Thursday, February 4, 2010

Walima February Challenge - Representing the Saudi Cuisine

Saudi Arabia, the third-largest country in Asia, constitutes about four-fifths of the Arabian Peninsula. The other countries that share the peninsula—Yemen, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait—are all much smaller in area. A narrow plain runs along the Red Sea coast. The Hijaz Mountains (Al Hijaz) rise sharply from the sea. At least one-third of the total area is sandy desert. There are no lakes, and except for artesian wells (wells where water flows to the surface naturally) in the eastern oases, there are no rivers or streams where water flows.


The people of Saudi Arabia are descended from tribes of nomadic sheep and goat herders and maintain many of the traditions of their past. Traditional foods like dates, fatir (flat bread), arikah (bread from the southwestern part of the country), and hawayij (a spice blend) are still eaten by Saudis today, although most Saudis have settled in towns and cities and no longer follow the nomadic lifestyle. Saudi Arabia is also home to Mecca, the origin and spiritual center of Islam. The culture, as well as the laws of Saudi Arabia, is founded on Islamic principles, including the dietary restrictions against eating pork or drinking alcohol.

In the 1930s, oil was discovered on the Arabian Peninsula. Income from oil has allowed Saudi Arabia to become modernized and to begin to develop stronger industries in other areas such as agriculture. Saudi Arabia now produces all of its own dairy products and most of its own vegetables. Many foreign workers are needed to maintain the new industries, and foreign foods as well as fast food chains are now available in Saudi Arabia. However, it is mostly the foreigners who eat those foods; most Saudis prefer traditional fare.


The people of Saudi Arabia are very traditional and eat the same foods they have eaten for centuries. The average meal of the Bedouin nomads who remain in Saudi Arabia is much simpler than that of the urban Saudis who make up the majority of Saudi Arabia's population today. However, the basic ingredients are the same: fava beans, wheat, rice, yogurt, dates, and chicken are staple foods for all Saudis. Saudi Arabia has over 18 million date palms that produce 600 million pounds of dates each year.

Saudis rank as the highest consumers of broiler chickens in the world, eating an average of 88.2 pounds of chicken per person per year. Saudis are strict Muslims and, following Islamic law, do not eat pork or drink alcohol. Lamb is traditionally served to honored guests and at holiday feasts. According to Islamic law, animals must be butchered in a particular way and blessed before they can be eaten, so Saudi Arabia is the world's largest importer of live sheep.

Camel (or sheep or goat) milk has long been the staple of the Bedouin diet, and dairy products are still favorites with all Saudis. Yogurt is eaten alone, used in sauces, and made into a drink called a lassi. Flat breads— fatir, a flat bread cooked on a curved metal pan over a fire, and kimaje, similar to pita—are the other mainstay of the nomadic diet that are eaten by all Saudis. These breads are used at every meal, in place of a fork or spoon, to scoop up other foods.

The Walima February Walima Challenge is brought to us by Noor from so join us to cook an Authentic new meal

Al Harrisah

For the Saudi Arabia sweet we will be making the popular sweet harrisah. This sweet is perfect served with Arabic coffee or tea.

2 cups flour
3 cups dates, finely chopped
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tablespoon ground cardamom

1.In a 9-inch skillet on medium heat add oil. Add flour, stirring until lightly brown. Remove from heat, add dates and cardamom, blend together.

2. Place into a servings platter and serve. Alternatively you can make into small balls.

Al Matazeez

Asalam Alaykum and merhaba! Before their was kabsa and other dishes in Saudi Arabia their was 'Al Matazeez'. Al Matazeez is a very old recipes that has meat, vegetables and homemade pasta in broth. This is very good served with fresh bread. Have fun and I can not wait to see how yours turns out. Enjoy your savory recipes from Saudi Arabia this month.

500 grams lamb or beef meat pieces
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons sunflower oil
2 onions, chopped finely
4 green chili's
2 tomatoes, finely diced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
2 dried lemons, cracked
2 bouillon beef cubes
1 eggplant, peeled and cubed
2 small zucchinis, tops removed
1-1/2 cups pumpkin, cubed
1/2 cup green beans
2 carrots, sliced

2 cups wheat flour
1 teaspoon sunflower oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-2-3/4 cup water

1.In a 4-quart pan add 1 tablespoon oil and onions, cook until tender. Add meat, salt, pepper, cardamom, cinnamon and cumin. Cook until meat is browned on all sides. Add tomatoes and tomato paste. Add chilis, dried lemons, and enough water to cover top by 4-5 inches. Bring to a full boil, add bouillon cubes. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes. Adding more water if needed.

2.In a large bowl add flour, salt and 1 teaspoon oil. Add water small amounts at time enough to make a workable dough. Add 1 teaspoon oil into hands and cover outside of dough ball. Place in bowl, cover with towel and allow to sit in a warm place for 30 minutes.

3.Roll dough thinly and cut into small circles using a glass or into small squares using a pastry flute. Dough should be like pasta.

4.Add carrots and carefully start dropping dough pieces one at a time, making sure to them into meat mixture. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Add eggplant, zucchini, pumpkin and green beans. Cover and allow to simmer an additional 20 minutes, making sure vegetables are thoroughly cooked.


  1. Hello , thanks for stopping by, so excited to discover a middle eastern blog.

  2. Al Matazeez sounds exactly like something my husband would love!

  3. 以簡單的行為愉悅他人的心靈,勝過千人低頭禱告。........................................

  4. Thank you for stopping by. Your blog is much nice food! My husband is Italian but his first wife was Syrian and Italian. So we have Arabic food often. And we love it! I also work with some people from India and have discovered their cuisine which we have enjoyed preparing. I will be coming by often!

  5. Hey, Thanks for stopping by..Now I should learn some middle eastern dishes from you. See you around...:-)

  6. Hey, Thanks for stopping by and for your lovely comment! Looking forward to great recipes:)

  7. I really enjoy Middle Eastern food. I had the pleasure growing-up enjoying meals often in a friend's family home who were from Iran. The meals were so comforting and soul satisfying. Today, I have a deep respect for Middle Eastern cuisine and love the complexity of flavors.

    Thanks for sharing.

  8. Interesting posts and recipes.. will surely have to try some of these delicacies

  9. Thank you for stopping by my blog. Your blog is very nice. I grew to love Arabian food which in Mexico was known throughout Northern Mexico as Comida de Arabe'. It is wonderful thank you for posting these recipes.

  10. Salam dear Yasmeen,

    Thanks for droppin by. A pleasure to know you.

    Wow! I love your arabic food blog. :)

  11. What an interesting and informative post! I am especially intrigued by the recipe for al harrisah - almost like making a roux, then incorporating the dates and cardamom. Wow. I'm a cardamom junky, too - definitely will try these! The al matareez sounds quite delicious as well - could preserved lemons be used in place of dried?