Yemenite Soup

Learn to make Yemenite Soup with Beef or Chicken - traditional spicy soup recipe made with hawayej spicy blend. Warming, filling and full of flavor.

Learn to make Yemenite Soup with Chicken or Beef – traditional spicy soup recipe made with hawayej spicy blend. Warming, filling and full of flavor.

Nobody knows exactly how a group of several thousand Jews settled in Yemen. Oral Yemenite tradition suggests that a group of Jews left Jerusalem after hearing Jeremiah predict the destruction of the first Temple. Archaeological evidence shows that Jews have lived in Yemen since at least the 3rd century CE. Though it’s not exactly clear how or when they arrived in Yemen, the history of Yemenite Jews distinguishes them from all other Jewish populations. Because of their remote location and relative isolation, Yemenite Jewish tradition has remained largely unchanged throughout the centuries. They preserved many ancient Jewish religious customs that might otherwise have been lost to the passage of time. In fact, some researchers believe that the Yemenite Hebrew dialect is more closely related to Biblical Hebrew than any other dialect.

Yemenite ImmigrantsA family of Yemenite immigrants, 1948 or 49. Source: Wikimedia Commons

In the late 1800’s, the first in a series of mass migrations to Israel began. Facing increased persecution from Muslim communities in Yemen, most Yemenite Jews immigrated to Israel before 1962. As of 2013, less than 90 Jews still lived in Yemen.

Yemenites emigrate to Israel during “Operation Magic Carpet,” a secret operation conducted by the Israeli government to bring Yemenite Jews to safety. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Yemenite Jews are known for their complex spices and rich, flavorful dishes. I was introduced to Yemenite cuisine for the first time at a Los Angeles restaurant called Shula and Esther, owned by two Yemenite women. Their soup was my favorite; it was spicy, rich and delicious. Some days they featured lamb or beef Yemenite soup and some days chicken. Since then I’ve tasted many versions of Yemenite soup, including several in Israel where the majority of Yemenite Jews now live. When Shula and Esther closed (a tragic day for us), I had to figure out how to make the soup on my own. I learned the basic method and ingredients from my friend whose mother has Yemenite ancestry. Over time I’ve looked at various recipes and adjusted the seasonings until I honed in on the distinct flavor that we remember from Shula and Esther.

Learn to make Yemenite Soup with Beef or Chicken - traditional spicy soup recipe made with hawayej spicy blend. Warming, filling and full of flavor.

Yemenite soup is traditionally served as the entree of the Shabbat meal on Friday evening. The Jews of Yemen typically used chicken in their soup because meat was expensive and difficult to come by. The meat version has gained popularity throughout Israel. I’ve provided a recipe for each version in this blog. The broth of this soup is spiced with hawayej, a Yemenite spice blend that can be purchased at most Jewish markets. If you don’t have a market like that nearby, you can check out my recipe for hawayej by clicking here. It’s even better when made fresh and ground from whole spice seeds.

Hawayej Spice Blend - Yemenite Spice Blend for Meats, Soups and StewsHawayej spice blend – click here for recipe

Every Yemenite family has a different recipe for this soup, but the basics remain the same– a meat or chicken broth, marrow bones, onions, potatoes, and hawayej. This soup is generally served with two Yemenite condiments, hilbeh and schug. Hilbeh is a gelatinous sauce made with fenugreek seeds; it takes 2-3 days to make and the process is quite involved. Schug is a sort of Yemenite salsa made from peppers, garlic, and spices. I have a green recipe for schug here and I plan to cover hilbeh in a future blog.

Note: these recipes have been retested, updated and rephotographed since they were originally posted.

Learn to make Yemenite Soup with Beef or Chicken - traditional spicy soup recipe made with hawayej spicy blend. Warming, filling and full of flavor.

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Yemenite Soup

Yemenite Chicken Soup Ingredients

  • 1 whole 3-4 lb. chicken cut into pieces
  • 4-5 chicken drumsticks
  • 2 beef marrow bones
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 bunch of cilantro—cleaned, rinsed, and tied in a bundle, plus more cilantro to garnish soup
  • 1 large onion, rinsed and halved, skin on
  • 2 tsp hawayej spice blend
  • 1 1/4 lb. russet or Yukon gold potatoes (about 4 medium russets), peeled and cut into large 2-inch chunks
  • Salt and pepper

Yemenite Beef Soup Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and diced
  • 2 lbs beef stew meat, cubed (lamb can also be used)
  • 2 beef marrow bones
  • 1/2 tbsp turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp hawayej spice blend
  • 2 whole cloves of garlic
  • 1 bunch of cilantro—cleaned, rinsed, and tied in a bundle, plus more cilantro to garnish soup
  • 1 1/4 lb. russet or Yukon gold potatoes (about 4 medium russets), peeled and cut into large 2-inch chunks
  • Salt and pepper

You will also need

  • 6-8 quart stock pot, kitchen twine
Total Time: 3 Hours 30 Minutes
Servings: 6-8 servings
Kosher Key: Meat

To Make Yemenite Chicken Soup

  • Place chicken pieces and marrow bones on the bottom of a 6-8 quart stock pot. Add 12 cups water to the pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for a few minutes, skimming the foam that rises to the top.
  • Learn to make Yemenite Soup with Beef or Chicken - traditional spicy soup recipe made with hawayej spicy blend. Warming, filling and full of flavor.Stir 2 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tbsp salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper and garlic cloves into the pot. Add the cilantro bundle and onion, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a low simmer. Let the soup cook for 90 minutes, keeping an eye periodically to make sure the simmer is low and bubbling but not boiling too rapidly. Stir gently a few times during cooking.
  • Learn to make Yemenite Soup with Beef or Chicken - traditional spicy soup recipe made with hawayej spicy blend. Warming, filling and full of flavor.After 90 minutes, use a pair of tongs to pull out the onion, the cilantro bundle and the two chicken breasts on the bone. Place the chicken breasts on a cutting board. Pull the meat from the bones and shred it. Discard the bones and skin.
  • Learn to make Yemenite Soup with Beef or Chicken - traditional spicy soup recipe made with hawayej spicy blend. Warming, filling and full of flavor.Add the chicken breast meat back to the soup pot. Stir 2 tsp hawayej spice blend into the broth along with additional salt and black pepper to taste. I usually add about 1 tsp more of salt, it really makes the spices pop. Add the potato chunks to the broth. At this point, you can also add other vegetables if you wish, including small slices of carrot, celery, zucchini, etc. Bring back to a low simmer and continue to cook for 15-20 minutes more, or until the largest potato chunks are tender (and the other veggies, if you decide to add them).
  • Learn to make Yemenite Soup with Beef or Chicken - traditional spicy soup recipe made with hawayej spicy blend. Warming, filling and full of flavor.Scrape the marrow out of the bones and add it to the broth, if desired, or serve the marrow bones with soup to anybody who enjoys them. Serve each bowl with a few potato chunks, a chicken leg, and some of the other chicken meat. I usually remove the skin and cartilage from the chicken pieces prior to serving for a nicer presentation. Garnish each bowl with fresh chopped cilantro. This soup is usually served with schug alongside; it can be stirred into the broth to add more spicy flavor.
  • Learn to make Yemenite Soup with Beef or Chicken - traditional spicy soup recipe made with hawayej spicy blend. Warming, filling and full of flavor.

To Make Yemenite Beef Soup

  • In a heavy 6 quart pot, heat 2 tbsp olive oil over medium high. Sprinkle the meat chunks with salt and pepper. Add the meat to the pan and sear it, stirring occasionally, until browned on all sides.
  • Learn to make Yemenite Soup with Beef or Chicken - traditional spicy soup recipe made with hawayej spicy blend. Warming, filling and full of flavor.Pour meat into a bowl and reserve. Drain the excess fat from the pot. Add another 1 tbsp olive oil to the pot and add the chopped onions. Let the onions cook for several minutes until they are softened and brown, stirring occasionally and scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pot as they cook.
  • Learn to make Yemenite Soup with Beef or Chicken - traditional spicy soup recipe made with hawayej spicy blend. Warming, filling and full of flavor.Add meat chunks back to the pot along with the marrow bones. Cover with 14 cups of water. Bring to a simmer, skimming any foam that rises to the top.
  • Learn to make Yemenite Soup with Beef or Chicken - traditional spicy soup recipe made with hawayej spicy blend. Warming, filling and full of flavor.Stir in 1/2 tbsp turmeric and 1/2 tbsp salt. Add the cilantro bundle and the garlic cloves. Reduce heat to a low simmer. Let the soup cook for 2 1/2 hours, keeping an eye periodically to make sure the simmer is low and bubbling but not boiling rapidly.
  • Learn to make Yemenite Soup with Beef or Chicken - traditional spicy soup recipe made with hawayej spicy blend. Warming, filling and full of flavor.After 2 1/2 hours your meat chunks should be quite tender. Remove the cilantro bundle. Stir 1 1/2 tsp hawayej spice blend into the broth along with additional salt and black pepper to taste (I usually add 1 to 1 1/2 tsp more of salt, but we like things on the salty side). Add the potato chunks to the broth. Bring back to a simmer and continue to cook for 15-20 minutes more, or until the largest potato chunks are tender.
  • Learn to make Yemenite Soup with Beef or Chicken - traditional spicy soup recipe made with hawayej spicy blend. Warming, filling and full of flavor.Scrape the marrow out of the bones and add it to the broth, if desired, or serve the marrow bones with soup to anybody who enjoys them. Serve each bowl of soup garnished with fresh chopped cilantro (optional). This soup is usually served with schug alongside; it can be stirred into the broth to add more spicy flavor.
  • Learn to make Yemenite Soup with Beef or Chicken - traditional spicy soup recipe made with hawayej spicy blend. Warming, filling and full of flavor.

Comments (50)Post a Comment

  1. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    I love it how you combine the history w/the food so we know more about what we’re eating and why. This looks like a great idea for winter. We have a Jewish market downtown, I will try to find the spice blend and make it soon.

  2. Tori I will do it in a vegan way, but knowing the history behind this, give the soup a very special taste. I love it!

  3. For more info on Yemenite cooking, you might want to check out some of the Copeland Marks books. Also, the Jews of Kerala, in southern India, are thought to have come from Yemenite Jews coming there to trade in the second century AD. The spice mix sounds rather Indian in origin to me!

  4. Hi!

    Do tell- where on Earth have you found Ta’am Vareach spices? I have to get them shipped form Israel about once a year or so. What a hassle!

    Your site is my new curiosity- I like it.

    Cheers,

    Jen

  5. I just discovered your blog, and the recipes are wonderful! Do you have any more Yemenite recipes? I first tasted their food in Israel and have craved it ever since.

  6. I’m SO happy to have found this here!! I grew up on marak temani and have been making it on my own since my newlywed Ashkenazi hubby LOVES it!

    Now I have something to follow instead of guessing what my mom means when she says ‘a little bit of this’, ‘some of that’, etc.

    Thank you!!! Shabbat shalom :)

  7. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Thank you for this – love this soup! I haven’t made it in so many years and was happy to stumble across this again today – bought the Hawiij, chicken, vegetables and it’s already simmering away, just in time for a really cold Shabbat here in Jerusalem

  8. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    I always order this when craving a warming soup on a cold winter day. Recently, I made this version at home and my kids love it and asked me to make it again. Thanks, it’s really simple and filling.

  9. hello dear! do you happen to have a recipe for the jemenite bean soup served with something called “chilbe”.. ?? i’d love to make it but i have no idea what is in the soup stock (white beans yes, but what else??) and the “Chilbe”. i love the structure of it but when i used to it it in a small restaurantout of tel aviv, there was never anyone who could have spoken enough english to be able to explain what was in it and how it was made.. loved “schrugg” also.. your shackshucka recipe convinced me !!! that’s why I am asking from you.. greetings from Finland, Kaisa

    1. Hi Kaisa! Here is my recipe for schug:

      link to toriavey.com

      I haven’t posted a recipe for hilbe yet, but I’ve had a few requests for it so I’ll put it on the calendar. I know the bean soup you’re talking about, I love it! Maybe for a future post… :)

  10. Just back from a week in Tel Aviv’s Yemenite quarter, where we rented a modest apartment. Many blocks had several family owned kosher yemenite restaurants. The food was delicious, flavourful, exotic and modestly priced. Highly recommended experience. Its a real walking vacation, near the beach, Carmel market. Area felt safe and people were friendly!

  11. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Hi Tori,
    Great Beef soup recipe! My family loved it.
    Lucky me I bought lots of hawayej on my last trip to Israel.
    One comment though – couldn’t find anywhere in the instruction when the marrow bones should be added (unless I missed it), only when to remove them.
    Next – the Chicken version :)
    ~ Doobie

    1. Hi Diane. If you are looking to make this into a vegetarian dish, I would try another soup recipe. Yemenite soup really relies on the marrow bones and meat to give it a rich, authentic flavor. However, if you make or buy the hawayej spice blend you can certainly add it to your favorite savory vegetarian soup recipe to add a wonderful depth of flavor. More vegetarian recipes here: link to toriavey.com

  12. Mmm be a great soup for winter time! They say if you eat spicy foods during winter cold season you wont catch cold or flu? My Father never had a cold in his life. He ate spicy foods all the time.

  13. You’re completely right I cook this soup sometimes it is very oriental for Poland it is special , tasty and healthy You have great ideas if You let Tori it share it for the Polish gourmets :)

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