Taste The Authenticity and Magic of Yemen’s Traditional Mandi Dish Right Here In Mississauga’s Erin Mills Neighbourhood!

It’s well known throughout the GTA that Mississauga’s diverse neighbourhoods have made it an exciting food city.  But a little culinary gem in the Erin Mills neighbourhood of the city may just be at the forefront of international cuisine offered in Sauga.

Monasabah Restaurant is a modest little nook, nestled in a residential plaza at the corner of Glen Erin and Council Ring Road.  It is mainly a take-out and catering concern, but it does have a few tables for diners.  The place is small, with a limited menu, yet business is booming.

The draw is the restaurant’s main dish, mandi—a Yemeni rice and meat dish.  Monsabah specializes in chicken and lamb mandi.

Suresh Doss, food reviewer for the CBC, recently visited Monsabah with a few friends, and fell in love with the place’s specialty.   “Picture a large platter covered with a mound of spiced rice. A sea of yellow, orange and red grains is jewelled with raisins, roasted onions and almond slivers. In the centre, there are large chunks or whole cuts of roast meat. Something as simple as jewelled rice and roast meat became the best thing we ate that day.”

The owners of the Monsabah are Wajdi Ohag and Mohamed Diam — two high school friends from Yemen, who immigrated to Canada.  They originally settled in Sackville, N.S., where Diam ran a convenience store.  As Diam’s rep as
the “mandi man” grew, the store also became the hub for their catering service.

Eventually, Ohag and Diam wanted to grow the business.  “We kept hearing about the Middle Eastern community in Toronto and Mississauga and we wanted to see it for ourselves,” Ohag said.  According to Diam, once they arrived in Mississauga, “We decided very quickly that we wanted to be here. We called our wives and told them to start packing, and we started to look for available spaces.”

Diam says “Mandi is a special occasion dish. You can find it all over the Gulf but the best version is from Yemen. It’s rice and meat, but when cooked properly, it’s a magical dish.”

Cooked traditionally, it’s very labour-intensive and costly.  It involves digging a hole in the ground, covering it with clay and charcoal, and lowering a large chunk of meat into it. The hole is then covered and the meat is slow roasted for hours. The meat stock is used to make the rice, giving it its unique spices and meat flavour.

Asked what makes his mandi so special, and why people from across Ontario drive in to pick up large platters of it, Diam said, “It’s very close to what you get back home. We can’t cook it in a hole the ground, but we try to create the same baked taste.”

The bulk of their business is still catering, but Ohag and Diam are planning to open a bigger place to meet the growing demand of diners.  It will likely be located in the same Mississauga neighbourhood of Erin Mills.   And, if things go according to plan, perhaps more Mississaugans will be able to dine on the “magic” of their mandi as soon as this spring!