The Culinary Catch of Yanbu

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If there is one place that brings people together, it's the dinner table. And on this particular occasion, we're talking about the Yanbu spread. 

Due to its location and proximity to the sea and neighboring countries, its cuisine is a mix of Arabic dishes with a seafood twist. It gives Yanbu’s culinary offerings a flavor profile that is familiar yet unique from that of most Saudi Arabia. 

Though varied, the cuisine in Yanbu has not changed much throughout the years, except for a handful of new dishes being adapted into its repertoire.

The Culinary Catch of Yanbu

One of the celebratory dishes that is a must-have on an Eid breakfast table is the dipyaza. This dish is perhaps the Arabic version of a bowl of muesli. It usually contains all or some of the following: dried apricots, apricot nectar, coarse sugar, ghee, cardamom, cinnamon, mixed nuts, and other dried fruits (such as dates, raisins, and figs).

However, if you find yourself breaking bread on a typical Yanbu morning, then more likely it will be with fatoot. This bread is light and crisp and is said to originate from Madina, but it has become a staple breakfast item. Its main component is yogurt.

With its proximity to the Red Sea, it's only fitting that Yanbu cuisine would have seafood as the star of its classic recipes. Deemed as the most famous dish on this side of the coast is the siyadiah. A traditional plate of fish and spiced rice, it is shared by the Northern region of Saudi and bordering countries. However, Yanbuans have a distinct take on it based on their spices and the in-season fishes available.

The region also has its local version of the renowned Saudi kabsa, using conch (a type of seashell) as the star of the dish. 

Dried fish is a staple of Yanbu cuisine, the fish is cut, salted and kept to dry for a period of time, then cooked into any seafood dish, especially in winter.

The region also prides itself in making hearty stews that hit the spot. More specifically, molokhia with fish, a Yanbu AlNakhl specialty, is a comfort dish for locals. 

A typical Yanbuan kitchen is marked by an orchestration of flavors. From the masharmal, a baked or fried fish with citrus fruits served with tahini sauce, to the mafti, a heartwarming aromatic fish stew cooked with tamarind, the smell of the dishes alone will excite one's palate.

Alongside these local plates are rice pairings influenced by the Arab world. Expect to be served some rice with shrimp and madoos (rice with lentil). 

Desserts are also a part of the Yanbu cuisine, and they have bite-size indulgences for those with a sweet tooth. An example of this is the mash'aba, a pretzel-like treat made from very thin dough mixed with rose water and drizzled with syrup and garnished with chopped or grated nuts (such as pistachios) or sesame. Alongside this dessert are biscuits like simsimiyah and lawziyah made with sesame seeds and almonds, respectively.

Last but far from least is harissa, a chickpea flour and butter-based cake drizzled with butter or ghee and garnished with almonds. It is a comforting yet rich dessert that accompanies Yanbuan gatherings, paired with Arabic coffee and tea.

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