Shafoot is a cooling, hydrating Yemeni dish typically served during Ramadan. Some refer to it as a salad, appetizer or palette cleanser.
Overlaps can be found between Fatteh, a yoghurt and bread staple in the Middle East, and Dahi Vada, a yoghurt and dumpling staple in South Asia.
I tasted this dish with my dear friends and artists Sarah Ahmed and Sarah ElMehairi sitting in a park in Abu Dhabi under the dusk of Iftar time. Sarah brought these Yemeni dishes up for us from a tiny, takeaway restaurant called Homemade which specialises in Yemeni snacks, specifically hailing from Aden, which differs to the more popular array of Yemeni menus which showcase rice and meat as the stars of the show. The stars in this restaurant were mainly vegetarian, easy to eat, and the kinds of foods you would whip together as a midnight snack.
As we sat for hours in this park surrounded by hungry, envious cats, our conversations- as they tend to, began to unpack the multiple layers of our ethnicities, the complexities around being from Yemen and the diaspora, the incredible influences and flavours that make up our foods.
As I also started to consult more of my Yemeni friends, namely Shaima Al Tamimi, and a plethora of videos and recipes from the underbelly of the internet came to my attention. For most, the default bread to use would be a sour like pancake called Luhooh, native to Yemen, except that for those recreating this recipe and living across the globe, one had to make do with french baguette, pita bread, toast bread and injera bread. What I also came to appreciate is that each household and region has a kind of autonomy over the toppings- ranging from fruits to other herbs- and how it is served- is it a starter, palette cleanser, or salad? You tell us.
While recreating this dish, I was acutely aware of my position of privilege, geography and not being able to accurately source the ingredients. The act of showcasing this dish is my plea for you to turn your attention to cuisines that are lesser known, and consider why that is. When you are next sitting with your friends from Yemen, those who have had to acclimatise to your worlds- ask them to share what is theirs.
Labneh - this is optional, but come on I taught you how to make some
Ayran or diluted yoghurt
Garlic - this is optional and use it very sparingly!
Your choice of toppings- I chose to garnish with pomegranates
Bread - traditionally a Yemeni bread called Luhooh is used which resembles Ethiopian Injera- but use a bread that you can easily tear or cut into many pieces
A deep dish to layer
1. Break your bread into as many pieces as possible. The same way you would a secret letter you want nobody to read.
2. Arrange these fragments in a dish.
3. Chop your herbs, chillies and garlic until they are a micro colony. Don’t use as much garlic as me.
4. Add to a bowl and combine with yoghurt, Labneh, diluted yoghurt and cumin.
5. Start blending. Melding. Bridging. White washing.
6. Pour this emulsion into the dish. Watch as it floods the dish, oozing, engulfing.
7. Place in the fridge and allow to set for at least two hours before serving.
9. Eat on a hot summer’s day. Close your eyes and imagine where the tartness of the yoghurt and the sweetness of the pomegranates take you.
10. Read about Yemen.
Photography and videography by Nava Rizvi.
Music 'Ana Mashi' by Kabreet.
Font by Augustine Paredes.
Table styling by Nava Rizvi and Nahla Tabbaa.
Ceramics by Nahla Tabbaa.
Table cloth by The Alchemy of Dyeing.
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