Kabsa is Spanish, not Saudi!

Kabsa is Spanish, not Saudi!

Abdulaziz Al-Thakeer

Abdulaziz Al Muhammad Al-Thekair


I AM not at all convinced that kabsa (the typical Saudi dish consisting of rice, meat and vegetables cooked in a mixture of spices) originated in the Kingdom. First of all, if we look at the word kabsa itself, we notice that it has nothing to do with cuisine. It has several meanings, none of which has anything to do with food. However, Arabian restaurants abroad promote this dish as part of Saudi cuisine. Gulf countries have similar words for their traditional dishes and “kabsa” is not often used.

Saudis love this dish. Those who travel to Europe feel happy and excited when they go to eat in a fancy restaurant and find kabsa on the menu. However, as I have mentioned above, I do not agree that this dish is Saudi in origin or that it has passed from one generation to another. In the past, Saudis used to cook kabsa with only rice and meat and there were no vegetables in it.

The real Saudi dishes that originated in the Kingdom are “mitazeez”, “girsan”, “hanini”, “aseed”, “kelaija” and so on. None of these dishes seem popular in Europe and restaurants there have never heard of them. Why? This is because these restaurants have never had a Saudi who ordered any of these dishes.

The origin of kabsa can be found in the Spanish word “paella”, which was derived from the Arabic word “baqiyah” for leftovers. Paella as a dish was made from leftovers and was common among the servants of Andalusian kings in the eighth century CE.

It is said that one of those kings entered the kitchen one day and found the servants eating paella. He tasted it and found it to be delicious and then asked them what it consisted of. They told him it was made from leftovers. The king liked the dish so much that he often asked his cooks to prepare it.

The Spanish love this dish and prepare it every Sunday. In Morocco, paella is a popular dish, especially in the north where the Andalusian influence is obvious. You can also find it served in many Moroccan restaurants.