you are using bigger American style lemons, use about 1/2 lemon.). Cut up into small pieces (keep the peel on) and add to blender mixture.


Haleeb (Milk)



This drink is served at Yemeni and Egyptian juice stands.

Makes 1 cup


3 tablespoons dry milk

1 cup water

pinch cinnamon

sugar (to taste)


Mix milk and water to make 1 cup of milk

Add a pinch of cinnamon and sugar to taste. Stir. Can be served hot or cold.


Regular milk may be used in place of the dry milk and water.


Date (tamr) Milk


6-7 moist, pitted dates

1/2 dry powdered milk


sugar to taste

Blend all ingredients in blender until dates are thoroughly blended.

Alternative Method:

Stew dates on the stove in a little sugar and water. When mixture becomes like a syrupy paste, mix with milk.

Serve warm or cold.