Bone Soup and Flipped Bread: The Yemenite Jew­ish Kitchen

Sue Sper­tus Larkey
  • Review
By – June 22, 2017

Sue Sper­tus Larkey, a for­mer cater­er and the author of this beau­ti­ful and unusu­al cook­book, cur­rent­ly teach­es bread-mak­ing. In this book, she refers to most most recipes by their authen­tic Yemenite names. Bone soup—Marak Etsem/​Marag Atsli—is the dai­ly pot of soup that can­not degen­er­ate into a plain liq­uid; hence veg­eta­bles and oth­er ingre­di­ents are added to it. Calf’s feet bring a cer­tain inten­si­ty to the del­i­cate broth, while oth­er types of bones add to its gelati­nous qual­i­ty. Many Yemenites love it pre­pared this way, but oth­ers might refrig­er­ate it so as to remove the fat lay­er before reheat­ing. Galube/​Galub/​Kalub is the flipped bread referred to in the title. The bread is flipped in the pan to cook on both sides. It has a rus­tic appear­ance and brings great cheer when baked correctly.

The superb col­or pho­tographs help us enter a culi­nary world that is not well known out­side the Yemenite com­mu­ni­ty. As the author explains in her intro­duc­tion, Yemenite Jews have been remark­ably unselfish in shar­ing their culi­nary wealth, Gahnun/​Jihnun rolls, the incen­di­ary z’hug spread and bone soup have long been cul­tur­al emis­saries and they are loved by Israelis across the eth­nic divide. Yet with these few excep­tions, Yemenite fare is ter­ra incog­ni­ta, even to many who take pride in being mavens of eth­nic cookery.”

A sec­tion enti­tled Yemenite Odyssey” pro­vides an intrigu­ing look into the his­to­ry and tra­di­tions of the Yemenite Jews. Between 1911 and 1945, over 17,000 Jews from Yemen immi­grat­ed to Pales­tine. Since then, they have had a pro­found impact on Israeli soci­ety. The author describes the Yemenite kitchen, cook­ing tech­niques, and uten­sils in detail. A list of spices helps us under­stand that the Yemenite pantry res­onates with bib­li­cal tones. Seeds, plants, and herbs are fre­quent ingre­di­ents, as is garlic. 

The cook­book con­tains recipes for spice mix­es, soups, cof­fee and tea, spicy z’hugs both green or red (depend­ing on which herbs and pep­pers are used,; clar­i­fied but­ter (sam­neh) – all entice one to exper­i­ment with a vari­ety of the recipes. Anec­dotes make the book all the more inter­est­ing. We learn that Yemenite bak­ers hov­er over their cre­ations like moth­er hens until the process is com­plet­ed.” A vari­ety of culi­nary delights tempt the read­er. Baked fish, fari­na pud­ding, dried white corn ker­nels and a cof­fee husk drink are just a few of the spe­cial­ties presented.

The life cycle sec­tion informs the read­er that the Yemenites spe­cial foods to help the new moth­er, who “…was pam­pered with chick­en soup made with a two-month pul­let, cooked until the meat fell from the bones, so the weak­ened’ moth­er would not have to exert her­self. With its col­or­ful green herbs and light and refresh­ing fla­vor, this soup is the per­fect anec­dote to post-deliv­ery blues.” The green chick­en soup is a delight even if one is not a new moth­er. The read­er is also giv­en a glimpse into oth­er rites that accom­pa­ny the mile­stones, such as the henna/​hinna betrothal celebration.

Etrog Schnapps, Dried Pea Soup, Yemenite Matzah, Sweet Breads, San’a Dukeh/​Charoset, Kubaneh with Caramelized Onions, Pearl Divers’ Fish Steaks, Ja’leh (nib­bles con­sist­ing of var­i­ous chick­peas or dried beans), Gushum/G’shom (spicy toma­to sal­ad) and Tun­fash (spicy pop­corn) are but a few of the offer­ings that delight­ed this reviewer.

The book also con­tains prod­uct infor­ma­tion, maps, a detailed appen­dix, index, and excel­lent explana­to­ry notes on yeast.

Danièle Gor­lin Lass­ner (wife, moth­er, grand­moth­er) retired after 35 years at Ramaz where she served as Dean of Admis­sions, For­eign Lan­guage Depart­ment chair and teacher of French and Span­ish. She owns hun­dreds of cook­books. She has trans­lat­ed sev­er­al chil­dren’s books from French into Eng­lish. She has recent­ly trans­lat­ed “ A Mem­oir of Sanc­ti­ty “ by May­er Moskowitz (Mazo Pub­lish­ers, Jerusalem, Israel) from Hebrew into Eng­lish. No mat­ter the lan­guage, food is a con­stant.”

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