Dubai is celebrated for its wealth, glamour, unique gigantic architecture and shopping areas. However, it is also a utopia for a foodie. It presents an array of cuisines from around the globe. It’s easy to get lost in the variety it has to offer, but what you must not miss is the traditional Emirati cuisine. Dubai is a place where you will find a chance to experience the authentic Emirati cuisine giving you a taste of the local culture and lifestyle which is rare to find elsewhere in the world.
Before we move to the foods, a small Emirati tradition is to serve coffee to their guests. They believe it is auspicious to hold the coffee cup in their right palm and pour little coffee in the cup, not filling it to the brim, and serve it to the guests. When the guests are done with coffee they shake their cups to indicate that they don’t want anymore. Only after this the food is served. So let’s shake our cups and dive into the delicious Emirati food menu.
- Machboos is a traditional dish made with lamb or fish and rice spiced with ‘loomi’.
- Loomi is a spice made of dried, crushed lime.
- The lamb or fish is partially fried with salt and pepper and then cooked with a gravy of onion, tomatoes and spices like turmeric, coriander, lime, saffron, cardamom and cloves.
- Dried lime gives it a unique citrous flavour which is enhanced with a bit of saffron.
- A delicacy with satisfying depth of flavours.
2. Balaleet / Balaleat
- It is an Emirati breakfast/dessert dish which is sweet and salty in taste.
- It is made of vermicelli and eggs as basic ingredients.
- Vermicelli is cooked very quickly with some sugar, cardamom and saffron. It is topped with an omelette and served mostly as a breakfast dish
- It is a truly unique dish in its flavour and texture.
3. Al Harees
- This is a one pot wonder, similar to Haleem, made with simple ingredients but a laborious period of time.
- In a pot of meat and wheat, a pinch of salt is added and it is left to cook until they mix well into a smooth and uniform porridge like texture.
- This mixture is then baked slowly.
- Though it takes a long period of time to cook, it is truly a dish to savor.
- This is another traditional dish made with thin cracker-like breads known as ‘rigag’ in a meat/fish/chicken broth.
- It can also be made as a pure vegetarian dish.
- The rigag soaks up the spicy gravy and gives a very rich flavour to the dish.
- This dish is so delicious that it is often referred to as the Prophet Muhammad’s favourite dish.
- Usually served as a dessert, Luqaimat is sweet and salty with a crunchy outer layer and soft inside.
- The balls are dipped in sweet date syrup known as ‘dipps’ or simply soaked in honey.
- This dish is served every day during the festival of Ramadan.
6. Ghuzi / Khuzi / Qouzi
- This is one of the most popular dishes in Dubai and so delicious that it is one of the national foods of United Arab Emirates.
- A slowly cooked roasted lamb or mutton is served on a bed of rice topped with vegetables, hazelnuts and raisins.
- The meat is amazingly soft and you can enjoy it effortlessly.
- It is so rich and deliciously filling that it is considered a whole meal in itself.
7. The Camel Platter
- This ultra-traditional rare dish is nothing less than a royal dish. It was named in the Guinness World Book of Records as one of the largest foods in the whole wide world!
- The camel meat is marinated overnight with all the traditional spices including tomato, cardamom, saffron and other local spices.
- It is filled with lentils, nuts, raisins, eggs, liver, split peas, cashews, saffron and spices.
- This is then steamed in a pot of water for 6 hours.
- The dish is so luxurious and gigantic, that it is cooked and served rarely only for festivals.
- Traditionally it is customary for the host to pick the meat pieces and serve it to the guests.
Dubai is famous for many things, from architecture, properties and lifestyle to jewellery and gold, but its cuisine is something that is rare to find in its most traditional form.
Story by Dr. Swati Singh
Dr. Swati is a dental surgeon by profession.But also like to explore new places and their cultures and believe that the heart of every place and culture is in their traditional cuisine. She feast on the idea of sharing a little of what I can about the diverse cultures, traditions and cuisines within our own country.