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Yemeni Zahawig or "sahawig"(salsa)

Updated: Feb 24, 2020

Yemenis are known for their classic tomato salsa that is literally served with every meal. I grew up calling it Zahawig (with emphasis on the z", others pronounce it the way it is spelled in arabic - "sahawig" with a softer "s".

A variation of this staple is made without the tomatoes and instead more greens (cilantro and green chilis) - also known as "bisbaas" in Yemen. The history of this condiment is fascinating. It wasn't until I was older that I learned that Yemenite Jews introduced these condiments to parts of Europe and in the long term made "zhug" a Jewish food staple. You can even find Zhug at Trader Joe's!

Here are my favorite ways to enjoy zahawig:

  1. As a topping over labne (kefir cheese). Dip with warm or toasted bread. Open faced sandwiches are perfect too.

  2. As a side for Yemeni breakfast ful (stewed fava beans).

  3. A side or topping for any Yemeni rice-based dish.

  4. As a dip with thin pretzel chips.

  5. As a flavor enhancer to onion-based stews.


5 or 6 roma tomatoes or vine tomatoes طماطم كبار

2-3 cups of cherry tomatoes كبايتين من الطماطم الصغيرة

1 large garlic clove حبة ثوم كبيرة

1 small spicy green pepper or jalapeno (or more if you want it spicy) حبة فلفل حار

3-4 chunks of green pepper ثلاثة قطع من الفلفل الأخضر البارد

5-6 mint leaves خمس ورق نعناع

1/2 tsp ground coriander نص ملعقة ص كزبرة ناشفة

1/2 tsp ground cumin نص ملعقة ص كمون

salt and pepper to taste ملح و فلفل حسب المذاق


  1. In a food processor, begin with pulsing the cilantro, garlic, green pepper, spicy pepper, mint, and a few chunks of tomato. The goal is to get the greens finely minced.

  2. Next, add the remaining chopped tomatoes, cumin, coriander, and pepper then pulse. You want the zahawig to be chunky - so don't over-pulse.

  3. Transfer to a bowl then season with salt to taste.

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