Today marks the 59th Kuwait National Day, or Liberation Day, and what better way to celebrate than how the Kuwaiti’s themselves do it: close to family, around carefully prepared food. Choosing from an array of vibrant and flavorful options, here is a top five from the traditional recipes.
The nation-wide holiday marks Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah’s ascension to the throne in 1950, still celebrated ardently, serving as an opportunity for Kuwaitis to gather with their family members, enjoying recipes that have endured through the decades.
For a country with a subtropical climate, it may be surprising to learn that that traditional Kuwaiti cuisine consists of quite heavy rice-based dishes and thick soups. Many dishes call for seafood, as the country follows the fish-dense coastline of the Persian Gulf. Most importantly, they are all made to share and savour as a group.
Harees is a staple food that can be found in almost all Kuwaiti homes during Ramadan. It also goes by the name of jareesh, areesa or harissa, in neighboring countries, as it is served throughout the Middle East.
This thick porridge-like dish consists mainly of wheat, soaked overnight, cooked with lamb, chicken, or mutton as a possible delicacy. The totality of the ingredients are cooked on stovetop and the pounded into a homogeneous purée and finally topped off with cinnamon, cumin or cardamom.
Despite its dull appearance, it is extremely filling and dear to Kuwaiti’s, serving as a fantastic comfort food and has kept its’ spot at the table for most special occasions.
2. Machboos Laham
Machboos is the quintessential Kuwaiti meal, proudly presented as the national dish of the small nation by its people.
The dish relies on the careful execution of three parts; the meat (chicken, mutton or fish), slow-cooked until tender, the basmati rice toasted and boiled in the spiced meat stock, and the stuffing which is consists of split beans, raisins and onion.
3. Mutabbaq Samak
Mutabbaq Samak is made from whole, local, fried fish served on a large bed of fragrant rice.
The most commonly used fish for this traditional dish is pomfret (zubaidi), which is seasoned, partly boiled, and then coated in flour before finally being fried until crispy.
The rice is cooked separately with turmeric, onions, garlic, sumac, and parsley. The fish is always served on top of the rice, and the whole dish is usually garnished with fresh herbs, as well as raisins and nuts.
This rice dish, topped with juicy locally sourced shrimp, has earned considerable popularity throughout the nation.
What gives the shrimp their distinct flavor are the sauteed onions; turmeric, coriander and the special ingredient: dried loomi, which is dried black lime.
To get the tangy, sweet result, with a rich fermented aroma, the limes are boiled and then left in the strong sun to dry. In addition to the addictively complex flavor, died loomi has a series of health benefits ranging from anti-cancer properties to promoting a healthy digestion.
5. Gers Ogaily
Given the alias “perfume cake”, Gers Ogaily is the perhaps most beloved dessert in Kuwait. It is easily recognized by its rich yellow color and love for its deep, layered aromas coming through from the saffron, cardamom and rose water.
This sponge cake is typically baked in large bundt pan and occasionally in smaller baking molds, creating a cupcake-like dessert, but both versions have the same ingredients and coated in beautifully tasted sesame seeds.