Al Athariyah is a traditional Yemeni restaurant we have here in Riyadh. I wrote a post about this same place a few years ago and if you would like to see what the inside looks like then please take a look here. This is one of the best places I have eaten for the real deal when it comes to traditional food and I have never seen anyone but Saudis eat here in fact the I have searched the net for anything about it and it is as if it does not exist. All the signs are in Arabic, menus and I am not even sure any of the staff knows English. (Yes, it’s that authentic and I love it.)
Just this past year they started roasting whole lambs over coals and also making lamb sharwarma from those same lambs simply by cutting off the meat from the while it is roasting. When I tell you that this is the best lamb sharwarma that I have ever tasted I am not kidding and even foodie greats like Anthony Bourdoin and Andrew Zimmern would roll their eyes in delight if they dared to try one bite. They have two sizes small and large and I always get the small which is just enough for me. They come with soft roasted lamb, tomatoes, Arabic pickles, cilantro and tahini. I do not think anyone in the world could re-create this taste and if you even wanted to try you would have to roast a lamb over coals. This sharwarma, fries and a bottle of coke is the most perfect meal let me tell you.
The first time I tried cardamom tea was seven years ago on the first day of my Arabic lesson at a Yemeni woman’s house whom I had found through the local mosque. This was also the first time that I had tried cardamom and the beginning of my love for the fragrant spice. Green cardamoms are popular throughout the Middle East and are even used as medical aides throughout Saudi Arabia. Cardamom is one of the most expensive spices in the world due to the fact that each individual fruit pod containing the seed spice must be harvested from its flower stalks by hand. I remember in the states it cost $20 for a bottle of cardamom at Wal-Mart (that would be sr75 wow) but thank goodness its much cheaper here.
4 cups water
2 teaspoons loose black tea (or 4 tea bags)
4 green cardamom pods
1. Using a mortar and pestle lightly crush the cardamom pods. Place loose tea in a heat proof tea pot and add water. Add the cardamom and bring water to boil.
2. Remove from heat and allow to steep for at least 5 minutes. Bring mixture to boil again, then strain and serve.
A latte is a drink that has more milk than the other half (coffee, tea, etc). I thought it would be fun to make a latte out of a popular Arabic tea. Chai karak is a popular drink in the Gulf however not here in Riyadh. I am not sure if some other areas (like the eastern region) drink it or not. Some of my Saudi readers please let us know.
First, I made a strong tea mix since we will be using a lot of milk in the recipe. I used 1/2 cup of boiling water per bag (you can use loose). Make sure you only use black tea and nothing like earl gray. Saudis and well other Arabs make tea with black tea only. Warming the milk helps steep the spices and brings out more flavor and also dissolves the sugar, a must. This drink is so delicious and you may just forget about coffee.
2 black tea bags
1 cup milk
1 cup boiling water
5 green cardamom pods
Pinch saffron strings
Sugar, to taste
1. In a cup add hot water and tea bags. Allow to steep for 5 minutes. Meanwhile on medium heat in a small saucepan add milk, cardamom pods, saffron and sugar. Mix well until sugar is dissolved them remove pan from heat.
2. Divide the tea mixture into two cups. Remove the cardamom pods from the milk mixture then use a blender or frother to make milk froth. You can also put it in a tightly sealed jar and shake like crazy.
3. Divide the spiced froth in half into each of the mugs.
Yields: 2 servings