Flavours of Yemeni Cuisine
There aren’t many Yemeni cuisine available here in our Malaysian shores. More widely categorize as Middle Eastern cuisine, Yemeni cuisine is the national cuisine of Yemen. The cuisine uses spices along with meat in most of their dishes. Staple vegetables consist of tomatoes, onions and potatoes. The cuisine also has lots of rice and bread as their daily staples too.
It was my first experience of Yemeni flavours and I am glad it was at Al Nafoura Restaurant. Located in Wangsa Maju, Al Nafourah opened January 2016. Husband and wife team, Rahim and Izana hopes to introduce authentic Yemeni cuisine to diners here as they both enjoy the cuisine very much. Rahim learned to appreciate the cuisine while studying in Saudi Arabia during his younger years.
Everything from décor to menu at Al Nafoura is out together by both Rahim and Izana. While the décor may seemed relatively simple, the ambiance does reflect the culture of the cuisine. Warm terracotta colors are contrasted with soft white while warm yellow lighting sets the mood. Pieces of Middle Eastern art, photos and knick knacks completed the interior.
The menu is decent and filled with photos to assist those who may not be familiar with the cuisine like me. From Chef’s Recommendation to appetizers, Arabic breads, tapas, main dishes to fusion dishes and desserts, Al Nafoura tries to bring in authentic flavours of Yemeni food, said to be influenced from flavours of Africa, India and Turkey. The menu also has vegetarian options.
Arabic breads are simply a must in the cuisine. These are eaten with all the stews and braised dishes. High on the recommended list to try is the Mullawah Bread (RM5 small | RM8 large). The tasty Yemeni bread is a sort of large flat bread layered and folded with ghee and cooked on flat pan. The flat bread is deliciously aromatic and toasty with a lightly flaky texture. It certainly went really well with our dip and prawn stew. This is only available on weekdays for dinner and weekends only.
Hummus (RM12) is made really well here. Garlicky and nutty flavours shined through the creamy bean dip. A light tang of citrus, a dash of olive oil, black sesame and some chopped tomatoes whets the appetite along with the Mullawah bread.
Prawns cooked in a thick and rich tomato stew summed up Prawn Salona (RM22). The balance of spices like cumin and cayenne really added delicious depth of flavours in the stew. This one goes well with rice or bread.
Oqda means ‘knot’ in Arabic and so Chicken Oqda (RM17) is a dish that is tied together with rich spices and vegetables cooked with chicken. Chunky boneless shredded chicken has well absorbed the tomatoey vegetable and spiced up sauce so well. Slap on the bread to pick up the Chicken Oqda for a tasty appetizer treat.
The first main dish to arrive was the Mandi Chicken (RM16 quarter| RM26 half). A whole chicken Maryland is marinated and grilled. The beautiful golden hue denoted the spiced marinade. Served with fluffy saffron Basmati rice and a special curry gravy, the dish is suitable for both adults as well as kids. The chicken is moist and tender with a tasty savory note that is easy to enjoy. There is also a lamb option for this dish.
Another main dish we had is the Kabsa Lamb Rice (RM23 small | RM37 large). The Kabsa lamb stew has large pieces of bone-in lamb in a yellow gravy finished with lots of fresh coriander. Served with a yellow spiced Basmati rice and also a curry gravy, this one is superb. Not a fan of lamb, the lamb stew is really very moreish. The lamb is so tender and melts-in-the-mouth and is well perfumed by spices that there is no meaty lamb smell that is usually present. The rice is also very fluffy and aromatic, making the dish a winner in my books. There is also a chicken option for this one but I highly recommend the lamb.
Do order a side of Garlic Sauce (RM4) to go with the main dishes. Creamy pungent garlicky sauce added a spin of tasty flavours to any dishes at Al Nafoura.
Our limelight of the evening was the house signature Lamb Maghdout (RM39 1/2kg | RM75 1kg) or Chicken (RM35 half | RM65 whole). Lamb is marinated with lots of spices and pressure cooked to delicious tenderness. Coupled with the tomato and spice based Basmati rice, the dish also has lots of raw red onions, fresh coriander and boiled egg.
Al Nafoura has nailed their lamb dishes to perfection. The lamb in this dish is even better than the Kabsa lamb. Gorgeously fork tender, the lamb has sublime spice flavours with a smoky note. The rice is very tasty and fluffy too. The flavours from the pairing is well balanced and scrumptious. Even though I was pretty full, I find myself going back for this dish simply because I really enjoyed the flavours. It takes at least 20 to 30 minutes to prepare this dish but it’s truly well worth the wait.
Order the Al Nafoura Salad (RM10) to go with the main dishes for fresh burst of crunchy vegetables. Chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and olives are lightly seasoned to keep the freshness.
Sahawiq or a tomato salsa is the sauce that really pulls every dish together. It has such a hit of heat from chilies and a pump of robust onions and tomato flavours that had me spooning lots of the sauce on all the main dishes. Damn shiok sauce!
We were told that Rahim came up with Maggi Goreng Kabsa (RM18). Not an authentic one but rather a creative fusion, the noodles turned out to be decent. Nothing to shout about but still, it makes a nice single dish for those who are game to try this. The actual noodle comes with meat while ours had no meat due to our request since we already had so much meat in our mains.
For desserts, we opted to try the Areeka (RM18), a sweet and savory dessert made from homemade wheat flatbread and dates. It has quite a unique flavour and may take work or not with some. The thick cream topping with shredded cheese gave the dish an oddness of flavour. It is also quite rich and heavy so it is best to share this dessert.
I prefer the Kunafe (RM15), a Middle Eastern sweet pastry of golden crispy shredded phyllo stuffed with white soft cheese. This one is crispy and creamy with a luscious cheesy note. Finished with a thick whipped cream, I like the dessert with its gentle sweetness and crispy texture.
Order the refreshing cold Lemon & Mint (RM8) to freshen up the palate or the hot Adani Spice Tea (RM6 – cup | RM12 – teapot) to washed down the richness of the dishes. The tea is similar to our pulled tea except it is spiced with ginger, cloves and cardamom.
Try Yemeni cuisine at least once and you will be surprise at how good the cuisine is. Al Nafoura is a great choice to try the cuisine as the Rahim has really nailed the flavours well. Dishes are affordable and prepared very well. Al Nafoura also does catering for private parties. It may be my first time trying Yemeni cuisine but it will certainly not be my last as Al Nafoura has really left a delicious experience of Yemeni cuisine for me.
9-G, Plaza Wangsa Maju (Hedgeford Galleria),
Jalan Maju Ria 2,
Wangsa Maju, Section 10,
53300 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-4131 4886
Sat to Thurs 11.30am to 10pmFriday 11.30am to 1pm | 2.15 to 10pm