Foods served on special occasions evoke emotion. The smell, taste, and appearance transport you back to fun family get-togethers and festive gatherings. They remind you of good times and important people. Zurbian is a fragrant meat and rice dish that rouses such feelings for Yemenites.
A Common Heritage
Meat, rice, and spices cooked together is an ancient idea. Many cultures throughout the world have developed their versions of this common food. Paella in Spain, pilau in South Asia, and biryani in India and the Middle East are all similar meat and rice dishes with unique regional tastes. Zurbian is a Yemeni take on this entrée.
A Dish for Special Occasions
Full of delicious flavor and bright yellow color, zurbian is often prepared for special events. Weddings and religious festivals often feature this dish. Besides being tasty, zurbian is not hard to make, and the recipe can easily be scaled up or down for different sized groups. This authentic Yemeni dish is prepared by cooking meat, usually lamb, with a sauce of tomato, yogurt, and spices. The rice is placed on top of the meat. Saffron water sprinkled on the rice gives the meal its vibrant yellow color, while cardamom, turmeric, coriander, cilantro, and cinnamon provide its enticing aroma.
If you want to enjoy zurbian and other authentic Yemeni cuisine but do not want to cook, considering visiting Shibam Yemeni Kitchen. This Yemeni restaurant offers online ordering and an extensive menu at four locations around Chicago. There is no need to wait for a festival; you can eat delicious zurbian today!
2 pounds lamb (cut in pieces)
3 cups rice
1 medium onion (chopped)
1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
2 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
Salt to taste
½ teaspoon cinnamon • 2 tomatoes (chopped)
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground black pepper • 1 cup plain yogurt • 2 potatoes (peeled and cut)
½ cup oil
½ cup cilantro (chopped)
12 cups water
2 tablespoons salt
¼ cup hot water
1 teaspoon saffron threads
Heat oil and butter in a pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until golden brown.
Add meat and brown on all sides. Add water and stir well. Cook for about 1 hour. Remove the meat from the stock.
Add rice to the stock. Boil the rice until about 90% cooked, then drain the rice and set aside.
Add cooked onions, meat, ginger & garlic paste, turmeric powder, salt, cinnamon powder, cardamom, black pepper into the pan and cook on medium heat.
Add yogurt and tomatoes and cook for a few minutes.
Grind the saffron threads and mix with ¼ cup hot water.
Pour the cooked rice over the meat mixture. Sprinkle the saffron mixture over the rice.
Cover and cook over low heat for 25–30 minutes or until the rice is done.