Citizens, the cuisine of Bahrain in the Middle East is not well-known at all outside the immediate region, which is a tremendous shame as it is a crossroads for culinary influences ranging from India to China and beyond!
The seafood from the Gulf is legendary for its variety and flavor, and this recipe for Chebeh Rubyan puts the shrimp of the region from and center! I have showcased a meat recipe from Bahrain previously here.
All that said, !
As noted on bahrainthisweek.com:
The island country of Bahrain is a melting pot of different cultures and traditions, and while it has embraced the influences of different cultures that have taken shelter in it, its indigenous food stand intact and preserved over the years. BTW takes a bird’s eyes view of the traditional fare of the country that makes the cuisine of the land so popular with both the original inhabitants as well as the expat population of Bahrain.
Bahrain’s traditional food includes fish, meat, rice, and dates. One of the most famous Bahraini dishes is machboos, which is made up of meat or fish served with rice. Another known food is muhammar which is sweet rice served with dates or sugar.
Bahrainis also eat other Arabian food such as falafel, fried balls of chickpeas served in a bread, and shawarma, lamb or chicken carved from a rotating spit and wrapped in pita bread. Traditional snacks include samboosa and pastry. Balaleet is a sweet saffron noodles served with a savory omelet on top.
Another important part of the Bahraini diet is the fresh fish of the Gulf, of which the king is the Hamour (grouper), typically served grilled, fried, or steamed. Other popular local fish include Safi (rabbit fish), Chanad (mackerel), and Sobaity (see bream). Most of the time, fish is eaten with rice. A century of British rule in the Gulf has also made fish and chips popular in the country.
Another delicacy is Qoozi (Ghoozi), which is grilled lamb stuffed with rice, boiled eggs, onions and spices. The traditional flatbread is called Khubz. It is a large flatbread baked in a special oven. Numerous Khubz bakeries dot the country.
Coffee, called Gahwa locally, is considered a part of the traditional welcome in Bahrain. It is usually poured into a coffee-pot, which is called dalla in Bahrain. It is served in a small cup made for coffee called finjan.
An important aspect of Bahraini cuisine is certainly the desserts. The most popular Bahraini desserts include baklava, halwa, kunafa, umm alli, and so on.
So next time you are in the mood for some food that is exotic and rich in the spices of the land, look no further than any traditional Bahraini restaurant for a gastronomical journey down the rich heritage of the Island.
This particular dish is widely eaten in Bahrain as part of a celebratory feast, usually accompanied by Muhammar (sweet rice). This is a dish where we obviously see the influences of both Middle Eastern and Indian cuisines on the gastronomy of Bahrain and the Gulf States.
The Baharat spice mix is my own personal blend – you can buy the dried rose petals I prefer for this recipe here.
Loomi, also known as black lime and dried lime, is a staple in Middle Eastern spice cabinets with a unique tart and sour flavor.
In their pre-ground state, loomi look like fresh limes that were left to sit around in a fruit bowl and forgotten about. The actual process of making them isn’t too far off. Fresh limes are boiled in salt water and then left to sun dry. The final product appears shrunken, deflated, and vary in color from tan to very dark brown.
They have a highly aromatic, somewhat fermented flavor, and can be used whole (usually pierced or crushed) or in powdered form. Buy the powdered form here.
Citizens, this is a glorious appetizer that will wow any guests fortunate enough to be invited to your table! They will assuredly at first think this is an Indian dish – be sure and smile knowingly when you bring them up to speed on the error of their assumption.
Battle on – the GeneralissimoPrint
- For the prawn balls:
- 2 lbs. raw prawns, shelled and de-veined
- 2 tbsp. fresh Cilantro leaves
- ¾ tsp. ground turmeric
- 1 tsp. salt
- ½ cup ground rice
- 3 tbsp. ghee
- ⅔ cup finely-chopped onions
- 2 tsp baharat spice mix, made from:
- 2 ½ tablespoons freshly-ground black pepper
- 1 ½ tablespoons freshly-ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon freshly-ground coriander
- 1 tablespoon freshly-ground allspice
- ½ tablespoon freshly-ground cinnamon
- 2 ½ teaspoons freshly-ground cardamom
- 1 teaspoon freshly-ground cloves
- 1 ½ teaspoon freshly-ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon cayenne
- 1 teaspoon paprika (it’s not traditional, but I like smoked Spanish paprika – use regular paprika to go old-school)
- ½ teaspoon ginger
- 1 ½ teaspoons turmeric
- 2 teaspoons crumbled dried rose petals, optional but strongly recommended
- ¾ tsp. ground loomi (preferred) or 1 tbsp. freshly-grated lemon zest
- For the Tamarind Sauce:
- 2 teaspoons tamarind concentrate
- 2 small onions, finely chopped
- 4 cups warm chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons ghee
- 2 large tomatoes, blanched, peeled and chopped
- 2 teaspoon Baharat spice mix
- ½ teaspoon hot chili pepper flakes
- Salt to taste
- 4 teaspoons sugar
- Combine the prawns and Cilantro leaves in a food processor. Pulse until you have a smooth paste then add the turmeric and ground rice. Pulse to mix then add the salt. Pulse again to mix thoroughly and turn into a bowl.
- Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate as you prepare the remaining ingredients.
- Melt 2 tbsp of the ghee in a non-stick frying pan. Add the onions and fry for about 6 minutes, or until transparent then stir in 1 tsp of the baharat spice blend and the lemon zest or ground loomi. Take off the heat and set aside to cool.
- Dilute tamarind concéntrate in 4 cups of stock, let stand 10 minutes and stir well so that it is well diluted.
- Melt the remaining ghee in a large pan and use to fry the small, chopped, onion for about 5 minutes, or until translucent. Stir in the tamarind liquid and the remaining bharat spice then add the tomato, chili and sugar. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook over low heat for 15 minutes.
- Remove the prawn paste from the refrigerator. Wet your hands then take 1 tbsp of the prawn mix and flatten between your palms. Place 1 tsp of the onion and lemon zest mixture in the center, then fold over the prawn mixture so that the onion filling is completely enclosed in a ball.
- Set aside then continue this process until all the prawn mix and onion filling have been used up (re-moisten your palms to keep them wet).
- When done, carefully drop the prawn balls into the simmering onion and tamarind sauce. Cover the pan and continue cooking over low heat for 35 minutes (the prawn mix will swell up because of the rice during this period).
- Turn into a warmed bowl and serve.
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