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March 11, 2020

Many years ago, there was an authentic Yemenite restaurant on Pico Boulevard.

At the Magic Carpet, you could order the crispiest malawach, the freshest salads and the spiciest s’chug.

Recently, we were reminiscing about the delicious Yemenite soup the restaurant served and how it was the thing we craved the most when we were pregnant with our boys. We stared at each other in disbelief when we found out that Magic Carpet was our last stop before going to the hospital to give birth. By the time we had our daughters, the place was gone.

Now we have to make Yemenite soup at home. And our families love it.

Yemen was an important stop along the Silk Road, a trade route that connected the East and West for more than 1,500 years. Its routes were lifelines of cultural, economic, religious and political connection, featuring jewelers, artisans and the all-important spice merchants, whose wares still are reflected in the Yemeni kitchen.

At the heart of Yemenite soup is hawaiij, a unique blend of turmeric, cumin, cardamom and black pepper. Some recipes include a variation of coriander, cloves, saffron and nutmeg.

More a hearty stew than a broth, Yemenite soup was served every Friday night. The beef version calls for a slow simmer of neck and marrow bones. Less expensive and easier to obtain than beef, chicken was more commonly used.

In this recipe, potatoes, onion and tomato sauce are not negotiable. But your choice of legume is — some recipes call for garbanzos, others for white, navy or Great Northern beans.

Yemenite soup  traditionally is served with three sides — s’chug, a hot chili condiment; hilbeh, a viscous fenugreek sauce; and lachuch, a Yemenite flat bread.

Any way you serve it, this soup is hearty, rich and mouthwatering. A true comfort food.

YEMENITE BEEF SOUP
2 pounds beef shank or cheek meat or short ribs, cut into chunks
5 tablespoons hawaiij spice mix (recipe follows)
4 cloves garlic, chopped
4 tablespoons of olive oil, divided
2 onions, finely chopped
1 pound marrow bones or neck bones
1 cup tomato sauce
5 medium potatoes, peeled, cut in large chunks
2 teaspoons salt
2 cans garbanzo beans (or beans of choice)
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
1 bunch fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
8 cups water or chicken broth

HAWAIIJ

4 tablespoons cumin
4 tablespoons turmeric
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon ground cardamom

Combine all ingredients thoroughly.

Marinate meat in hawaiij, garlic and 2 tablespoons olive oil for 30 minutes.

Chop onions finely in food processor.

In large heavy-bottom pot (or crockpot or instant pot), sauté onions in 2 tablespoons olive oil until golden.

Add to pot marinated meat, including all spices and liquid. Add bones.

Add tomato sauce.

Add potatoes and sprinkle with salt.

Add garbanzos, cilantro and parsley.

Add water or broth and bring to boil and simmer for 3 hours.

Delicious served over brown or white rice.

Makes about 18 servings.


Sharon Gomperts’ family hails from Baghdad and El Azair, Iraq. Rachel Emquies Sheff’s family roots are Spanish Moroccan. Visit them on Facebook at SEC FOOD.

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