Hadramout & Sammar: Lively Yemeni Restaurant in Maadi
Relishing cheap, traditional restaurants in Cairo, there’s almost no end to these casual jems in the city, with many borrowing customs from other countries. In the Gulf peninsula, it’s not uncommon to eat with one’s hands; in fact it’s encouraged. Hadramout & Sammar in Maadi offers a cheap, authentic – and slightly messy – yemeni experience.
The décor was pleasantly ironic for a Yemeni restaurant, with nostalgic, black and white pictures of Cairo hanging on funky vintage wallpaper; it was as if a 70’s recording studio had been refurbished into a Gulf restaurant. Our attention was quickly taken by two TVs blasting Gaber El Armouty’s signature rant on Egyptian political affairs and, furthermore, unfriendly neon lighting was a definite ambience killer.
Seating ourselves on metal framed chairs, we sifted through the small, Arabic-only menu. The size of the seating area isn’t small, but its close proximity to the ordering counter means that meals have to be enjoyed to the soundtrack of waiters yelling orders to the kitchen. Despite initially being excited at the prospect of getting our hands dirty, we were disappointed to see the patrons eating with cutlery.
The menu is dominated by two simple meals; chicken mandi or mazbi with rice (24LE – 46LE), as well as lamb mazbi with rice (40LE). The difference between the two cooking styles was quickly explained by the waiter; mandi is steamed meat, whilst mazbi is grilled on the rocks. Required to be ordered in advance, there is also a selection of family size meals, including whole sheep mandi with rice (1000LE – 1200LE) and goat mandi or mazbi with rice (80LE – 700LE). Various salads, sides and starters are also available including green salad (3LE – 5LE), yoghurt salad (3LE – 5LE), chicken soup (3LE), tehina (3LE – 6LE) and samosas (6LE).
We were set to order one half chicken mandi (23LE), one half chicken mazbi (23LE), a side of sambusak pastry (6LE) and tehina dip (3LE).
Surprisingly, the dishes arrived much faster than we had anticipated. As strangers to chicken mandi, we found its bright, pinkish colour particularly striking, as it lay on a pile of yellow basmati rice. The mazbi appeared more familiar; appetising grilled chicken. Each dish was served with a flavourful bowl of salsa made of diced tomatoes, onions, green chilli and spices.
Soft to bite and juicy, both chicken dishes were the best we’ve had in months. Of the two, the mandi was our favourite; the steaming process maintained the chicken’s flavour without drying out the meat. The mazbi was also delicious and the grilling method left a subtle, smoky taste to the dish. We dipped the crunchy samosas into the creamy tehina, but it also proved an excellent condiment to the rice and chicken.
We thoroughly enjoyed the authentic Hadramout & Sammar experience, the generous dishes and the reasonable prices; however, take-away may be the preferred dining option.