When it comes to the food culture of Saudi Arabia, Saudis have been eating the same foods that they have traditionally eaten for hundreds of years. And although the average meal of a Bedouin may not be as fancy as some of those prepared in Saudi’s urban areas, it includes the same ingredients: fava beans, wheat, rice, yogurt, dates, and chicken. These will always remain popular Saudi Arabian foods, as they are in the entire MENA region.
Lamb is generally for special occasions like holiday feasts, weddings and receiving honored guests. Incidentally, animals must be butchered in a specific way called dhabiha and blessed according to Islamic law before they can be eaten. This is one of the reasons why Saudi Arabia is the largest importer of live sheep.
Dairy products including yogurt and milk from camels, goats, or sheep are staples of Saudi diets. In fact, you’ll find Saudis eating yogurt generally alone, in sauces and even in a drink called lassi.
No meal would be complete without flat breads — fatir (Saudi bakers use a curved metal pan over a fire), and kimaje, similar to pita. When eating, these breads replace forks or spoons to scoop up other foods like the following:
The king of Saudi Arabian food kabsa, also known as majboos Saudi Arabia style, is the country’s national dish. Kabsa is a spicy rice dish with mix of meat and spices. These include saffron, bay leaves, cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper, nutmeg, and black lime. Everyone throughout the country love this dish. An interesting fact about Saudi Arabian foods names is that kabsa comes from the root letters kbs which means “press” in Arabic. Quite fitting since of all its ingredients are pressed together during the cooking process.
A traditional Saudi meal, tharid is veggie broth with pieces of crispy flatbread (regag). The bread is immersed in broth or soup that comes in both a vegetarian version made with vegetable broth. The dish contains a meat (usually lamb) if it’s made for meat-eaters. Said to be favorite of Prophet Muhammad, this soup is also a favorite of Saudis in the holy month of Ramadan.
The main meal in Saudi Arabia is lunch and you’ll often find shikamba. This is a meaty lamb soup with spices and hearty vegetables such as eggplant and onions added.
Called samboksa, sambuus, or samosa in other parts of the world, sambusak are triangular or semi-circular shaped Saudi Arabian deep-fried snacks filled with a variety of fillings from meat to veggies to cheese.
Another one for you nibblers, murtabak is a mouth-watering crispy-fried pancake stuffed with ground meat and veggies. Other names for it are mutabbaq or matabbak which mean “folded”. Murtabak is sometimes called a “folded omelet”. This is due to its square shape and its savory taste of egg infused with chili and other spices
Jalamah is a succulent meat-based dish. Saudis usually use a young, petite lamb and a mixture of Arabic spices in savory gravy. This dish is especially popular among Saudi Arabians during the Eid-al-Adha feasts.
One of the more famous Saudi Arabia drinks. Jallab is a fragrant drink from dates, grape molasses, carob, raisins and rose water. This is a soothing drink that will delight anyone’s taste buds.
Originally, it’s a dessert from Persia. However, Saudi’s made this milk pudding with rice flour, sugar, and rose water their very own.
As you can see, Saudi Arabian foods reflect a tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation. With their dominant taste of unique Arabic spice, every meal is worth trying at least once. We’re sure you’ll always come back again for second helpings.
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