Yemeni cuisine is entirely distinct from the more widely known Middle Eastern cuisines, and even differs slightly from region to region. Throughout history, Yemeni cuisine has had a little bit of Ottoman influence in some parts of the north, and very little Mughlai-style Indian influence in Aden and the surrounding areas in the south, but these influences have only come within the last 300 years. Yemeni cuisine is extremely popular among the Arab States of the Persian Gulf.
Chicken, goat, and lamb are eaten more often than beef, which is expensive. Fish is also eaten, especially in the coastal areas. Cheese, butter, and other dairy products are less common in the Yemeni diet. Buttermilk is enjoyed almost daily in some villages where it is most available. The most commonly used fats are vegetable oil and ghee used in savory dishes, and clarified butter, known as semn (سمن) used in pastries.
Although each region has their own variation, Saltah (سلتة) is considered the national dish. The base is a brown meat stew called maraq (مرق), a dollop of fenugreek froth, and sahawiq (سحاوق) or sahowqa (a mixture of chili peppers, tomatoes, garlic, and herbs ground into a salsa). Rice, potatoes, scrambled eggs, and vegetables are common additions to saltah. It is eaten traditionally with Yemeni flat bread, which serves as a utensil to scoop up the food.
Ogdat (عقدة), meaning knot in Arabic, is a stew made from tying and mixing all the ingredients together. There are many types of ogdat and it can be made with small pieces of lamb, chicken, or fish that is mixed and cooked together with any vegetable including tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, zucchini, etc.
Yemeni bread varieties
Tawa, Tameez, Laxoox, Malooga, Kader, Fateer, Kudam, Rashoosh, Oshar, Khamira, and Malawah are popular breads eaten in Yemen. Flat bread is usually baked at home in a tandoor called taboon (تبون). Malooga, khubz, and khamira are popular homemade breads. Store-bought pita bread and roti (bread rolls like French bread) are also common.
Milk tea "Shahi Haleeb" (after qat), black tea (with clove, cardamom, or mint), qishr (coffee husks), Qahwa (coffee), Karkadin (an infusion of dried hibiscus flowers), Naqe'e Al Zabib (cold raisin drink), and diba'a (squash nectar) are examples of Yemeni drinks. Mango and guava juices are also popular.
Although coffee and tea are consumed throughout Yemen, coffee is the preferred drink in Sana'a, whereas black tea is the beverage of choice in Aden and Hadhramaut. Tea is consumed along with breakfast, after lunch (occasionally with sweets and pastries), and along with dinner. Popular flavorings include cloves with cardamom and mint. A drink made from coffee husks called qishr is also enjoyed.