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What Is Fahsa?

By Eugene P.
Updated May 16, 2024
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Fahsa is a stew made from lamb or beef that is cooked until tender and then mixed with spices and vegetables. It is one of the two national dishes of the country of Yemen, along with salta, a stew that is very similar to fahsa. There are very few ingredients in fahsa, making it a heavy dish of braised or boiled meat and onions. The finished stew is usually topped with a paste made from soaked fenugreek seeds and served with bread. The authentic preparation uses a special type of stone pan known as a madra, although any pot or pressure cooker can be used.

The dish begins with the meat, usually either beef or lamb that has been cut into cubes. The meat can either be boiled in water until it is very tender and easily broken into shreds or small pieces, or it can be quickly browned in oil to develop color and then finished with the rest of the stew. Whichever method is used, the end result should be meat in very small pieces that can easily be eaten in single bites.

The other ingredients for the dish include garlic and spring onions that are fried in a pan before the meat is added, whether it was boiled beforehand or not. Water or stock is added to the pot and the ingredients are allowed to cook until the liquid has reduced and starts to become thick, which can take several hours. After reduction, spices such as cilantro, hot peppers and cumin are added along with a little more water, which is allowed to reduce down a second time. Tomatoes are sometimes added at this point, as well.

One traditional way to cook and serve fahsa is with a special type of Yemeni pot known as a madra. A madra is a thick-walled stone pot that looks like a deep bowl. It can be used over a fire like any other pot and also can be used in an oven. A madra is made from stone, so it is able to retain heat for a significant amount of time once it is removed from the stove. This means fahsa that is cooked and served in a madra can remain hot throughout the entire meal.

After cooking fahsa has reduced a second time, it is ready to be served. A garnish sauce known as hulba is assembled by taking fenugreek seeds that have been soaked overnight and mashing them into a paste that includes garlic, lemon juice, fresh cilantro and some tomatoes. This mixture is spooned over top of the finished stew before it is served, sometimes with bread such as pita.

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