The generous offering of food to guests is one of the customs in Yemeni culture, and a guest not accepting the offering is considered as an insult. Meals are typically consumed while sitting on the floor or ground. Another thing to mention is that like most Arab countries, lunch is the main meal of the day.
Yemeni people prefer to have warm dishes in the morning. Typically, the meal would often consist of different types of pastries with a cup of Yemeni coffee or tea. A more hearty meal would often include legumes, eggs, or even roasted meat or kebab, which is usually served with a type of bread either aside or as a sandwich. Dishes common at breakfast include Shakshouka, Fasolia and meat.
Shakshouka: is a dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers, onions, potatoes, often spiced with cumin. There are many versions that range from looking like normal scrambled eggs with tomato and onion to the poached eggs. Yemenis call it “egg eyes”.
The largest amount of meat, poultry, and grains are consumed at lunch. Dishes common at lunch include: salta, ogda, fahsa, matfaiya, mandi, fattah, haneeth, harees, jachnun, kabsa, komroh, shawiyah, thareed, and zurbiyan.
Saltah: is considered the national dish. The base is a brown meat stew of Turkish origin called maraq, a dollop of fenugreek froth, and sahawiq, a mixture of chillies, 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 bread, which serves as a utensil to scoop up the food.
Aqda: meaning “knot” in Arabic, is a stew made from tying and mixing all the ingredients together. There are many types of ogda, and it can be made with small pieces of lamb, chicken, or fish that is mixed and cooked together with vegetables, including tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, onions, zucchini, etc.
Fahsa: is a Yemeni stew made of lamb cutlets into a lamb soup with spices and holba (fenugreek). The pieces of meat are small and there are not any noticeable vegetables. It is also eaten traditionally with Yemeni bread, which serves as a utensil to scoop up the food.
Matfaiya: is made with large chunks of kingfish in a thick, tomato based sauce with other vegetables.
Mandi: is the traditional dish in Yemen native to Hadhramaut Province and many other Yemeni cities. It is now very popular in the rest of the Arabian Peninsula. Mandi is usually made from meat (lamb or chicken), basmati rice, and a mixture of spices. The meat used is usually a young and small sized lamb to enhance the taste further. The main thing which differentiates mandi is that the meat is cooked in the tandoor (taboon in Yemeni) which is a special kind of oven. The tandoor is usually a hole dug in the ground and covered inside by clay. To cook mandi, dry wood is placed in the tandoor and burned to generate a lot of heat turning into charcoal. Then the meat is suspended inside the tandoor without touching the charcoal. After that, the whole tandoor is closed without letting any of the smoke to go outside.
Fatta: meaning crushed or crumbs, is a sort of bread soup made with pieces of the Yemeni bread bits mixed with meat broth and cooked vegetables making it soggy and mushy.
Breads are an integral part of Yemeni cuisine, most of which are prepared from local grains. Unleavened flat breads are common. Tawa, Tameez, Laxoox, Malooga, Kader, Kubane, Fateer, Kudam, Rashoosh, Oshar, Khamira, and Malawah (A Yemenite Jewish fried bread) are popular breads eaten in Yemen. Flat bread is usually baked at home in a tandoor called taboon. Malooga, khubz, and khamira are popular homemade breads. Store-bought pita bread and roti (bread rolls like French bread) are also common.
Desserts and sweets:
Bint Al-Sahn (sabayah) is a sweet honey cake or bread from Yemeni cuisine. It is prepared from a dough with white flour, eggs, and yeast, which is then served dipped in a honey and butter mixture.
Other common desserts include: zalābiya, halwa, rawani, muqasqas, mahalabia and masoob. Masoob is a banana-based dessert made from over-ripe bananas, ground flat bread, cream, cheese, dates, and honey.
Shahi Haleeb (milk tea, served after qat), black tea (with cardamom, clove, 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 popular 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.
Alcoholic beverages are considered improper due to cultural and religious reasons, but they are available in the country. Among Yemeni Jews, wine is popular, especially in the form of raisin wine. Arak is also consumed.
Buttermilk, however, 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, while clarified butter, known as semn, is the choice of fat used in pastries.