Saudi Arabia: Saudi Men and Their Hidden Talents

Some Saudi men (and their mother’s) may want you to believe that the Saudi man is helpless.  Now it is expected culturally that the woman, whether it be mother or wife, will take care of the inside of the home.  She may or may not have a housemaid but she will be the one responsible for ensuring that the house is clean, clothes are washed and food is cooked.  A Saudi man may want every woman to think that when he comes in the door all that is expected of him is to toss his smaugh off of his food, take off his shoes, put his feet up and watch tv until dinner is served.  However I can assure you that if a Saudi man has ever been abroad outside of Saudi Arabia where he has lived alone, even as a student, then he has learned hidden talents.

A Saudi man may not readily acknowledge it but he actually has observed and learned much more of his mother’s ways than he may even realize himself.  Many a young Saudi boy while growing up, and even as he enters teens and then twenties, will observe his mother as she cooks in the kitchen.  He may have even helped her.  My late husband shared how he would always help his mother roll out and fill the sambosa dough as he was growing up, for example.

Additionally Saudi boys while growing up will likely accompany their father’s, Uncles and friends to the desert on weekends.  During these weekend jaunts, the fathers and uncles are usually the cooks.  They will typical prepare kubsa or maybe a roast lamb outside over a fire.  The young boys will assist and watch the food cook over the fire.

These events helped prepare the Saudi man for those times when he may find himself alone whether out of the Kingdom or on his own for a period of time.  If he is away from family, he’s not going to go out every night to eat.  Well, let’s say most guys will not.  They will begin experimenting with those dishes that they remembered watching or helping others cook when they were young.  Their confidence will grow with the success of their dishes.

Now my late husband found that he actually enjoyed taking a turn at cooking in the kitchen.  He liked experimenting with differing dishes and using different spices.  One time he even made us “hot dog kubsa.”  (and yes, it was pretty tasty too!)  There is no doubt in my mind that every Saudi male knows how to make kubsa.  After all, it is pretty much a signature dish in Saudi Arabia!  Most Saudi guys know how to make seleek as well.  Bottom line, a Saudi guy is not going to let himself starve.  He may not like to do dishes but a Saudi guy can generally be persuaded to cook from time to time!


29 Responses

  1. I think men are way better cooks than women 🙂 I love everything my husband prepares, even if it’s just fried eggs. The best rice dishes I’ve ever eaten were not ones prepared by my mother or grandmother. They were prepared by men of our family. If you look at the roaster of top chefs of the world, overwhelming majority of them are men (only celebrity chefs are no-talent women designed to sell products or shows)

  2. I agree!! My brother has such a great touch when he hits the kitchen.. He is married and I think his wife is pretty lucky because she does not have any interest in cooking. Great combination hahaha. Alternatively, my other brother is living away from home for college, but does not cook a thing! Almost always dining out.

  3. I greatly appreciate that the first two comments to this post came from Saudi women!

    I always loved when we would go to the desert or to an estrahaha and the women were not allowed to enter the cooking area or even lift a finger to serve!

    My own husband did not stop when we were only with others in the desert or at an estrahaha, he would also get urges to cook at home when he’d encourage me to go take a bubble bath or “play on my blog” as he’d say! (sigh….how I miss those special moments.)

  4. Allah yr7ama.. that was really cute.. ‘go play with your blog” 😀 My husband at first pretended he could not cook at all, then I would notice pans in the sink, and would ask the maid who cooked, and she would mention my husband was in there.. lol.. SO I KNOW he can cook, maybe not the big things, but the simple dishes he is pretty good at.

    Anyway, that was a lovely post, and it reminds me of a lot of the students (male and female), who actually cook for the first time when they are alone abroad, homesick and wanting something from home, and actually do a good job from memory at recreating the dish. Nowadays though, we can also thank the wonderful Internet and its many recipes 🙂

  5. I don’t think cooking is gender-related, I think it’s more related to an interest in good food! 😛

    The fact that most top-chefs are male has more to do with gender discrimination than some natural ability which is naturally better in one gender compared to the other. You will see in all jobs that the more money and the more respect a job entails the more it will be a man’s job. And the less well paid and less well-respected a job gets the more it gets to be a womans’job.
    Cooking is a great example, the everyday non-paid not-highly-regarded daily drudgery cooking, is done by women, the well paid highly respected jobs of top-chef are filled by men.

    Still, any man who can cook gets 10 extra points by me because I love food and I love it when people cook for me!

    ”outside” cooking, or bar-b-que-ing is another fascinating experience, as soon as an open fire is involved you see all the men suddenly insisting on doing the cooking! Also the men who otherwise do not cook. Fascinating! (women do the side dishes, because men can on the whole not look further than meat) Just put a bar-b-que on the side and within 10 minutes most of the men have gathered around it! My father loved bar-b-que-ing! He even designed his own perfect bar-b-que!

  6. I have always been happy to prepare a traditional dish for students when they are away from home.

  7. Well, I must missed something, or maybe have not watched my mother cook, because all my years in the States and even now, I don’t know how to cook one single dish, unless you call boiling an egg cooking, or just opening a can of tuna.

    The thing is, I would love once and just once learn how to cook a simple dish, even rice, I always wondered how my mother can make these elaborate dishes and she doesn’t even follow a specific recipe, it all in her head, and her sense of what to add and what not to.

    By the way Bedu, I love chili and that chili recipe you posted about sound delecious, I am going to have to give it ago, they no longer sell canned chili out here, and I am dying to have it..:)

  8. I also do not follow a specific recipe. For example, when my Saudi MIL was teaching me how to make my husband’s favorite dishes, I took notes on what she used but then ended up preparing the dishes with my own touches and spices.

    Each time I prepare a dish there will usually be something different or a slight change in taste as I normally do not use recipes.

    I have found rice a tough one to make. In Saudi I did use a rice maker and the rice always turned out great. However it was 220v so I do not have one to use here in the USA. Sometimes my rice will turn out okay and other times, so so. My favorite rice to use is Yasmin rice or Egyptian rice.

  9. I also watched my MIL and SIL make dishes in the beginning…not even recognizing what half the ingredients were…I had to buy a book on arabic dishes to get the English equivelent names…then I started making them myself…with my own touches and if I didn’t have one spice I would use another…with varying results.

    Now I have my own recipes which are really a mix between arabic traditional cooking with American style innovation…turns out pretty well.

    Rice is a pain if you don’t know the basic trick to it. water to rice ratio is very important. Figure the perfect ratio for the amount of rice your making and your gold.

  10. And what is the perfect ratio?
    Is it different for different kinds of rice? I like Basmati.

  11. With basmati, pasta method is best! In 6 quarts of boiling water, add salt, then 2 cups of good aged basmati. Boil until 3/4 th done (elongated but still slight crunch), drain, return to pot, turn down the heat to lowest and steam covered for 6-8mins

    With rice cooker best ratio is 2 cups of rice to 3.5 cups of water (good aged basmati doesn’t need too much water) when cooked add few dabs of butter and fluff with fork.

  12. The sticky kinds of rice need very little water or you end up with glue.

    Basmati is really good and versatile.

    If you don’t know water to rice ratio measurements off hand a good rule of thumb is to put ur rice in the pot then add enough water that it hits the joint/bend of your thumb…as your thumb touches the top of the rice. It’s fairly accurate and will do in a pinch.

  13. Thank you ladies, I think I will try my hands at cooking my first rice dish….I will let you know how it turns out….Not burned I hope 🙂

  14. OMG Coolred!

    That is exactly how my Indian mother in law taught me how to measure rice/water ratio and it always turns out perfect!

  15. I’ve always preferred Jasmin or Egyptian rice as I think it gets “plumper” than the Basmati. What I have always done in regards to water ratio is to put enough water in the pan that it just barely covers the top of the rice. Then I will set the burner to high until the water is boiling. After that I will change the setting to low and let it cook until the water is absorbed.

    @Anon Saudi – you must let us know how your rice turns out and which type you cooked!

  16. @oby

    i measure the same water/rice like coolreds….and i first soak rice in the hottest of tapped water or hot not boiling water for 15min…then drain and move my hand around rice cleaning it for a minute or so.. gia in jed…
    i also fill/cover bottom of pot with oil.. put some cloves or cardamon or both…give good flavor, if you want..good luck

  17. @Anonymous_Saudi

    i directed to oby, sorry…it was meant to you

  18. I think that everyone has their own way of cooking rice. I always thought that the ratio of rice to water depended on of hard or soft the water is.

    In Saudi I use 1cup of Basmati rice to 2 cups of water. Boil the water with cardamon, cloves, cinnamon and black pepper. When the water starts bubbling, I add the rice (which has been soaked for 15 min) to the boiling water, cover and reduce the flame. Cook until water is obsorbed. Once water is all gone, fluff te rice gently and cover for about 5 mins.

    The meat takes a looong time to become soft but my mom in Canda says that her meat gets soft very fast. She asked me to use sweet water cook meat. I don’t use pressure cooker.

  19. i love reading different recipes…and i always try new ones out…my fav rice recipe is boiled rice, so easy. gia in jed

  20. Who likes to do dishes? ! 🙂

    I always use 1 cup of rice to 2 cups of water with some salt, bring to the boil, then on low, covered until all water is absorbed. Some varieties of rice are supposed to be sticky.

  21. Operation Rice Invasion is underway
    Update will be coming shortly 🙂

  22. Oh yes…i forgot to mention that I’ve always like to soak my rice for about an hour prior to cooking it AND always wash it well!

    You’re right Gia that adding various things like cardamon, cloves and oil add wonderful flavors. Occasionally I would also add a jalapeno pepper with mine. It’s also nice to saute onions to the “very well done” stage and add them to the top of cooked fluffy rice.

  23. I have never cooked rice in an open pot 🙂 , it’s always the pressure cooker or the rice cooker ( electric) – nowadays. or sautee it and dum it .. so for rice my propotion is 1:2 or if aged rice is used like sona masoori then it can almost take 1:2.5 but i love love love rice dishes, lemon rice, coconut rice, tomato rice, cilantro rice,biryan adn F is an amazing rice chef 🙂 once in every blue moon he decided to cook, but i think the chef in our family is my daughter – anything she touches is fantastic and she started quite young – 12yr old could make the perfect dum biryani.. ohh i’m v v lucky.

  24. Radha…I want to come to your place for one of P’s meals!!!

  25. @Radha
    if you put your recipes here i will copy paste to my collections….and i will make them, yum.

  26. Just put any recipes on the recipe page!!!

  27. i will add recipes, I have a bunch of hand me downs from my grandma – actually handed down to my daughter.

    you are welcome anytime carol. we had a 10 day break and P made an amazing fruit cake, i mean it, awesome..and she made ginger scones too.. without egg 🙂

    I sometimes ask her if she would rather go to cooking school -and become some frou frou chef, but NO it’s med school she’s after with a very avid cooking hobby..and wow can she present the’s a treat, i wonder what will happen when she goes to college and F has to deal with my already degraded cooking skills..

  28. That is awesome that P enjoys cooking so much. My son can easily be a professional chef too but he says that cooking is how he relaxes and alleviates stress.

    I know many of us will look forward to your recipes!

  29. I’m a Saudi man who studies in the US and live alone. I get a great pleasure out of cooking and taking care of the household.
    I’d say that I mastered a wide range of culinary skills 🙂 I also don’t want to brag about what I can make because I really never made Kabsa.

    I found a lot of cooking videos on youtube useful. One video took me every step of the way ending up with Tajin (which my friends love), pasta with tomato sauce made from scratch and so forth. Just before last Ramadan I took a pledge to myself to have a wholesome Iftar everyday and I did invite some of my classmates to break the fast together starting with soup, sambosa and its variants graduating to a main dish ranging from chicken, lamb and fish. The great thing was the sky was the limit to what I could prepare. I tend to get creative with the spices I add. I believe the high quality meats and veggies found in grocery stores in the US play a major role to the final taste of the prepared dish.
    My next cooking experience will be bread and pastry.
    My other food related passion is coffee, espresso in particular. I enjoy making and drinking a good quality shot of espresso everyday.


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