Thursday, January 28, 2016

Meal #05: Yemen

Who's ever heard of Yemeni food? Apparently lots of people haven't. So much so that I had to schedule two meetups to meet the demand. The first party, the guinea pigs, met last night to check out the Yemeni fare at Al-Andalus on Soi 5. We were: Sharon and Kim (USA), Martin (Germany), Nana and Petz (Thailand), Stefania (Brazil), Ekin (Canada) and myself (Singapore).

Photo credit: Nana

Restaurant was pretty empty when we got there at 7pm (although it filled up by the time we left at 8.30), so they gave us a private room at the second floor, which was nice on one hand, but on the other hand it was hard to get service.

Ah, service. That was the hardest thing at Al-Andalus. The Arab man who served us wasn't quite fluent in English, eg, he didn't know what a starter was, but even worse, he didn't know his own menu. Well, he knew his regular menu, but he couldn't tell us what was in the Yemeni menu. Apparently only the Yemenis came in to order their own food so on one hand it was comforting to know that Yemeni's ate there, but it was frustrating to not be able to understand what we were ordering. So armed with that lack of knowledge, I randomly chose two starter-y looking dishes, the Fata vegetable and the Aseed (although the waiter pronounced it aseeda), accompanied by bread.

The Fata Veg was decent. Carrots, potatoes, cauliflower in a mild dry curry presentation, which was mixed in with bread which gave it a nice texture contrast (Kim said it was like dumplings).

Aseed... was a whole other thing. We were served a lump of grey... mass. It had the texture of mashed carbs, like potatoes, bread and bananas all into one but it was altogether tasteless. It was served with a broth, which provided all the flavour to it, but otherwise, none of us liked it. Despite that, it appears to be the real thing.

For the mains, most of us ordered some sort of variation of rice and meat. The most common amongst us - the waiter said it was the most commonly ordered Yemeni dish in general - was the Mandy, flavoured rice topped with a roasted lamb or chicken:

The variations are the Matbi, which is rice topped with a grilled chicken.
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And the Zorbean, which is rice with (in this case) cooked lamb inside. At this stage I'm thinking Yemeni food is some sort of rice with meat inside or on top.

I'll also have to say that the servings are huge! Most of us couldn't finish our mains, and we packed some for back home.

Despite the hiccups, there are some indications that this is real Yemeni food. Al-Andalus is primarily an Indian and Middle-Eastern restaurant, and the almost partitioned nature of the Yemeni menu suggests that it is meant to cater to the local Yemeni community. The dishes like Mandy and the Aseed check out with what little information there is about Yemeni cuisine out in the web. And lastly, I was always worried at the back of head that since the zorbean was like a briyani and mandy was like a tandoori that we were going to be served Indian briyani and tandoori passed off as Yemeni - this wasn't the case. The flavours were definitely different.

We're heading back to Al-Andalus again next week, because so many people wanted to try Yemeni food. Now I have a better sense of what to expect, next week's meal will be quite an adventure!

Rat fund update: This meal's collection was B220, bringing our total to B1,060.

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