Carefully-prepared and beautifully-served food is an important part of Yemeni culture. It is a part of Yemeni custom to serve food to guests, and it is considered an insult if a guest refuses this generous offering.
Kabsa, a one-pot dish consisting of rice, meat and spices, is a food commonly served to guests. It is considered a national dish in the many Arab States of the Persian Gulf including Yemen. Its name comes from the Arabic word for squeeze because all the ingredients are literally squeezed into a single pot. Kabsa is often served as the main dish at Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha, weddings and other special events.
Kabsa can be made with any long-grain rice, but basmati is the most common. The meats used to make kabsa include
The kabsa spices are what distinguish it from other meat and rice dishes. These spices can include
• Bay leaves
• Black lime
• Black pepper
Kabsa rice is often garnished with peanuts, almonds, pine nuts, raisins, onions and a spicy tomato sauce.
Yemeni kabsa is traditionally made in a tandoor oven but can also be made at home without a tandoor. You can use any combinations of spices that you like, any type of meat and any type of rice, although basmati rice will give you the most traditional flavor and texture. Every Yemeni family has a favorite kabsa recipe. Many are very sophisticated and often take an entire day to prepare. Below is a simple one you can make at home.
How to make kabsa rice at home for four
• 1 pound of meat cut in medium pieces (If you are using tougher meat such as lamb, boil the meat until tender.)
• 1 ½ cups of rice
• ½ – 1 teaspoon salt
• A pinch of saffron or a few drops of yellow food coloring
• 3 tablespoons ghee
• 1 onion sliced
• 1 ½ teaspoons Hawaij (a Yemeni spice mix available online)
• 2 cloves of garlic, roughly crushed
• 1 tomato, roughly chopped
• 1 green chili pepper, roughly chopped
• 2 medium potatoes, quartered
• 1 tablespoon cilantro, roughly chopped
• Garnishes of your choice such as toasted almonds, peanuts, pine nuts or raisins
• Cut and/or precook your meat
• Boil 3 cups of water in a medium-size pot. Add rice and salt; stir and cook 15 minutes or until almost tender. Remove from heat.
• Heat the oven to 350°F. • Add oil to a Dutch oven and sauté the onions and the potatoes until the onions are slightly brown. Add the meat, spice mix, garlic, tomato, cilantro and green pepper. Cook for five minutes. Add 1 cup of water and cook until the potatoes are almost done. Layer the rice on top; sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of water; cover and cook for 20-30 minutes.
• Top with desired garnishes and serve.
Shibam Yemeni Kitchen
Shibam Yemeni Kitchen is a Chicago-based restaurant that specializes in the traditional dishes of Yemen. You can make Kabsa at home, or visit Shibam Yemeni Kitchen for a full introduction to Yemeni cuisine. They also offer a free delivery service if you want to enjoy Yemeni delicacies in the comfort of your own home. They offer a full-range menu including lamb kabsa and chicken kabsa. Stop by soon for a delicious taste of Yemen!