Yemenite Chicken Soup

Yemenite Chicken Soup

This recipe also includes recipes for making three different Yemenite spice combinations that should be used in the soup. You can make those spice combinations while the soup is cooking, but note that the hilbe requires soaking fenugreek powder for three hours—so you’ll want to start soaking the fenugreek powder before you start on the soup itself.

1 3- to 4-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces
2 large onions, peeled and roughly chopped
8 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
1 large tomato, almost quartered but not cut all the way through
2 stalks celery, left whole
2 tablespoons salt or to taste
1 to 2 tablespoons hawayij (Yemenite spice combination; see recipe below)
3 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
3 potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled and cut in 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 bunch parsley, finely chopped
1/2 bunch dill, finely chopped
1/2 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
z’hug (Yemenite hot sauce) to taste (see recipe below)
hilbe (Yemenite fenugreek sauce) to taste (see recipe below)

1. Put the chicken in a large stock pot and cover with cold water by about 3 inches. Bring to a boil and skim off the scum that forms and let it cook for 30 minutes. While it’s cooking, make your hawayij.

2. Add the onions, garlic, tomato, celery stalks, salt, and hawayij. Simmer for another 30-45 minutes or until the chicken is tender. While it’s simmering, make your z’hug, and then your hilbe.

3. Then add the carrots, potatoes, and all but 2 tablespoons of the parsley, dill, and cilantro. Simmer for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked through. Serve as is, sprinkling each bowl of soup with more of the fresh herbs, or remove the skin and bones from the chicken, then put them back in the soup and refrigerate overnight. The next day, skim off the layer of fat from the top of the soup and reheat, garnishing the soup with the remaining herbs. Serve either way over rice, if you want, with another tablespoon of hawayij, with z’hug and hilbe in bowls on the side.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings


Hawayij is a Yemenite spice combination.

2 tablespoons black peppercorn
1 tablespoon black caraway seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cardamom pods, peeled
2 teaspoons turmeric
pinch of saffron (optional)

Either pound spices in a mortar and pestle or use a coffee grinder or small food processor. You can also buy hawayij online through Pereg Gourmet .

Yield: about 5 tablespoons


Z’hug is a Yemenite hot sauce used in soups, as a condiment with eggs, as a spice rub on fish or chicken, or even sprinkled on yogurt for a tasty dip. The typical fresh Yemenite green z’hug has lots of cilantro, garlic, hot seranno or jalapeño peppers, cumin, and cardamom. The key to this sauce is fresh ingredients.

4 fresh green serrano or jalapeño peppers (about 4 ounces), stems removed and seeds removed but reserved
1 whole head garlic
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, well rinsed and dried
1/2 bunch fresh parsley, well rinsed and dried
1 teaspoon cumin
2 green cardamom pods, peeled
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil, plus additional to cover

1. Put the peppers with the garlic, cilantro, parsley, cumin, cardamom, and salt to taste in the bowl of a food processor. Begin processing and gradually add olive oil and puree. Taste and adjust for seasonings, adding the pepper seeds if you want more heat.

2. Remove the contents to a glass jar and cover with additional olive oil. The z’hug will keep for several months, covered in an airtight jar, in the refrigerator.

Yield: About 1 1/2 cups


Hilbe is a creamy Yemenite sauce often added to soup. Fenugreek, mentioned in the Bible, is a medicinal herb that the Yemenite Jews most likely learned to use from the Indians. Traditionally, whole fenugreek seeds were ground with water into a paste; I use fenugreek powder because it is so readily available. Many Yemenite Jews in Israel add chopped tomato to their hilbe, a modern addition to an ancient sauce. Note: You can also buy hilbe online through Pereg Gourmet .

3 tablespoons fenugreek powder
1/2 cup water
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1 generous teaspoon z’hug

1. Soak the fenugreek powder in the water for at least 3 hours, until the mixture is gelatinous.

2. Add z’hug, lemon juice, and salt. Using an electric hand mixer or a whisk, beat until smooth. Adjust seasonings to taste. The sauce should be very spicy.

Yield: about 3/4 cup

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