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Photo by Matt May

 
       
 

When in Brooklyn...

 
 

do as the Yemenis do!

   

 

  

 

The Romans called Yemen Arabia Felix (Fortunate Arabia) because of its fertile land and rich trade which made it the most luxuriant and luxurious place on the peninsula.

And New Yorkers are fortunate enough to be able to round out a trip to BAM with a stop in nearby Brooklyn Heights at Yemen Café for the old Yemeni standard -- really a national dish of sorts -- salta.

Salta (nothing nautical about it at all!) is a steamy green stew of assorted root vegetables, thickened with okra and seasoned with fenugreek, served very hot (what they term volcano style) in a stone pot, along with roast lamb that is served separately and is deliciously, succulently tender.  The accompanying bread is fresh from the oven, larger than a pizza, and absolutely perfect.  All of this - stew, lamb and bread, along with drizzlings of lemon juice, make for a satisfying and strange feast.  

Yemen Café is the sort of place one goes to for the food, not for atmosphere.  The large fish tank is a half-hearted and perhaps misguided nod at décor, as are the framed prints of Yemeni scenes.  All poetry here is reserved for the food -- one is really here for the odes to lamb in all its variations….  Appetizers of sautéed lamb with onions, tomatoes and spices, or sautéed cubes of lamb liver…  Haneez, their most popular lamb dish served with rice and a medley of vegetables, massloug -- lamb cooked in a mirepoix for hours and served with vegetables and rice.  We are also quite taken with the fassolia with eggs -- white kidney beans sautéed in a tomato-based sauce with eggs and served with the same wonderful bread.  Perfect for brunch or any time of the day.

And then after one has stuffed oneself giddy, one can cross the street to Sahadi's, a gourmet store with a Middle Eastern slant that stocks specialty olive oils, Middle Eastern cheeses, quantities and varieties of nuts and olives, fig and date preserves from Mymouné.  An Aladdin's cave of treasures…the best hummus in New York, tabouleh, kibbes, filo wraps, fresh pita.  Harissa if you don't make your own…one can certainly go home with the riches and feel quite fortunate....

 

Eat: Yemen Café

Shop: Sahadi's

 

 

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