By Asma Al-Mohattwari
Yemen is famous for its popular dishes and the food that is commonplace in every Yemeni house throughout the year, but Ramadan is distinguished from the rest of the months with its special fare.
Some food is closely related to Ramadan in the hearts of Yemenis, giving fasters a special sense of the holiday they celebrate—foods like Sambosa, Shafoot, Shurba and different kinds of desserts.
Housewives try to be creative this month, preparing the best dishes of Ramadan with a personalized touch. Elham Saleh, housewife, said that of all the food that she prepares, Sambos is still the best food of the holy month.
Yemenis break their fasting with dates and Sambosa; according to Saleh, most Yemenis should eat Sambos throughout the month.
Sambosa appears with the coming of Ramadan and disappears with its end. Not all the housewives prepare it at home, as many simply buy it from the market, where the Sambosa crowds begin gathering around three pm each day of Ramadan days.
Shops selling Sambosa spread across sidewalks and alleys of Sana’a during the holy month. Most streetside Sambosa are sold by street vendors, who open their shops early to meet the vast daily demand for Sambosa in the city. Up to tens of thousands of Sambosa are sold every day during Ramadan.
Sambosa come in a number of varieties, stuffed with cheese, minced meat, tuna or other fillings. Each kind of Sambosa has its own price.
Another important Yemeni dish during Ramadan is Shafoot. Salwa Mohammed says that her family makes Shafoot only during Ramadan, and the dinner table is nothing without it.
Salwa noted that Shafoot is considered a unique national meal that consists of thin bread ‘Allhouh’, yogurt, milk and some spices.
And of course, it isn’t dinner without dessert. Ramadan also features a host of distinctive Yemeni after-dinner confections.
Yemen’s popular desserts are one of the traditions that remains strongly present these days. Dessert remains a priority for many during Ramadan, and an important part of the tables of Ramadan.
Yemen’s markets and shops in Old Sana’a are replete with popular desserts this time of year.
Abdualrahman Mohammed said that the overcrowding is apparent in front of dessert shops, and these shops receive many more customers during the the month of Ramadan.
“Ramadan represents a season of recovery for this profession and the revival of its goods. The great demand on the popular dessert is the secret behind its continuity,” he added.
The best known of these desserts are Roani, Badbosa, Qataif and others. Ala’a, a child, said that his mother can make every kind of Yemeni dessert, but he still prefers to buy them from the shops around Bab Al-Yemen.
“I really feel it is Ramadan when I buy it from outside with my friends or my father,” he explained.