Yemen’s Salta

Salta is a dish that does not, to my knowledge, exist anywhere beyond Yemen.  (Though I’ve heard you can get it in Dearborn, Michigan, a town with a high concentration of Yemeni people.)

Salta is nothing but a fairly simple stew, containing vegetables and bits of meat.  It’s traditionally eaten, not with utensils, but by scooping it out with bits of bread.  It’s a specialty of San’a, the capital … but is available in other parts of the country.  Furthermore – and I have absolutely no idea why this is the case – it’s a traditional lunchtime food.  Salta joints seem only to be open around midday, at which time they are packed with hungry working men.

There are two factors that make salta distinctive.  The stew has a highly unique topping of blended vegetables and fenugreek.  And it is served at extremely high temperature in a stone bowl.

I recently prepared salta for myself.  I knew in advance it would be impossible to replicate the original – but it was close enough.  It was quite good.  Here’s what is looked like.

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5 Comments

  1. Variety is the food of man! Thanks for tasting it for us!

  2. acilius

     /  May 21, 2010

    That looks delicious. If you have a particular recipe to recommend, I might try to make it myself.

  3. lefalcon

     /  May 21, 2010

    Thanks for the comments here!

    Needed ingredients:

    Flatbread or pita bread

    For the “sauce”:
    2 tablespoons fenugreek (powder or seeds)
    2 cloves garlic
    1/4 cup cilantro leaves
    1/4 cup chopped leeks (green part)
    1 chili pepper, such as jalapeno

    If you’re using fenugreek seeds (rather than powder), soak them for a while (maybe a few hours) to soften them. Then blend the above ingredients in a blender till you have a fairly smooth paste.

    For the stew:
    2 potatoes, chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
    14.5-ounce can of diced tomatoes
    2 bouillon cubes
    2 tablespoons uncooked rice
    2 teaspoons ground cumin
    Salt
    Okra or other frozen vegetable
    (1 cup)
    .25 lbs. of ground beef
    Approx. 4 cups water

    Use a fairly large pot. Brown the beef. Combine in all the other ingredients and bring to a strong boil. Let simmer for 15 minutes or so. Check doneness of potatoes.

    For an individual portion, I would recommend heating up the desired amount to very high boil in a frying pan. Add additional water if necessary – but get it jacked up to very high temperature, so that stew is bubbling. Along the way, spoon some of the green sauce on top. Consume directly from the frying pan or transfer to other heat-retaining dish, like a Pyrex bowl.

  4. acilius

     /  May 21, 2010

    That sounds great! The Believer and I will try it sometime next week and let you know how it turns out.

  5. I will show it to my wife! perhaps…………

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